STRESS: What is stress exactly when it relates to horses? And what do we need to consider?

When we talk about stress in equines, we often think of those horses and ponies that never settle, constantly spook, pace the fence line in the paddock, or sweat up as soon as they see a saddle.

And whilst all these can be examples of a horse or pony which is stressed, sources of stress and the effects it has on their body can encompass so much more.

We can actually have horses and ponies who in their nature are very relaxed and settled, yet their body is under significant stress. Stress is a type of change that causes physical, psychological or emotional strain in our horses.

Multiple forms of stress can have a cumulative effect, creating significant demands on the bodies of our horses. As a result of ongoing stress, our equines have increased requirements of particular nutrients.

Stress is also an important consideration in relation to stallion fertility, pregnancy in mares, gastric and colonic ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), laminitis, insulin resistance (IR) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), chronic infections, bone health and failure to thrive.

Some of the many different sources of stress to our equines include:

  • Separation/Isolation
  • Injury
  • Illness
  • Use of certain medications
  • Nutritional deficiencies/insufficiencies
  • Nutritional excesses
  • Travel
  • Dehydration and/or withholding water
  • Withholding feed
  • Weaning
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Intense exercise
  • Parasites
  • Heavy metal burdens
  • Exposure to chemicals, pesticides

What other sources of stress can you think of?

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