well manertain ading into ns, you’ll n training, sing him to ntly push- ing the limits of his comfort zone. Over time, with patient repetition, the horse will become less reactive to the situation that bothers him. “If a horse is flighty and nervous for the farrier or for veterinary procedures, one of the best ways to approach this problem is to work with the horse in advance, to prepare and desensitize him to what is going to happen,” says Johnson. “If it’s a young horse, the more you can expose him to a variety of circumstances, the better.” The techniques for desensitization training vary with the specific issues being addressed, but most rely on some form of advance and retreat: If a horse resents having his ears handled, for example, you might start by scratching him at the closest point he will permit contact before reacting, such as the shoulder. When he accepts that, you retreat---then next time move your hand further forward up his neck, and retreat again just before he reacts. These sessions may need to be repeated, but over time your horse ought to become more comfortable with the previously feared actions. “Once those horses become acclimated to a As with just about any behavioral issue, the first step in dealing with a persistently anxious horse is to rule out physical causes. A horse does not need to be obviously lame to be experiencing significant pain in some part of his body, and the discomfort may cause unruliness or resistance. “If a
specifi c procedure or event, they realize it’s not so bad and they don’t panic,” says Johnson.
3. SOOTHING SOUNDS— OR SILENCE
“Growing up, people told me to talk all the time when working around horses, so they know where you are and you never startle them,” says Johnson. “Then I worked at a big breeding farm after I finished vet school. One of the farm managers was an older Kentucky horseman, and he told me, ‘Stop talking! The horse knows you are there. If you are talking all the time, the horse gets nervous.’ I realized there was some truth to that.”
Try some different vocalizations with your horse and read his reaction. If your horse remains edgy as you continue to talk, hum or whisper, try keeping quiet a while to see how he responds.