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Understanding and Managing Stress Symptoms in Horses

Tanja Dietz


6 Min. Lesezeit

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Horses are natural flight animals. Despite humans evolving and domesticating horses into loyal and reliable companions, they still retain their innate flight instinct - some more than others. As horse owners, it can be a challenge to handle our four-legged friends at times. The temperament, trust, and sensitivity of a horse influence how it reacts to stressful situations and how its flight instinct manifests. Horses react individually to stress and can exhibit different behaviors. However, as owners, we can take measures to minimize stress for our horses and provide them with a comfortable environment.

How do horses alleviate stress?

In their natural environment, horses release stress through flight. When faced with threatening situations that cause fear and stress, horses respond by fleeing. However, in today's world, horses cannot always escape as they would instinctively, due to being in the stable, tied up at the grooming area, or being ridden. Flight is often not an option in these situations, so horses find other ways to alleviate their stress.

For a comprehensive overview, we have prepared an E-Book that can be downloaded for free.


How can I tell if my horse is experiencing stress?

If horses were in the wild, they might bolt and run to escape stressful situations. However, in human care, horses express stress in unique and situational ways. When tied up, they may nervously prance in place, tug at the lead rope, or even throw themselves down. Under saddle, racing is a common sign of stress. Other behaviors like rearing, bucking, or frequent pawing also indicate that the horse is feeling stressed.

You're already familiar with the stress signals your horse displays. But do you know about these nine situations? If not, let's take a closer look and see if any of them ring a bell.


1. Veterinary Visit

The looming appointment with the veterinarian can stir up stress for both you and your horse. Despite the vet's gentle approach, many horses associate past experiences (such as illnesses or vaccinations) with discomfort, triggering flight reactions.

2. Trail Ride

For young horses, going on trail rides can be quite an exhilarating experience. Everything is new: the surroundings, the sudden solitude in the open terrain. Some young horses may react nervously, prancing around or frequenting the area. In such moments, it can be beneficial to bring along an older, experienced horse as a companion. This way, the young horse gains confidence and will be much calmer on the next ride.

3. Loading and Transport

Loading and transporting with the trailer can be a stressful experience for horses. Tight spaces, immobility, and the unfamiliar movement of the trailer can trigger fears. Therefore, it is crucial for horses to be introduced to loading early and positively to avoid stressful situations.

4. Competition

Competitions are always filled with a certain level of excitement and tension. Waking up early, driving to the stable, preparing the horse, packing everything up, and appearing at the competition on time. Declaring readiness, unloading, bridling, saddling, and riding out - stress can quickly arise in these moments. The competitive atmosphere only adds to the mix.

For inexperienced horses, this can culminate in an exhilarating ride. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain composure before and during the competition to keep nerves at bay.

5. Farrier Visit

A visit to the farrier is an inevitable part of every horse's life, regardless of whether it is a riding horse, a young horse, a broodmare, a pony, or a companion. However, for some horses, this appointment is consistently associated with stress. A stranger approaches, touches the horse's belly, back, and legs, and focuses on the hooves.

It is advisable to train the horse in advance to establish a routine, especially if it is still young or has had negative experiences with the farrier. Maintaining a calm and relaxed demeanor during the appointment is crucial to minimize potential risks.

Be a calming anchor for your horse, speak soothingly to it, and reward it so that it associates the farrier visit with positive experiences.

6. Lunging

Lunging is an exercise that varies in popularity among horses - just like with riders. While some horses relax and feel good while lunging, there are also those that constantly run off, resist, and tense up their backs. For these horses, lunging can quickly become a stressful situation.

To effectively work with anxious horses on the lunge, calmness and variety are crucial. The person leading in the center should provide a calming presence for the horse and give clear instructions. Especially with nervous, anxious, or excited horses, a soothing voice can work wonders in providing the horse with security and relaxation.

7. Outdoor Training

When the indoor season comes to an end and the weather is beautiful, many riders prefer to train outside on the arena. Unlike the indoor arena, there are plenty of distractions that can prevent the horse from focusing on their work.

The range of possible "distractions" is diverse and varies from horse to horse. It could be anything from rustling leaves on the trees to puddles on the arena, or even horses in the neighboring pasture or the sprinkler on the neighboring property.

If your horse shows signs of stress on the outdoor arena, it is important to react calmly and potentially adjust the training goals.

8. Indoor Training

Do you ever experience this: After a long day at work, rushing to the barn to exercise your horse, only to find that the training session isn't going as planned? Your horse seems tense, far from relaxed, and the exercises just aren't clicking.

Despite the recent progress in training! But today, your horse is simply stressed out, and focus is lacking.

If your horse is feeling so stressed in the arena that effective training seems impossible, it's essential to adjust the session and not set the goals too high.

9. Grooming Area

Pawing at the grooming area: What many riders dismiss as a bad habit born out of boredom could actually be a clear sign of stress for horses. The grooming area can be a bustling place: horses come in, get groomed, saddled up, bridled, and led away again, while riders seem to rush endlessly from point A to point B. It's no surprise that this environment can trigger stress in horses.

For horses that dislike being tied up, it might be helpful to groom them in their stalls or in a quieter location. However, it's advisable to practice calm behavior at the grooming area, as it benefits everyone involved by creating a more relaxed atmosphere.

Soothe your horse, reward positive behavior, and keep the grooming and saddling process brief. Make sure not to introduce any additional stress factors during this time.

Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax - the short-term solution for those special moments of stress.

When facing stressful situations that can lead to increased production of stomach acid, it is recommended to administer a dose of Equine 74 Calmrelax to your horse 5-10 minutes beforehand.

The convenient paste form of Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax allows for easy administration using the handy syringe directly into the horse's mouth. Especially beneficial for horses that are generally nervous and have a sensitive stomach, giving the paste directly into the mouth is advisable.

For adult horses, a dosage of 30 ml is recommended, while for small horses, ponies, and foals, a dose of 15 ml is sufficient.

Benefits of Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax at a Glance:

  • Now available in convenient single doses!
  • Gel layer coats the acidic feed
  • Reduces stress-related discomfort
  • Decreases acid splashing in the stomach
  • Excellent acid buffer
  • Ideal for short-term use
  • Magnesium promotes greater calmness
  • Highly palatable
  • Recommended by international riders

Would you like more information about Equine 74 Stomach Calm Relax? Then head over here right away!

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.