As a bodyworker you will definitely come across agitated or anxious horses from time to time. In this blog, I will give you tips on how to work with them and minimize stress.
The first step in calming the horse down is the determine the source of their stress. The main reasons a horse will be agitated and uncooperative during a bodywork are:
Horses are very good at picking up your energy so it is essential to ground yourself before a bodywork session. To ground yourself, take deep breathes, remain calm and focus on what you want to accomplish during the session. Be determined that you will succeed because the horse will pick up on any anxiety you are experiencing.
Move the horse to a quieter, more familiar area (such as their stall) and if necessary their buddy stand nearby. If they can see their friend, it will drastically reduce their anxiety. Focus on massaging the TMJ and neck first on both sides. Horses that are anxious will usually have tight necks and reducing the tension there will help them relax. Once they realize you are helping, they will normally relax and learn to trust your hands.
Try utilizing essential oils such as Lavender. Put a few drops on your hands and let him smell it. This will often take the edge off and can be relaxing for you as well.
For horses suffering from a lot of pain, do not try to palpate them right away. The horse will feel like you are attacking them and will get defensive. Instead tap softly down their topline, neck, withers and back. Continue for a few minutes and then try to softly palpate. You may need to tap again whenever you find a new sore area on their body.
Horses who are dominant, and aggressive can be tricky to work with because you do not want to be bit or kicked. Stallions may even try to mount you. You need to establish dominance with these animals to reduce their anxiety (and your own!). If a horse tries to bite you, you can poke them quickly with your fingers on the side of their mouth. This mimics the reaction another horse would have to counteract a nip. Many times the horse will lick and chew and settle down after this.
Massage along the bladder meridian to relax the horse and prepare them for the bodywork session. You can also conduct Craniosacral Therapy with these horses if you are trained in the technique. Finally, don't give up and be patient. Remaining confident and calm will allow 95% of these horses to relax and enjoy their session. Do keep your safety in mind though and modify the session as needed to reduce your risk of injury.
Dr. Angelique Barbara is the founder of Angel's Animals LLC, a company that has developed online animal bodywork courses for both owners and professionals. Dr. Barbara's unique teaching style along with the dynamic layout of the courses allows people of different educational backgrounds from all over the world to benefit from her knowledge.