Treatment Type: Lifestyle Practices
Rated for: Thoroughbred x Welsh Pony Cross
Posted Sep. 17, 2017
A recent study has shown that dressage horses are more likely to show symptoms of stress than eventers and show-jumpers in the English riding world.
The physical demands of dressage can put a lot of mental and physical stress on the horse, but with good management you can do a lot to reduce it.
Make sure he has adequate turnout. A horse is not going to be happy unless he is allowed some time every day to just be a horse. As a result, you will have a saner horse than if you kept him stabled all the time. His brain needs the relaxation, his circulation needs the movement and his digestive system needs the natural grazing environment.
We dressage riders tend to want to drill our horses in the sand arena all the time. But even my top level dressage instructor takes her horses out for a trail ride after three days of dressage training. I go on Fridays with a friend of mine to a local horse park where we can mosey along the edge of fields and walk in the shallows of the river. It's a good idea to go out with at least one other person.
I even took my horse swimming in the river this year! We both had a ball, and my partnership with him went up a notch after that. His trust in me increased hugely.
Another way to reduce our horse's stress is to make sure he understands what we're asking of him. Are we 'shouting' at him with aids that are too strong and confuse him? Are we being clear and logical with our requests? Are we asking him to perform a movement he's not yet fit enough to do?
When it comes to big shows, I give my horse a calming product called Total Calm & Focus which is allowed in recognized competitions. It greatly reduces his stress in the crazy show environment and allows him to focus on me rather than everything else that is going on.