Horses' Stress Expression

Portrait of Icelandic horse by lake

Being alone, loading and riding in a trailer, veterinary care, farrier work, preparing for and attending shows, changes in weather, changes in the people caring for them, changes in routine such as a new stall or different feeding schedule, stall rest due to injury or illness, and a stressed handler or rider are all factors that can cause horses to become stressed. Horses show signs of stress in a variety of ways.

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    Weight Loss

    Skinny White Pony

    Horses who are psychologically disturbed for an extended period of time may begin to lose weight. Because there are a variety of causes for weight loss in horses, including heat stress, parasites, inadequate feed, and health issues, it's important to examine all elements of the horse's care to find the cause.

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    Stall Walking and Other Vices

    Stall walking occurs when a horse repeatedly wanders around a stall or back and forth along one wall. Stress manifests themselves through weaving, cribbing, wood biting, wall kicking, and fence walking.

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    When we are sleepy, most of us yawn. It's how our bodies take in a bit more oxygen to help our tired brain function. Horses, on the other hand, do not yawn for the same reasons as dogs, nor is it an appeasing gesture.

    Yawning (which most horses will do numerous times in a row) might indicate that the horse is agitated and is releasing that tension by yawning.

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    Tooth Grinding

    Some horses grind their teeth while being ridden, while others do so when being stabled. Physical or physiological stress can cause teeth grinding. If the horse doesn't have any other dental problems, look for equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) and other sources of persistent discomfort or stressful conditions.

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    Bad Behavior

    Many instances of bad riding behavior can be traced back to physiological or physical stress. Pawing, tugging, tail wringing, bucking, rearing, bolting, or becoming cold backed are all ways to display stress (sensitive in the back).

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    Many performance horses suffer from equine gastric ulcer syndrome. This can be in response to a stressful show schedule or other stressors.

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    Manure and Urination

    A stressed horse may create a lot of manure in a short period of time. Some may create extremely liquid manure. When horses are anxious, they frequently urinate, and if they are unable to empty themselves because they are unable to relax, such as in a trailer or while being ridden, they might get agitated.

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    Licking and Chewing

    Licking and chewing, according to natural horsemanship beliefs, is an indication that a horse is assimilating new knowledge, such as during training. As long as the activity isn't unusually recurrent or compulsive, this action may serve as a mechanism for the horse to relieve whatever stress it is experiencing.

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    Stress might trigger colonic symptoms. A new herd mate, as well as changes in habit, weather, or handler, can cause moderate colic in some horses. EGUS, which can induce colic symptoms, can be caused by chronic stress.

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    A horse might shake due to a variety of stressful events. Even the sight of the veterinarian or farrier, or the presence of a trailer in the yard, might trigger some horses to tremble. Trembling usually ends as soon as the source of tension is removed.

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    High Pulse and Respiration

    When a horse is anxious, his or her pulse and breathing rates can rise dramatically. As a result, knowing your horse's baseline temperature, pulse, and respiration is critical (TPRs).

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    When a horse is agitated, its pulse and breathing may accelerate, and it may begin to sweat (and tremble). Work tension manifests as between the horse's legs and behind the saddle, ultimately covering the horse's entire body. It is dependent on the horse's effort and duration. However, a stressed horse may sweat in spots. Sweat patches might also indicate the area of previous injuries.

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    Bolting Food

    A worried horse often bolts its food. Bolting can lead to choking, or other digestive disturbances. This can happen in a stall or trailer.

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    Chewing or Biting

    Some horses express stress by things, people, or other horses.

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    How to Alleviate Stress

    Consistent routines in natural environs, as much as feasible, may ease a lot of stress. This need constant attendance, as well as adequate food, water, and companionship. "Show stress" is more difficult to alleviate, although increased attendance and exercise in between shows can assist.

    Allow time for horses to adjust to new surroundings, such as new herd members or stall sites. Make every effort to ensure that horses in trailers have a comfortable ride. It's nearly difficult to avoid all stress, but proper basic care should alleviate the majority of it.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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