Equine Mood Changes and Ways to Help!

Like humans, equines also have bad days every once in a while. There are multiple factors to consider when it comes to the mental well-being of your horse. Most importantly, it is essential to understand that your horse may experience mood swings, anxiety, and depression. When your horse is having a bad day, being flexible and adopting a different approach can help turn their entire day around! Keep reading for more information on reasons why your horse may encounter mental distress and ways to fix these issues. 

Medical Conditions  

If your horse is experiencing mood fluctuations or persistent negative emotions, this can be a sign of an underlying health issue that may become a more severe problem in the future. Allergies, joint and muscular pain, gastrointestinal issues, and nervous system disorders can all contribute to your horse’s mental health. In addition, past injuries can also cause occasional discomfort and associated changes in mood. For example, if your horse grinds their teeth, it could signify that they are experiencing physical pain or stress. 

Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, are also factors that need to be considered in equines as well. If your horse has an anxious temperament or experiences chronic stress, it can be easily triggered by minor events. Mood swings caused by anxiety require identifying and eliminating the sources of pressure from the environment.

Depression in Horses

Many factors can lead to chronic stress in horses, and eventually, long-term exposure can become depression. A few circumstances or a combination of factors may be at the root of your equine’s depression and anxiety. Social isolation is one of the leading causes of stress for social animals like horses. A horse living alone or stabled for long periods is likely to become chronically stressed and highly susceptible to stress-related illnesses and depression. Confinement is another leading cause of depression in horses. It is unnatural for them to be alone in a small area, such as in a stable or small barn. Equines may start behaviors like wind-sucking or weaving to cope with the frustration of being unable to move freely.

On the other hand, too much activity such as harsh training or intense exercise can also cause both mental and physical stress for your horse. Punishments or physical restraints can put a significant strain on a horse. Severe training methods make horses fearful of trainers and their environment, which may lead to anxiety and depression.

Equine Environmental Impacts

An equine’s environment is often involved in triggering negative emotions as well. Keep a close eye on your horse’s routine, activities, location, and climate. Nutrition is vital to mood management as well, so make sure to consult an equine nutritionist for advice about your horse’s diet and feeding schedule. You can also try keeping a journal to help identify patterns related to your horse’s mood swings.

Helping your Equine’s Mood

There are a few ways to help combat the negative emotions of a moody horse. First, pay close attention to see if you can identify any triggers responsible for a mood swing, then practice these do’s and don’ts when attempting to alleviate a moody moment:

  • Exercise your horse! More endorphins lead to less stress in your equine.
  • Remove identifiable environmental stressors and adjust your expectations to reflect realistic training requirements. 
  • Never punish your horse for being moody or not wanting to perform. Instead, reward them for even the smallest of successes! 
  • Maintain a consistent feeding schedule and overall routine. A more predictable schedule can stabilize your equine’s mood and hormones.
  • Give your horse a nutritious and complete diet that is also supplemented with quality horse feed.

If there is an underlying medical problem, these tactics may not have complete success. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian if your horse has emotional swings or persistent negative moods!

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