Teaching a horse to handle stress. Episode 4: The Trail to the World Show

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The world can be a stressful place if you don’t know how to recover from challenges. This is true with humans and it is true with horses.

There are two primary ways we can address stressful situations with horses.

  1. We can try to avoid stress
  2. We can teach the horse how to handle stress

Those who chose to try to avoid stress by avoiding situations that could be stressful for the horse will often experience a need to limit where they go and what they do. The world full of possibility shrinks.

It is very possible to teach horses how to handle stress, and in doing so, the horses see fewer and fewer things that they consider stressful. The world of possibility expands and we have the freedom to trail ride, show, ride in large groups or ride alone because the horse is confident in all situations.

Teaching a horse how to see cycles in the training is a key factor in teaching them to handle stress. When the horse realizes that ’emotional pressure’ is then followed by a period of rest, they begin to see the ‘stress’ or pressure as something they can easily deal with.

I teach my horses how to handle stress by using a training cycle. In episode 3, I demonstrated the idea of teaching emotional control including groundwork. In this video, I show the same concept but applied at a horse show.

The training cycles during groundwork are easier to visually see. In my YouTube series, Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, the cycles are very clear during groundwork.

The cycles are still there when the horse is being ridden but they are much more subtle.

In this video, I explain the cycles I took Willow through at her first horse show of the year. Over the three days you can see her shifting into a more confident state of mind because she recognizes the cycles as being very similar to those I use at home and on the trail.



  1. Sherry Mann on March 18, 2020 at 10:10 am

    I have a reiner, and had never thought about having him do another discipline. Very interesting, and you both looked great!! My horse gets very anxious when I ride him outside, not sure why. He is a Clinton Anderson horse, so I know he’s been ridden outside. I am sure its me causing it, because I anticipate him getting anxious and spooking, at things he knows. He has even worked cattle in the past. So, thanks for these tips, Stacy!!

  2. Karen L Murphy on May 22, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for inviting me to the horse show ! I have been away from my Fine Gentlemen for seven months now… Taking care of Mom. It is hard enough being apart from my Husband, but I talk to him at least twice a day. He sends me pictures of my horses. Good luck this year and thanks again for including me! Keep it hoof side down! Karen

    • Stacy Westfall on May 22, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      You are very welcome! It seems to me that life runs in seasons and enjoying the one you are in…while still looking forward to the next season, is an art form. Enjoy your season!

  3. Karen Bockus on May 12, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Just fabulous, you have just given me a tool for my horse…that I was sort of stumbling onto myself. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Stacy Westfall on May 14, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Glad it helped!

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No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



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