Horse Behavior Horse Care Horse Ownership Nutrition Riding and Training Young Rider

Calming a Hot Horse

A hot horse kicks up its heels
If your horse can’t have lots of turnout, longeing can be an alternate way to work off extra energy safely. Photo by Ryszard Filipowicz/Shutterstock

Has there been a change in your normally quiet horse? Is he more often hot than not lately? While every healthy, happy horse has frisky moments, a horse that’s always hyper probably needs some changes in his life. Get to the bottom of why your horse is acting this way with these tips on how to calm a hot horse.

Diet and Exercise

It’s cute and endearing when your horse nickers for his bucket of grain or pellets. But if you’re feeding your horse more calories than he actually needs, you could be causing him harm.

A horse eating grain
Certain types of grain may give your horse too much extra energy. Photo by Miranda Ayers/Shutterstock

Horses that are overfed can become dangerously overweight, and that can lead to health problems. They can also become extremely high-spirited. That’s because certain types of feed, especially grains (like oats and corn) and sweetened mixed feeds produce energy. When that energy isn’t used through exercise, it gets stored or bottled up in the horse’s body. Eventually the horse can’t control the urge to play and kick up his heels.

Some feed supplements claim that they can help calm a hyper horse. You, your trainer and veterinarian can decide if a specific supplement is worth trying on your horse. Read the ingredients carefully. Not all are legal in competition. Also keep in mind that no supplement will magically train your horse. That takes time, professional input and patience.

Even when your horse is getting the right feed, he needs the correct amount of exercise. A hyper horse usually benefits from several hours a day in a large paddock or pasture. As he moves around, he unwinds and works off excess energy.

Another option is to longe or round pen your horse before riding. Both give him a chance to buck and play before he has to go to work.

Training Tactics

Have you recently changed the way you ride or train your horse? If so, your horse’s high spirits could be a sign that he’s stressed out. For example, a horse may start rushing at jumps because he’s afraid. This can happen when a horse is asked to jump higher than his level of confidence is prepared for.

Working your horse at speed too often can also teach him to get revved up. All he can think about is being pushed and chased to go faster. Keep that in mind if you practice a lot of patterns for timed events. Instead of constantly galloping, focus on perfecting your patterns at the walk and trot.

Finally, it’s important to know that some hyper horses are hurting. Prancing at the walk and a rapid canter can be signs of pain. Common areas of pain are the back, hocks and front feet. A sore horse learns that the faster he finishes his work, the sooner he gets to stop hurting. If this sounds like your horse, it’s time to ask your vet for help. Once your horse is feeling better, he may be back to his old, quiet self.

This article about how to calm a hot horse appeared in the August 2020 Mini Digital issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Cindy Hale

Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


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