Stress in Horses

Stress in Horses

April is stress awareness month … designed for humans of course. It is also a good time to take stock of the signs and symptoms of stress in horses.

As responsible horse owners/carers it we spend so much time, money and effort on making our horses happy that it may be difficult to believe that there is such a thing as stress in horses!

Sadly, there are many day-to-day situations that can cause horses to be stressed: being alone, the visit of a vet, farrier work, loading and riding in a trailer, going to shows, a change of groom or carer, a new routine, new stall, different feeding, stall rest for ailments, even a change in the weather. The list goes on. Because we have our horses’ welfare at heart we want to identify and relieve stress in horses as much as possible.

Totally Tack has decided to help our horses, using our social media this month to give advice on the relief of stress in horses. We’ve been posting useful advice on our social media about how to deal with stress in horses, everything from using commercial calmers to stable toys. So keep your eyes on, in particular, our Facebook and Instagram accounts for the evolving story!

To complement our stress in horses awareness month we are posting this blog, which includes information about how to spot signs of psychological stress in your equine friends, and ways to relieve it.


Stress in horses is serious business – it can make them lose weight and condition, and cause behavioural problems.

Watch out for the following signs that your horse is suffering:

Restlessness: Your stressed horse will walk around his stall or along a fence in a repetitive pattern. He can also indulge in behaviours like weaving, cribbing, and wall kicking to show his stress.

Tooth Grinding is also a sign of stress, while stabled or even when being ridden. It could be a sign of EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome) due to stress. First, though, check for dental problems.

Yawning, according to research, is a way for horses to release endorphins, and is a sign of stress.

Bad behaviour while being ridden, like pawing, pulling, tail wringing, or bucking could be a sign of psyscological or physical stress.

Runny or copious amounts of manure can be a signal of equine stress.

Colic symptoms can be stress related.

Food bolting, which can lead to choking, in a stall or trailer can be indicative of stress in horses.

Biting – either objects, other horses or people – can be a way that horses express stress.

Trembling – just like in humans – can be caused by stressful situations. Perhaps the sight of a trailer arriving or the presence of a vet can make your horse shaky and stressed.

Pulse and Respiration rates increase when a horse is stressed. Make sure you know how to check your horse’s TPR (temperature, pulse and respiration rate) and what the normal parameters are – telling signs for stress in horses as well as an indication of illness.

Sweating is allied to the TPR. Normal work sweats show up mainly between the legs and under the saddle, but a stressed horse may sweat in patches, along with trembling and raised TPR rates.


If you know your horse well enough … as most of us do … to know what situations are likely to cause him/her stress, you can be prepared for the worst by administering calming supplements. There will, inevitably though, be occasions when you won’t anticipate stress in horses building.

The rule of thumb is to keep your horse – especially if he is sensitive to change – in an environment that is as routine and natural as possible, with frequent turnout and access to food, water and companionship.

If there is to be a big change in his life, like a new herd mate or change of location, give him time to acclimatise.

If he’s on enforced long term stall rest, give him stable toys and mental stimulation … loving grooming sessions can also help.

Follow Totally Tack on social media for more tips on handling stress in horses, and feel free to contact us for help and advice with a stressed horse. We’re qualified and keen to help!