What To Do About Separation Anxiety In Horses

If your horse becomes anxious and stressed whenever he is kept apart from other horses, he may be suffering from separation anxiety. When this happens, your horse may nicker loudly and become difficult to handle.

Most horses become a little bit anxious when they are kept apart from other horses, but those that are suffering from true separation anxiety can be dangerous to themselves and others.

In this article we describe separation anxiety in horses and provide tips to help you and your horse cope with and overcome this potentially dangerous situation. Read on to learn more.

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Separation Anxiety?

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Separation Anxiety

If your horse is experiencing separation anxiety, you may notice some of these symptoms any time you attempt to ride your horse away from other horses or any time your horse is left alone when other horses are taken out:

  • Kicking at walls or fences
  • Running back and forth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nickering
  • Bucking
  • Pawing
  • Pacing

If your horse experiences these symptoms very intensely, he may end up damaging property, injuring himself and even hurting other horses or people.

Different horses may experience separation anxiety differently. For example, some horses may have no trouble being the horse who is ridden away, but hate to be the horse who is left behind. For other horses it may be just the opposite.

What Causes Horses To Experience Separation Anxiety?

What Causes Horses To Experience Separation Anxiety

1. Your Horse May Be Buddy Sour

If your horse is simply in the habit of being with a regular buddy or two, he may just not be able to tolerate being separated from them. Remember that horses run in herds in the wild, and they are strong believers in safety in numbers. When this is the case, you may need to work with your horse and his buddy separately to get them both used to going it alone.

2. It Could Be Hereditary

If your horse comes from a line of horses who tend to be anxious, he or she will naturally be more anxious. In this case, you’ll need to use somebody behavior modification to change your horses outlook on the world.

3. It Could Be PTSD

Horses who have had negative experiences in their early lifetime may also experience more separation anxiety than well raised horses. For example, a horse who is weaned too early will feel remnants of that separation anxiety throughout his or her life. Horses who have been abandoned or neglected may also experience separation anxiety that includes both separation from other horses and from their care givers.

How Do You Treat A Horse Who Has Separation Anxiety?

How Do You Treat a Horse Who Has Separation Anxiety

Be sure that your horse is in good health. Before you begin any dietary or behavior management regimen, you should have your vet examine your horse thoroughly and review his or her diet with you to make any adjustments necessary to calm your horse and help him overcome separation anxiety.

You may wish to add a calming supplement to your horse’s diet, and reduce or eliminate any feed that has large amounts of sugar and simple starches. A good low starch and sugar complete feed may be just the answer.

Start your treatment of your horse with separation anxiety slowly and carefully. Begin by spending a great deal of quality time with your horse grooming, handling, riding and hand walking him to develop a strong bond so that your horse will want to be with you.

If your horse is excessively attached to his pasture mate, you may wish to give their relationship a little breathing room by rotating your horse into another pasture with a different companion. Move your horse from time-to-time so that he doesn’t become excessively attached to his pasture mate.

Work on your own horsemanship so that you can become a strong and trustworthy guide for your horse. If you are uncertain or unskilled, your horse will know it and will not feel secure himself. Your own confidence and ability to be in control of the situation will help your horse overcome any anxiety.

Be patient, it can take a long time to gain a horse’s confidence and change his behavior. If you’ve been working with your horse on his separation anxiety issues for three months or more and have had little or no success, talk with your vet about getting an equine behaviorist to help you.

Horses With Separation Anxiety & How I Fix It

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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