Anxiety in horses is far from uncommon. Every horse will experience anxiety at some point in their life. Horses are prey animals, not predatory. This means that they are far more likely to flee than fight. Many things can cause horses to be anxious. Knowing the signs of anxiety in your horse, as well as the causes and possible solutions, can help you keep your horse calm.
Common Causes of Anxiety in Horses
There are many things that can cause anxiety in horses. Unfamiliar situations can cause added stress. Specific triggers may also cause anxiety for your horse. Common triggers include noise, storms, bright colors, and more. An anxious or uncertain rider can attribute to a horse’s overall anxiety levels. Chemical imbalances can also cause the horse to be anxious. The leading culprit of this is magnesium deficiency.
The leading causes of anxiety in horses are separation anxiety and performance anxiety. Horses are herd animals, so being separated from a herd can cause them to be anxious. Similarly, competitions or shows can be overwhelming. These should first be attempted with experienced trainers who know how to calm the horse.
Signs of Anxiety in Horses
Several physical behaviors are caused by anxiety. Weaving and stall walking are common signs of stress. If the horse sways from side to side or walks in circles, it may be anxious. Shaking or trembling is another common sign of anxiety. Other signs of anxiety include rolling eyes, rearing, spooking, or bolting.
How to Handle Anxiety in Horses
Consulting with a veterinarian or experienced trainer may be necessary when dealing with extreme anxiety in a horse. Implementing magnesium supplements may help with the horse’s anxiety. Ensure that you consult with your vet prior to using supplements to guarantee that you are using the correct dosage. Additionally, anti-anxiety drugs may be available, but these are usually not recommended due to their side effects.
Maintaining a regular routine can help eliminate your horse’s anxiety. Similarly, limiting the amount of change your horse experiences can reduce their stress levels. Remaining calm is vital in limiting your horse’s anxiety. Your anxiety can directly impact your horse’s anxiety. Exercising your horse’s pent up energy can also help reduce their stress. Finally, you can use desensitization to help your horse’s anxiety when confronted with specific triggers. This involves controlled exposure to their fear.
An anxious horse can be dangerous to itself and to others. Learning how to handle an anxious horse is necessary to keep you safe. In extreme situations, you should consult with a veterinarian or experienced horse trainer.