4 Ways to Calm Your Horse Down

Do you think it’s impossible to teach your horse to relax? If you imagine it being like a “relax-button” that you simply have to press and your horse instantly relaxes like a ragdoll? No, not like that!

However, you can teach your horse to calm down and relax more, that he is in that moment that you need him to be relaxed! How? Training!

What is training

Training is teaching your horse to respond with a specific behaviours to a specific stimulus (cue). If you’ve trained ‘relaxation’ into a specific behaviour/context, you can recall that state of mind on cue.

We, horse people, do it all the time. Mostly the opposite of relaxation. Think of how most horses all respond and behave, just before breakfast. They are excited! They’re energetic and sometimes frenetic! That’s part of the behaviour that have been reinforced with a jackpot (their breakfast).

Reinforce calm behaviour

If you can excite them with food, you can calm them down with food. I have to say that before I used positive reinforcement I didn’t believe it could be done: teaching your horse to relax. On cue.

The only tool I had to calm down my pony was my voice. That’s what people told me to do. Oh, and to restrict his movement. How many times I’ve heard instructors shout: ‘Shorten your lead rope/reins/lung line!!’

When I was in a clinic with Shawna Karrash Kyra was very nervous, I was nervous and it was hard to calm myself down, let alone my horse. Shawna helped me to teach Kyra to calm down. That’s what we did for two days. I was looking forward to learn very advanced things and at first I was a bit disappointment we mainly focussed on calm and relaxed. I was looking forward to ride Kyra in this special occasion.

Key Lesson Patience promotes relaxation

Shortly after the clinic I moved Kyra to another property. It had a huge automatic metal gate at the driveway, which slides open with quite some noise and rattling sounds. It was there that most horses and dogs always spooked.

I decided to use my newly acquired relaxation skills to calm Kyra down when the gated opened and closed. I was glad I filmed the whole process because it only took 3 sessions to associate the rattling and moving of the gate with calmness!

It was then that the full potential of calming my horse really sank in! This was a powerful tool I now had, like a safety device!

Power of Key Lesson Mat training and Head lowering

Other examples are the self soothing power of mats (Key Lesson Mat Training) and Head lowering. I’ve seen that when clicker trained horses spook they often run to their mat. As if it’s a safety blanket. I’ve seen that they immediately calm down.

Key Lesson Head lowering also helps to calm your horse down and is an excellent way of measuring your horse’s state of mind. If he won’t lower his head, he’s might not be able to due to his state of mind.

Look what happens at 1:18 when Kyra spooks. Where’s she’s going! Now I use training deliberately to teach relaxation.

You can also help your horse to calm down by clicking and reinforcing calm behaviour and associate it with the object that scares them.
Watch these videos:
Kyra spooks at the giant ball
Kyra overcomes her fear for the mega ball (part II)
Fun and Games with the mega ball

4 Ways to use clicker training to teach your horse to relax

  1. Bridging and reinforcing calm behaviour
  2. Key Lesson Patience
  3. Key Lesson Mat training
  4. Key Lesson Head lowering

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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Use Target Training for Horses two times more effectively

This morning I offered a free webinar Horse Training Mastery in which I explained how people can use the 6 Key Lessons, your keys to success in clicker training, to get maximum results in their training.

These are HippoLogic’s 6 Key Lessons for Horses:

  1. “Table Manners for Horses”
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Goals

At first these simple (read: not-complex behaviours) are your goals, but when you master them, that’s where the FUN part happens!

To me it’s magic because training these basic behaviour that make a great foundation, they really come in handy to teach other behaviours! Yes, you can use the Key Lessons for Horses as Training Tool.

For example, once your horse masters nose targeting, you can use the targeting as a way to explain gaits. Ask your horse to follow a moving target and click and reinforce “movement” instead of touching the target. That’s an example how you can use targeting as Training Tool to teach cues for walk on, trot and even canter.

In this video you can see how Key Lesson Mat training become my training tool to teach “Whoa” and “Walk on” . Because of the context (rain and wind!) I get a bonus: trot.

Aren’t mats a way better training tool than whips or training sticks? Click with your horse in training.

Strategies

Wait, there’s more! Once you’ve trained all Key Lessons and used them to teach other behaviours, your horse masters them well enough to use those Key Lessons as Strategies in your training.

How you can do that, I explain on Wednesdays in my free live webinar Horse Training Mastery- Bond with Your Horse in Training. Click here for more info and to register. For free.

Read more about HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (incl step-by-step training plans)

  1. “Table Manners” for Horses
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Key Lessons for Trainers

I also developed 6 Key Lessons for Trainers and just like the ones for horses they are first your goals. New habits to help you get insight in your training and to get a compass that leads to your goal.

No goal is too big! Dare to dream big. ~ HippoLogic

  1. Principles of Learning & Motivation
  2. Training Plan
  3. Shaping Plan
  4. Accountability
  5. Training journal
  6. Emotions in training (human and equine!)

Just like the Key Lessons for Horses, they start out as goals, then they become valuable training tools and eventually you can use them as strategies to help you excel in training!

I talk about those too in the free webinar.

How have you used targeting to teach behaviours?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve been using targeting to train other behaviours and inspire the readers. Click!

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Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I make training a win-win.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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Key Lesson ‘Patience’

I am sorry, the blog you’re looking for moved to my website

You can find it here: https://clickertraining.ca/key-lesson-patience-calm-your-horse/

Happy Horse Training!

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

Follow my blog with Bloglovin