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Stress memory: How to deal with a stressed horse!

Tanja Dietz


3 Min. Lesezeit

Stress plays a crucial role in the development of gastric ulcers, especially when combined with feed that is not suitable for the horse's stomach. Therefore, it is imperative to minimize stressful situations in order to prevent ulcers and promote the overall well-being of the animal. This particular aspect deserves closer attention. We have previously discussed various potential stressors, such as the separation of horses through moves or sales, which can induce stress. On the other hand, forcing horses that do not get along to live together can also be problematic, as it goes against their natural inclination to avoid each other in the wild.

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Understanding the natural behavior and characteristics of horses is crucial in ensuring their stress-free handling. Equestrians, especially those who speak English, often refer to terms like animal handling and horsemanship to seek recommendations in this regard. Valuable resources include the guidelines provided by the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association (afac.ab.ca) and the Alberta Equestrian Federation, as well as the publication "Techniques for Safely Handling Horses" by Oklahoma State University.

Here are five crucial factors to keep in mind when interacting with horses:

1. Horses, known for their flight instinct, can be difficult to control in panic situations, even if they are well-trained.

2. Approaching a horse in the right way is crucial. Since horses have limited vision directly in front of and behind them, it is advisable to approach from the side, with a focus on the shoulder, to prevent them from getting startled and potentially bolting or kicking.

3. Stress-free handling of flight animals also involves avoiding sudden loud noises, including using a calm tone of voice when interacting with your horse. By communicating calmly, the horse will become aware of its surroundings and the presence of humans. People working with horses should also refrain from making sudden, frantic movements.

4. Horses have a keen sensitivity to touch.

5. Safety is a top priority in horsemanship and stress-free horse handling. The goal is not only to reduce stress for the animal but also to create a safe environment for both humans and horses. This starts with proper positioning, as mentioned in point 2.

Understanding the cognitive abilities of horses - how they perceive and remember situations

Furthermore, when it comes to stress-free handling of horses and ponies, it is crucial to ensure that their everyday experiences are positive. Negative associations can have a lasting impact on their behavior, such as loading. If a horse has been subjected to yelling and chaotic movements during loading, it will develop a negative association with this activity. This not only affects their memory of specific situations but also how they perceive objects related to those situations. It is important to understand that horses have a remarkable memory, almost like a photographic one. For instance, if a horse had a traumatic experience with a person wearing a black cowboy hat, it may react anxiously to other individuals wearing similar hats in the future. On the other hand, light-colored hats or baseball caps may not trigger a negative reaction. By considering these factors, we can create a stress-free environment and ensure positive experiences for our equine companions.

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A horse's memory is incredibly detailed, almost like a photographic record. An example often shared by Temple Grandin involves a horse that was mistreated by a man wearing a black cowboy hat. This specific item, the black hat, became etched in the horse's memory due to the negative experiences it had with that particular individual. As a result, the horse would later become anxious and react negatively when encountering other people wearing black cowboy hats, even though they were completely different individuals. Interestingly, the horse did not have the same reaction to individuals wearing light-colored hats or baseball caps. It just goes to show how specific and powerful a horse's memory can be.

It is crucial to recognize that horses are creatures of habit and thrive on fixed daily routines. One of the most vital aspects of their day is feeding time. Implementing punctual feeding at regular intervals can greatly reduce stress for horses. In future articles, we will delve into the physiological and preventive significance of feeding in relation to gastric ulcers.

Curious for additional information?

If you're looking for further insights and resources on gastric ulcers in horses, our topic page has an abundance of valuable information, including additional links. You'll find comprehensive details on the prevention of gastric ulcers in horses right here.

Stomach ulcers in horses - Presentation of the most important facts and information about symptoms, causes and prevention of stomach ulcers in horses.

Equine 74 Gastric

The long-term solution

Buffers the excess acid in the horse's stomach instead of blocking it.

Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax

In case of acute stress

Supports the nervous horse stomach in stressful situations.