In the busy world today, we all feel stressed from time-to-time. But, do you realize that your horse could also be stressed? There may be many reasons why such as training, a change in routine or environment, transportation, pain or illness, social seperation, and weaning. Each horse is different and what is normal for one, may not be for another.
Your horse may react to stress in many different ways. The horse has an acute fight-or-flight response as they are prey animals. If they are unable to either fight or take flight in what they feel is a dangerous situation then they react in other ways.
They may become restless and lash out by kicking at the walls of the stall, they may flare their nostrils, swish and raise their tails, paw the earth, vocalize, move their heads in repetitive motions, sweat, stop eating and lose weight, defecate and urinate. They may grab a solid object such as a wooden fence with their teeth and pull, while arching their neck they will suck the air.
Short-term stress levels aren't always something to worry about and we can't eliminate them entirely. However, there are steps you can take to eliminate stress so it doesn't continue to happen and become an issue. You will want to look around your barn and see what can be done to make your horse feel more at ease.
If your horse is housed in a stable with solid walls and no windows, or where it cannot see other animals, it may feel isolated and become stressed. Adding animals such as cats, goats or other small animals may alleviate the problem. Steel mesh doors, sky lights and ventilation can help to make the horse feel less cramped and isolated. Also, be sure that the stalls are clean and be aware that if you can smell ammonia when you walk into the area, it is even stronger for your horse. Be sure that bedding is being regularly picked out and that the stall has a level base with proper drainage.
Ulcers, tense muscles and colic are among the problems that can become an issue for your horse. High levels of cortisol can be found in saliva, feces and blood. Elevated heart rate and respiration can also become an issue if it continues to happen over time. It is always a good idea to call your veterinarian in to check the horse over and to help manage and reduce the stress for your horse.
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