Whether your horse is nervous all the time or only reactive away from home, it’s important to teach both yourself and your horse how to relax in tense situations. Riders that anticipate their horses’ behavior can become tense and nervous, waiting for a bolt or a spook, which only exacerbates the problem. Horses that haven’t been taught how to relax or mentally work through unfamiliar situations will immediately turn to their flight instinct instead of looking to their riders for guidance.
This video from Evention does a good job of explaining how to ride through some of these situations and how to introduce your horse to new sights, sounds and feelings. As Dom explains in the video, the golden rule is that if the horse hasn’t seen the object or situation before or doesn’t see it often, the horse is entitled to a look, but that’s as far as it should go. Keep the horse going forward, sit tall and keep your leg on no matter what, and once the horse responds to your aids, release the pressure and relax with him.
Knowing how to deal with these situations, and then practicing them, is the #1 way for the rider to be able to relax even when the horse is nervous and tense. So, pull out the spooky lawn chairs and tarps at home and put them where your horse can see them, and practice before you ever leave the farm!