I’d like to start off today by wishing all my readers in the U.S you a belated Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday celebrating with family and friends. I spent the day with my in-laws and their entire family. Lots of food, love, and laughter.
Today is Black Friday and in that spirit, I have something for you too. Keep reading to find out what it is!
As the holidays approach I have noticed that when I go into a grocery store, or any store in the mall, that my stress level goes way up. It’s just so busy and hectic in the stores during this time.
There are so many people out and about shopping for Thanksgiving preparations and Christmas gifts that the stores are packed again. With all the Covid restrictions for the last year or so, I got used to the slower pace, having less people around, and a quieter, simpler life.
Now with the Covid restrictions lifted here in Maryland, the hustle and bustle of the holidays are back in full swing. Busy, hectic, and jam packed.
In past years, before Covid, the hectic holidays used to stress me out a little. But I got used to it over the years. So it really was no big deal.
But for some reason this year it seems to be a big deal for me. My stress levels are even heightened when I think of leaving the house to go to the stores to buy food or gifts.
I’ve also noticed all the normal stress responses in myself, physically and emotionally: increased heart rate, sweating, nervous and anxious feeling, etc. I’ve even noticed myself doing nervous habits (twitches) like raising my eyebrows and picking at my nails. My poor fingers are so beat up.
I have had to really concentrate before I go out and when I get back to do things that release my stress.
Of course, one of those things is to go out to my horse and relax. Other ways I release my stress are to take a walk through the woods, sit by the running stream and watch the water pass by, relax and listen to music, take a hot bath, and even meditate.
With so much activity and stressed people during the holidays, I started thinking of my horse…
- Can he feel it?
- Do the other horses feel it in their owners?
- Does it create more stress on them?
I can definitely see it when I encounter other people at the farm. You can see and feel the stress.
When I go out to see Merlin, he now runs to the gate to greet me and can’t wait for me to put on the halter to go out and play. We will go wander around the farm together and find some good patches of grass where we can just chill. It’s fun for both of us.
We’ve just started to go into the covered arena to get used to it. This way we can start training and playing games there when the weather is bad. But the first time there, it was a bit scary for Merlin.
It’s really big and dark without the lights on. Plus, every noise outside the arena seems to echo throughout the arena making it louder and scarier.
Merlin got a bit stressed with the new location, the darkness, and the loud noises. So we just walked in, around, and then walked out. He stayed very close to me for safety and I reassured him all the way through. He calmed down as soon as we left the arena.
The second time we went in, he was less stressed, but then he saw himself in the large dressage mirror and got a bit anxious again. So we just hung out inside near the gate away from the large mirror.
We also did a few things together to relieve his stress. He then relaxed and even went up to the little mirror on the wall and enjoyed playing with his reflection.
I’m sure the next time we go in there, he will act like a pro. He is a very quick study. Very courageous and very trusting.
When Horses get stressed they naturally do certain behaviors that help them relieve their stress:
- They roll, which physically helps them release stress. It’s not the only thing that rolling does for a horse, but it is one of the benefits.
- You will see them lick and chew, which is a type of emotional release of stress.
- Sometimes you can see their neck muscles and shoulders relax and this too helps them release stress.
- Playtime is also important to release stress. As long as it’s not a new, complicated, or stressful game. You’ll see horses running, kicking up, and shaking their heads having fun.
After any of these behaviors you can see in their body language and their eyes that they are more relaxed and calmer.
The ability to release stress is just as important to your horse as it is to us humans.
Did you know that horses sometimes eat to soothe their stress just like we do sometimes? I’m picturing that nice warm bowl of cheesy mac and cheese right now. That’s what I eat when I’m stressed, my go-to comfort food. Do you have one too?
I think that’s the reason I gain weight over the holidays. I get stressed and eat my emotions. Plus it doesn’t help that there’s all those wonderful holiday foods around like Christmas cookies, and homemade pecan pie with vanilla ice cream.
