I'm sitting on a plane headed to California (from Virginia) to teach a clinic and perform at an Expo and I find myself thinking about how my anxiety flying is very similar to a horse’s anxiety when going to a horse show or even traveling off the farm to go trail riding. Let me explain, for some reason ever since having kids my anxiety with flying on a plane has significantly increased. Flying used to be easy for me and I really used to enjoy it! Now, however, it takes some “adult beverages” to calm my nerves.
What’s interesting about that is that horses probably feel the same way when traveling. If you are going to a horse show, the day before you are preparing the horse by extensive grooming and putting blankets on that you normally wouldn’t keep them in, and leave them in their stall to not get dirty. Then the next day you visit the barn earlier than normal, do some last minute grooming, load them on the trailer and head down the road. You get to a new place (the show grounds or to the place to trail ride) and you throw them in a stall or tack them up to get ready to ride.
You have to ask yourself, if I need "something extra" to calm myself down on these anxious days, how am I supposed to expect my horse to chill in this new environment? The answer is simple, exposure....
The more you start out simple in exposing your horse to new experiences, environments, and help them build their confidence the better your horse will be able to perform when the time comes that you want the best from them!
The first time you go somewhere, don’t go far, take them off the trailer and do a little groundwork to to put them in a relaxed state of mind and then tie them up to the trailer or sit with them while they eat and become confident in their surroundings. Doing this several times leads into traveling farther and exposing your horse to more stimulating environments all building on that confidence.
One quick tip is to make sure to never leave to go back home until your horse is in that relaxed state of mind.
Remember that horse training takes time and not to expect the world from your horse when traveling, but make sure you do your job to help them relax and enjoy the process!
I hope you have enjoyed this read and as always, feel free to share this blog! For me, I think it’s time for me to finish my Jack and Coke and teach myself how to relax!
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