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Many riders aspire to share meaningful moments with their horses as true partners. Whether it’s enjoying leisurely rides through the countryside, engaging in gentle arena exercises, or participating in weekend courses and competitions, the desire is to foster a strong and harmonious connection with their equine companions. Regrettably, there are numerous horses for which such activities are not achievable. They range from being anxious to hysterical; rides turn into tense battles, and competitions or courses are out of the question as the cherished four-legged friend becomes a nervous wreck as soon as it leaves its home environment. The horses in question can not only cause emotional stress for the owner but also present a danger to the rider if they bolt uncontrollably in what is perceived to be a hazardous situation.

How often do you yearn for your own horse to be as relaxed as its companion, casually passing by the most perilous things without a second glance and consistently displaying a profound sense of calm?

But horses are very different, especially when it relates to their nerves.

On the one hand, of course, it is due to the breed – an Arabian is known to be more likely to get upset more quickly than a Tinker – but there are also individual differences. Even among Icelandic horses, often considered “relaxed,” there are individuals that can behave like high-strung Thoroughbreds. But only in the rarest of cases are horses really “crazy” – there are usually causes and triggers that explain this behaviour. For instance, horses that were weaned too early or lost their mother as a foal often experience insecurity in the absence of other horses. Even traumatized horses that have had bad experiences – e.g. with humans – will always react in panic in certain situations when the trauma is reactivated by sights, sounds or movements.

Punishing a horse that is clearly panicking due to fear reinforces its behavior, as the fear is acknowledged with pain. It will continue to respond with panic in similar situations in the future.

A lot can and should be modified in horses through appropriate behavioral training. With adequate confidence training, humans can serve as a “horse substitute” when a horse becomes insecure and anxious on its own. Desensitization training can transform potentially threatening situations, such as umbrellas, fluttering ribbons, plastic bags, and other everyday items often perceived as intimidating, into seemingly harmless stimuli.

You can provide the horse with calming feed supplements to offer support:

OKAPI Calming Herbal Blend

A distinction must be made between different types. Some horses exhibit a heightened baseline of nervousness, giving the impression that they may be inducing stress upon themselves. Herbs, such as those found in the OKAPI Calming Herbs blend, prove highly effective for addressing the needs of these horses. They assist the horse in cultivating increased overall basic suppleness. Alongside desensitization training and confidence-building, adjustments to feeding (reducing sugar), stabling (minimizing stress), and providing more freedom of movement (such as paddock trails) are essential. While these measures may not transform such horses into foolproof investments, they do establish a foundation for meaningful and collaborative work. Administering the herbs at a higher dosage initially and subsequently tapering the amount over the medium term is often beneficial. Calmness can be learned to a certain extent, alleviating the necessity for a permanent reliance on calming herbs. OKAPI calming herbs are also suitable for administration in situations of specific stress, such as on New Year’s Eve or other festive days with fireworks, or in anticipation of similar stressful events. In such instances, administration should commence approximately one week prior to the event.


Contrary to horses exhibiting constant nervousness, there are also those that generally appear calm. However, when these horses become excited, they may struggle to regain a calm state afterward. This presents a unique challenge, as desensitization training typically proves less effective with such horses. This is because this behavior tends to affect horses that are not inherently anxious or nervous. In a horse’s life, there are invariably situations that induce fear, even when one is focused on work, such as when a pitchfork falls to the ground near the riding arena. Instead of a momentary startle, accompanied by a quick assessment of the situation, sessions with horses exhibiting this behavior often face complete cancellation. Following such incidents, these horses may spend the next half hour displaying restlessness, constant vigilance, and heightened reactions to every noise. Concentration is then usually out of the question. The combination of magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan, as found in OKAPI Relax, has demonstrated effectiveness in addressing this issue. This approach aids the horse in returning to its typical state of calmness more rapidly following moments of excitement. Although the horse may still experience a moment of fear and exhibit vigilance, once the situation is deemed non-threatening, it will resume focused work instead of engaging in frantic, aimless movement.”

Therefore, for generally nervous and anxious horses, use OKAPI sedative herbs to achieve more serenity overall. In addition, desensitizing training measures, stress minimization, and sugar reduction in feeding help. For horses that don’t want to calm down after excitement, give OKAPI Relax instead.

These two products can be combined in situations where, for instance, horses experiencing fundamental nervousness suffer from panic attacks and become difficult to regulate.

Factors for more serenity

Nevertheless, it is essential to always bear in mind that the behavior of horses is significantly influenced by their training, trust in humans, management practices, nutrition, and the availability of stress relief through free exercise, such as grazing, running, and engaging in natural behaviors on large turnouts or paddock trails. To attain a sustained improvement toward serenity, it is imperative to consistently consider all relevant factors.

Regarding the notion of ‘everything works at home, it only ever happens when…’: Indeed, there are horses that exhibit true show enthusiasm, demonstrating their disapproval by causing disruptions in the stable when left behind during events. Conversely, there are horses that find the prospect of competition, travel, or participation in courses distressing, consistently reacting with unease. Horses, as creatures of habit, often resist disruptions to their routine, particularly when required to depart from their protective herd, familiar surroundings, and secure food source. It proves beneficial for the rider to cultivate calmness, as stress and performance anxiety can be directly transmitted to the horse. Moreover, it is advisable to subject the horse to evident stressors only when absolutely necessary.

More on the topic: Stress in horses or New Year’s Eve – the anxiety topic