Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price
What is separation anxiety?
Horses and ponies have strong bonds with their field companions and stable mates. This can lead to separation anxiety, which is a condition that causes fear, anxiety, and stress.
How to calm an anxious horse
You can help your horse overcome separation anxiety by giving him simple exercises. You could try to get him out of his field gate and into the company of his friends before his adrenaline levels rise so that he becomes dangerous or difficult to work with.
How do you begin?
Groundwork exercises can be used in this area to control your horse’s feet. Once he is listening and being well behaved, you can give him something positive like a feed or groom before putting him back out in the field. These exercises should be repeated as often as possible to get your horse closer to his friends. You can build your relationship with your horse by getting him to listen and distract from his friends.
Horse riding with separation anxiety
Keep your friends in sight when you start riding. Exercises like turning on the forehand will help you improve your control over his movements.
You don’t need an arena to practice your skills. If the footing is stable, you can ride in the paddock or around the yard. You don’t need to get out of your walk. This is a great way to build your horse’s courage and independence from the group. However, you can also make ‘home’ a place for work. Being near friends doesn’t always mean you have a good time. It is important to not put your horse away until he has lowered his adrenaline and is completely relaxed. This allows him to learn how to relax without the group and helps ensure that the day’s learning is absorbed.
Ride with other horses
Encourage your horse to listen when riding with others horses. Begin by asking him to give you more of his attention when he’s out hacking with others. You can encourage him to follow another horse by walking slightly to the side so that he is on his own track. Then, you can continue to practice obedience to your aids. Give him small tasks such as circles around puddles or changes in pace. Gradually increase the distance between you and the group. You can keep him safe until his adrenaline levels drop by giving him a small circle to help.