Anxiety in horses in more common than you think
A friend of mine adopted a horse that had been found wandering a wooded ravine, bones showing and quite ragged. The mare would not go near the barn. It was only after several days of watching her field mate go in and out of the barn. Then she would only go in, and stay in without a fuss, if her field mate was there too. As soon as her field mate left, the mare wanted out, and she wanted out immediately. What causes anxiety in horses is unknown although we can make some educated guesses. This mare is not the the only horse that suffers from equine anxiety.
Causes on Anxiety in horses
Horses can suffer from anxiety from several causes. The causes can be physical such as a snake or a car backfiring, or psychologically caused by past abuse or stress in an unfamiliar environment or around different people, or equine anxiety even could have been learned from the other horses of current or previous herds. If your horse is suffering from extended anxiety, it’s best to check in with a vet for help in managing it to make sure it’s not a medical condition causing the problems.
Symptoms of Anxiety in horses
Horses are fight or flight animals, just like humans, when they’re put into situations that they don’t like their tendency is to flee. Also as with humans, some horses deal with stress better than others and all horses respond to different stimuli different from each other. Symptoms of anxiety are typically fairly blatant. Such as backing into the corner of their stall, shaking and trembling, pacing back and forth, rearing, and even a loss of appetite. If the anxiety is prolonged, it can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as colic, ulcers, and skin disorders such as eczema or hair loss.
How to treat Anxiety in horses
With cases of long-term anxiety, it’s going to take time to cure. There are medications to help with the short-term problems, but unfortunately, medications have side effects. Your horse won’t be at their best when they have relaxants in their system. Medication does make slow and gradual behavioral modification. In my friend’s case, she had the time and ability just to let her mare come around on her own. She wasn’t going to start worrying until the weather started getting colder. It’s always best to let your horse go at their own pace and to help them get used to whatever it is that is upsetting them. When in doubt, call up your vet, they have some good ideas to share.