How to Spot and Soothe a Stressed Horse

Just like humans, horses get stressed and, just like us, it can be for different reasons – and show itself in numerous ways.

Whether your horse is under acute stress (ie, of the moment, such as being moved in a horse box) or chronic stress (ie, constant or continual, such as inappropriate living conditions ) the clue to spotting it is a change in their behaviour.

Out-of-character actions such as nipping, being hard to catch, fidgeting or failure to concentrate, are all likely to be signs that your horse is showing acute stress. While lethargy, weight loss and irritability are likely to be caused by chronic stress.

We see many signs of stress in the new rescue horses that come to us here at Remus, whether it’s because they have been neglected and have been living in awful conditions, or because they are unfamiliar with their new surroundings when they arrive.

If you are concerned about stress in your horse, the first port of call is to get their health checked, followed by an assessment of their living conditions – they may be reacting to being stabled in the winter for instance.

Other things to consider are their diet, and the amount of exercise they are getting. It’s also important for safety reasons that your horse respects you and your space when handling – if they already try to mess about when being led, trying to handle them when stressed will be twice as hard.

Finally, if you know your horse is going to be in a stressful situation, such as being transported, it is possible to buy calming products. But do get advice from your vet before administering.

For more detailed information on stress, symptoms and strategies for calming horses, head to: www.yourhorse.co.uk/horse-care/horse-behaviour/stressed-horses.

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