And the Preakness ends with a photo finish!! I’m so excited for my thoroughbred friend and potential Triple-Crown winner…it just so happens that “I’ll Have Another” is one of my most frequently used phrases (you all know my affection for confections)! Being in the spotlight can put a lot of pressure on my equine friends, and just like humans, horses can get stressed out too.
For you, my loyal readers, stress is probably highest when preparing to take your final exams or a big sports competition. Sources of stress amongst horses can be anything, including trailering and traveling, showing, poor nutrition, feeding at irregular times, changes in other routines, environmental toxins, interactions within their social environment, variations in climate, and illness. Each horse handles stress differently too, mostly depending on personality. For example a demonstrative, confident horse will let you know when it is stressed; they are usually very curious and are typically the “troublemakers”. They may buck, kick, bite, pin its ears, or swish its tail in response to a stressful stimulus. On the other hoof, a passive, confident horse is not normally stressed, but may show very little change in attitude when it is. To give you a better idea, horses with this demeanor are usually the last ones in the field to take off running if something spooks them. On the other end of the spectrum are demonstrative, fearful horses who are easily stressed and seem to worry about everything; they are also the first to shy at something spooky and need time to relax afterwards. Passive, fearful horses are opposite in that they are just as easily stressed, but will not show it until pushed to the limit; they are very willing, but will tighten muscles and/or tremble when stressed, for example.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage and reduce stress in you equine friends. Here are a few:
- Keep horses turned out as much as possible.
- Stick to a routine but if you need to make changes, do so slowly.
- Feed a well-balanced diet.
- Provide regular, varied exercise.
- Avoid riding in extreme weather conditions.
- Prevent boredom by providing toys and encouraging social activity.
Spending time with horses is a great way to reduce your own stress, so it’s important that you keep yourself healthy and happy as well! For more information on the different types of stress, visit the Equine Science Center’s stress factsheet here!