Your Horse Might Be Experiencing Psychological Distress: Common Causes Of Equine Stress & Colic 2021


Your horse does not worry about the economy, global warming or midlife weight gain, but he can still experience stress. Just like a harried executive, your horse may suffer ulcers, constipation, diarrhea and general poor health, all of which combine to put him at risk for colic.

The continuous release of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone, affects your horse’s immune and digestive systems and can cause behavior abnormalities like cribbing and weaving. 

Common causes of equine stress include improper or inconsistent feeding, isolation, confinement or limited turnout, and improper handling techniques.

Your horse’s emotional life plays a part in his overall health and immune response. Small changes to your horse’s environment can provide big gains in health and colic resistance. Provide adequate social structure, a consistent feeding program, and as much pasture time as possible and your stressed-out horse will settle into his newer, mellower lifestyle with ease.

Loneliness and Horse Colic

Horses are herd animals and an isolated, lonely horse is at greater risk of colic and other health problems. The horse herd provides security, status, emotional support and entertainment. Without a pasture mate, many horses get lonely.

She may pace the fence lines and cry or whinny when stalled. She’ll be stressed and may develop ulcers. Signs of stomach ulcers include loss of appetite, dull coat, behavioral problems and biting or kicking during girthing.

What to do? Consider a pasture mate. There are a lot of adoptable horses out there. Not all are ride-ready but most will make great companions for your solo horse. You’ll be doing both horses a favor!

Horses like to hang out with horses, but they enjoy the companionship of lots of different quadripeds. Donkeys, goats and llamas often make great pasture mates. And they generally require less upkeep than a horse. 

There are some medical and herbal options available for the stressed, lonely horse. Consult a qualified professional before beginning any type of medicinal or herbal therapy on your horse. 

Isolation is not natural to your horse. It’s ok for a short time, but your horse will not thrive if kept alone. 

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