I have a 10year old Welsh Cob who is shown in dressage, open ridden and harness classes. When going to shows he becomes

Expert's Assistant chatimg
Customer: I have a 10year old Welsh Cob who is shown in dressage, open ridden and harness classes. When going to shows he becomes very stressed and cannot concentrate on his work. I broke him to harness last year and he has taken to this very well but still stresses in the float, when we arrive at the show and sometimes in the ring. He is not fed any grain as this just makes him worse. He knows when we are getting ready for a show and he starts to stress. He has never been hurt in the float or at a show. I do not do alot of shows with him only about 4 or 5 a year but even at home if we put him in a new environment he will stress or if we ride him in a different area he will stress. He loves a routine and does not like to have it disrupted.
Answered by Donna Campbell Smith in 7 hours 10 years ago
Donna Campbell Smith
Pet Specialist

176 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Horse Veterinary, Large Animal Veterinary, Small Animal Veterinary


My name is XXXXX XXXXX thank you for using Justanswer. I am glad to help you with Chopper’s nervousness at shows. The show atmosphere is exciting and stressful for both horses and people. It sounds like Chopper is sensitive and therefore anxious about the unknown. It can be a common problem with very intelligent horses.

Having worked primarily with Arabians I understand what you are going through. The first advice I have is for you to try and stay calm because if you are excited and anxious Chopper is going to pick up on that and figure there must be something to worry about.

The other thing, and this will take time as all training does, is to take Chopper out and work him in different arenas and places as often possible. Have a routine so that everything is as familiar as Chopper will feel safer with his routine being the same every time. Give yourself plenty of time for getting ready to ride or drive so you and Chopper can avoid those last minute hurry-up situations that often occur at shows. Call around nearby stables and ask if you can pay a ring fee to work in their arena. Go to the show grounds when there is no show. Get a friend to come along so you’ll have another horse working at the same time. This could take months, but the more often you can get out in a new place the sooner Chopper will start to think of going someplace new as a normal occurrence.

Also do lots of trail riding/driving. Teach Chopper to relax with suppling and stretching exercises. Take Chopper to some shows and don’t show. Just work out in a warm up ring or around the grounds, an then just “hang out.” When you do go to a show, go early and warm up with those exercises before the show.

To make those warm-up exercises interesting a book like 101 ARENA EXERCISES:
by Cherry Hill has some good routines that may be helpful.

A word about nutrition: I think you are on the right track about grain, or sweet feed adding to Chopper’s anxiety. This article might be interesting:


A word about supplements – if your horse is getting a balanced diet, which a good quality grass and legume hay should provide, he does not need supplements. In my experience I have not found “relaxation” supplements to be of any help.

I hope my suggestions will be helpful. If you need further clarification on anything I’ve written just use the reply button to ask for more information and I’ll do my best to help. Bookmark this page and come back to let me know how Chopper is doing.


Donna C Smith41137.4597506597

Hi Donna thank you for the advice it is very helpful but where I live in western New South Wales there are no riding stables with arenas and our local show is held once a year. I mainly do breed shows which do not have the rides ect of agriculture shows so therefore are alot calmer but Chopper still stresses. We do try to keep to a routine at the shows but he is usually over the top before we get there. I have found with him that since breaking him to harness he is calmer when we put the harness on him than if he is just saddled. I will get hold of the book that you suggested and try some different exercises with him. I also do not like 'calmer' drugs but do you have any suggestions on a natural supplement that would help him in the float. He does not move around in the float but will get the shakes and sweat. Thanks again for your assistance

I just now realize what you mean by "float" here in the States a horse trailer? Some horses are claustrophobic and do better in a stock trailer that has a more open design (slats on the upper part of the sides) or windows. I had an Arabian mare that would really go nuts in a trailer if the partition went all the way to the floor, but was fine in a trailer with a divider bar and open underneath. She really loved to just not have a partition so she could stand at a slant. She needed room to spread her legs to balance. But put that partition in and she’d climb the walls.

Also, if you have given him any kind of calming agent that could be interfering with his ability to stay balanced while riding in the trailer. I really cannot recommend any herb or drug to calm Chopper. They can in fact make matters worse.

If you have your own trailer it will help to feed him in it, load and unload him when you are not going anywhere. Keep it parked where he is turned out so it becomes an everyday familiar thing to him.

What you say about him doing better under harness than saddle makes me wonder if the saddle fits him correctly? It may be causing him discomfort or pain. Or if the harness includes blinders then if could be he is not seeing what is going on around him and so he's less prone to become excited.

