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Competition

Melissa from New York, writes:

Dear Sharon,

I have had an eight year-old appendix quarter horse for about a year and have had to teach him to run barrels. He is coming along well, but when we compete at a show, he won't fun as fast as he does at home. We practice about three times a week in an open arena and then the rest of the week we trail ride. I want to take him to a rodeo, but my mom said that he probably couldn't handle the stress. He gets spooky in different places. Can you give me some advice about helping him overcome his fears? I do work with different objects around him to help him gain confidence. Thanks.

Dear Melissa,

It sounds to me like your horse is experiencing what we call performance anxiety. If he runs at home but will not put out the speed in competition, he may be tied up with fear.

I would haul him to local competitions to get him used to the noise and distractions all horses face when they are away from their "home" area. Gain his confidence that you are not going to ask him for anything new or different than you have not taught him already in your home arena. Try to get your horse into the arena to warm up, to stand, and to calmly work the pattern.

Take one step at a time. Continue your training at home and begin your seasoning process by working in other locations and arenas.

Keep up the good work,

Sharon