What would you consider a “behavioral problem” with a horse? Rearing, bucking, bolting? Biting, kicking, or other dangerous behavior? How about restless or hyper-sensitive and spooky? I find it interesting, and somewhat sad, how a horse’s behavior is sometimes perceived. Too often, a horse that is acting up, or acting very excitable, the problem is perceived as strictly behavioral, a training issue. While this is true at times (I have met my fair share of “naughty” horses who needed a reminder of where to find their manners!), there are other times in which a change in behavior manifests due to other outside influences.
Horses are very emotional animals. They rely solely on instinct to survive. When a traumatic event happens, it is very hard for them to “forget” that and it will move with them throughout life. Just as humans do, each horse processes and copes with that event differently and some horses are more emotional than others. Some horses are more stoic and hard to read unless something is REALLY bothering them while some horses seem to be bothered by most everything. Understanding the horse and working with them is the best way to help them work through an issue so that they, and you, remain safe!
A traumatic event can be as subtle as being “separated” from the herd and feeling vulnerable and even something that goes unnoticed by humans can stay with the horse for a long while, even for life. No matter how big or small the event is, the horse may continue to react to certain situations with fear, or hyper-sensitivity, that is perceived as behavioral. The emotion can differ from fearful, to restless, to even aggression and dangerous behavior, doing anything they can to relieve themselves from the situation that they feel is dangerous or scary.
Training methods that work will vary from horse to horse and sometimes no amount of “training” can fix it. Sometimes, much like a human with PTSD, other methods must be used in conjunction, in order to calm the nervous system and the hypersensitive reaction to the fearful event. For Love of the Horse’s formula, Settle Down, will do just that. It will amazingly help your horse remain calm and relaxed on a regular basis. This will allow them to process the event without the fear and worry, over time they will then realize that there is nothing to fear.
Be patient with these over-reactive and fearful horses. Sometimes it IS purely lack of respect and training (sometimes even a physical problem), but being able to recognize the difference will make all the difference in the world in regards to your relationship with your horse.