Equestrian Anxiety: Understanding its Impact on Horses

Image of Older Equestrian Riding


Equestrian sports have long been celebrated for their harmony between humans and horses. Successful riders are often those who can establish a deep and trusting connection with their equine partners. However, the impact of equestrian anxiety on horses is a topic of growing interest in the equestrian and scientific communities. This post summarizes the scientific studies and research that explore the effects of anxiety in equestrians on their horses.

The Human-Horse Connection

Equestrians often refer to their horses as "partners" or "teammates," highlighting the importance of a strong bond between rider and horse. The connection between human and horse goes beyond physical skill; it's also about communication, trust, and emotional well-being. Recent studies have suggested the psychological state of the equestrian can significantly influence the horse's behavior and performance.

Understanding Equestrian Anxiety

Anxiety is a common emotion experienced by equestrians, both novice and experienced riders. It can be triggered by various factors, such as competition pressure, fear of falling, or even a challenging training session. Scientific studies have shown that increased levels of anxiety in equestrians can impact their horses in several ways.

1. Physiological Synchronization:
Research by Dr. Ellen Gehrke at the University of Sussex has demonstrated that horses and humans can exhibit physiological synchronization. When a rider experiences anxiety, their increased heart rate and muscle tension can transfer to the horse, causing the horse to become more anxious or agitated.

2. Reduced Performance:

A study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science by Dr. Anne-Marie Dalin and colleagues revealed that equestrian anxiety can lead to decreased horse performance. Horses tend to become more tense, uncooperative, and less focused when their riders are anxious, leading to reduced success in training or competitions.

3. Behavior Changes:
Dr. Sue McDonnell, a well-known equine behaviorist, has extensively researched the effects of human emotional states on horse behavior. Her studies have shown that anxious riders may inadvertently reinforce unwanted behaviors in their horses due to inconsistent cues, excessive rein tension, or uncoordinated aids.
4. Communication Breakdown:
Effective communication between horse and rider is key to success in equestrian activities. A study in the journal Animals, conducted by Dr. Kate Fenner, indicated that anxiety in riders can lead to miscommunication and a breakdown in the rider-horse relationship. This can hinder the horse's ability to understand and respond to the rider's cues.

Managing Equestrian Anxiety

Recognizing the impact of equestrian anxiety on horses is the first step in addressing the issue. Here are some strategies to manage anxiety for both riders and their equine partners:

1. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Riders can benefit from practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage anxiety before and during riding sessions.
2. Seek Professional Help: If anxiety is severely affecting riding performance, seeking guidance from a sports psychologist or counselor can be valuable.
3. Training and Education: Investing time in proper equestrian training and education can help riders build confidence and reduce anxiety.
4. Horse-Centered Training: Focusing on the horse's well-being and mental state can lead to a more harmonious rider-horse relationship.
5. You may be able to find relief from riding anxiety with natural, over-the-counter treatments, like Nano-CBD. CBD has been shown to dramatically reduce anxiety, without any unwanted psychoactive impact. 


The impact of equestrian anxiety on horses is a scientifically supported phenomenon that deserves attention within the equestrian community. Understanding how anxiety affects both humans and horses is crucial for maintaining a harmonious and productive partnership. By addressing and managing anxiety, riders can ensure a positive and fulfilling experience for themselves and their equine companions, ultimately leading to greater success and well-being in equestrian pursuits.

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