Try to figure out what is triggering Choppers anxiety – fear of the other horses, is it because of the negative experience of the trailer ride, is he being asked for work beyond his training, did he get his belly full of hay before leaving? Finding the problem is the key to solving it.

I do think your best solution is getting him out to different environments as often as possible. If not an arena then parks, nearby farms, parking lots, anyplace away from home. Showing him that few times a year probably seems new to him every time.

Another bit of advice is using leading and groundwork to establish you as Chopper’s alpha herd mate. This will help him feel safe with you in charge. Spend fifteen –thirty minutes a day leading him. Be sure he stays perpendicular to you with his shoulder at your shoulder. Don’t allow him to lag behind or rush ahead or try to pull on you. Use some of those arena exercises while leading – figure eights, circles, backing, turning, walking, trotting, going through obstacles.

The biggest thing to remember is this is not a quick-fix problem. It is going to take a lot of work and time.

Hi Rhonda,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Grenwood Whirlybird (Chopper). How is everything going?

Donna C Smith

Hi Donna, yes in Australia we call a trailer a float or horse float. When we are not going to a show Chopper does not stress in the float. He knows when a show is on because of the baths and then locked in the stable the night before to keep him clean. I have tried changing this routine but he always seems to know. I am hoping next year to do more shows as I really want to get him ready for our state welsh show then the national show. He has competed at the state show and did really well gaining 8th out of 32 in the dressage, 2nd in the novice ridden and then winning the open ridden section D gelding. I will be showing him in harness at the next state show. I will work on your suggestions. His saddle has been checked and all is OK, yes he does wear blinkers in harness and I think that this helps him. Also he just seems to enjoy pulling the cart. Thanks again for your advice.

I hope my suggestions have been helpful. I appreciate you clicking accept in order for the payment to transfer to me. If you need further assistance with this question let me know by using the reply button. Give Chopper a good-boy pat from meSmile
Read less
Donna Campbell Smith
176 satisfied customers
Pet Specialist
Donna Campbell Smith
+ years of experience

176 satisfied customers



Licensed veterinarians

31,131 satisfied customers

Pearl avatar
Pearl Wilson, Veterinarian's Assistant
116 Veterinarians are online right now.
Related Veterinary Questions
I got a little 7 yr old buckskin from the auction. From what
Jay Bickers
Equine Surgeon
41 Satisfied Customers
My minature horse is about 15 I dewormed m 2 weeks ago and
Dr. Gabby
Horse Veterinarian
15 Satisfied Customers
I own a rising 4 year old Irish draught mare, she was backed
341 Satisfied Customers
My horse is showing signs of back pain, and other people at
Dr. Loretta
Large and small animal Veterinarian
24,088 Satisfied Customers
I have a small farm with 21 horses on it in various size pastures,
Donna C Smith
equine journalist and author
232 Satisfied Customers
How it works
logoAsk for help, 24/7
Ask for help, 24/7
Members enjoy round-the-clock access to 12,000+ verified Experts, including doctors, lawyers, tech support, mechanics, vets, home repair pros, more.
logoExpert will respond in minutes
Expert will respond in minutes
After you reach out, we match you with an Expert who specializes in your situation. Talk, text, chat, whichever you prefer.
logoSave time & money
Save time & money
No scheduling hassles, missing time from work, or expensive consults.
A JustAnswer membership can save you significant time and money each month.
Sarahesq and 87 other Veterinarian specialists are ready to help you.
Disclaimer: Information in questions, answers, and other posts on this site ("Posts") comes from individual users, not JustAnswer; JustAnswer is not responsible for Posts. Posts are for general information, are not intended to substitute for informed professional advice (medical, legal, veterinary, financial, etc.), or to establish a professional-client relationship. The site and services are provided "as is" with no warranty or representations by JustAnswer regarding the qualifications of Experts. To see what credentials have been verified by a third-party service, please click on the "Verified" symbol in some Experts' profiles. JustAnswer is not intended or designed for EMERGENCY questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals.
Why you’ll love JustAnswer
JustAnswer is the best way to get expertise on-demand from doctors, lawyers, vets, mechanics and more. Since 2003, we’ve helped more than 9 million people in 196 countries and have an A+ rating with BBB and a 9.6/10 rating with TrustPilot.
Highly rated, verified Experts
We pride ourselves in our 8-step verification process including license and credential checks. Vetted by us and rated by customers, like you.
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal ...leave nothing to chance.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
JustAnswer, Professional Services  General, San Francisco, CA
Google reviews
TrustPilot Reviews