But have you ever thought that maybe your horse is overeating because he or she is stressed? I wouldn’t say it happens very often, but it does happen.
Well, whether that is the reason or there are other reasons for your horse’s stress, I’d like to give you a few ways to help them relieve that stress.
#1. Make sure that you are stress free when you go visit your horse. If you are stressed, more than likely, it will trigger stress in your horse too.
Horses are very sensitive and when they are connected to you, bonded, they feel you – everything about you. All your emotions.
Have you noticed that when something great happens and you go out to see your horse, that your horse seems to be having a great day too? That’s because they are tapped into you and your emotional state.
This direction may sound easy, but I know first-hand that it is easier said than done.
I have developed a breathing technique to calm myself down before going into the pasture with my horse. This really helps me. It helps set the stage for my horse and I to connect to each other quicker as well.
The thing that I have to remember is to actually do it.
First, check in with yourself before you get to your horse and ask yourself:
- Am I feeling stressed?
- Am I physically tight or am I physically relaxed?
- Am I in a good head space right now?
- Am I happy or upset?
- Do I have an agenda or a time frame today?
- Can I let things happen as they are naturally supposed to?
- Am I feeling rushed?
Then after you take that minute to check in with yourself, take another few minutes to breathe deeply and watch the stress start to melt away.
Deep breathing (10 minutes, twice a day) does more than just relax you. It also oxygenates the body. It calms the autonomic nervous system to energetically reduce stress. During these 10 minutes, consider meditation in nature or with soft music.
Breathe out slowly and deeply, and as it were, the frustrations your mind harbors will be pushed out as well. Visualize the problem being solved and feel gratitude in your heart for the thing becoming resolved. Know that there is a purpose for what you are experiencing.
You can even do this when you first get out to your horse. This way you both are releasing your stress together.
As you start to relax, visualize how you would like the time with your horse to go.
- Picture the two of you happy, enjoying the beautiful day walking around the pasture together or going for a ride or a stroll along the gorgeous trails.
- Visualize the best end result you can think of and keep that warm feeling in your heart.
- Smile and relax.
- Then let go of any expectations and be happy with whatever happens. I know this one is easier said than done as well but keep working on it. It’s important.
#2. Sit and relax with your horse for a short time before doing anything. Don’t start immediately touching, moving around, grooming, haltering, etc….
I know this can be tough sometimes if you have an agenda or a time limit. But add this to your agenda or include this in your time frame. If you have an hour to be with your horse and you have one thing you want to accomplish, then add to that agenda – 15 minutes of hanging out first, doing nothing.
Trust me…it will actually help your agenda more than you know.
If every time you go out to see your horse you are constantly moving around and doing things, forcing your horse to do things as well, then he or she will start to get stressed when they see you coming.
If you give your horse 10-15 minutes to relax with you, he or she will have time to connect and settle in a bit. This will not only relieve stress in your horse, but it will also help the two of you connect.
#3. If your horse is still acting stressed, try these calming techniques for your horse.
When your horse is happy, calm, and relaxed anything you do together is easier, smoother, and more enjoyable for both of you. Not to mention healthier as well.
This video above comes from my Foundation of Trust (FOT) program where I show you how you and your horse can build a lasting trust together and includes:
🐎 Some simple steps you can take in times of stress for yourself and your horse
🐎 3 facts you must understand about horse herd behavior so you can establish your own place in the herd
🐎 An easy way to relax and have fun with your horse no matter what your age or physical fitness ability Is
🐎 How to make sure your horse feels safe so that everyday tasks become a breeze
🐎 Find out a virtually unknown way to let your horse know you’ve got his back
🐎 Learn how a simple routine can turn a chore into an opportunity to bond even closer
🐎 18 video lessons to review
🐎 6 surprise bonus videos
🐎 4 stages to gain your horse’s trust
If you’d like to learn more about the program, you can see it here: