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. You may even try a CBD oil that some people swear by.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do some horses have separation anxiety?

If a horse has created strong bonds with another horse or companion animal, he or she is very likely to experience feelings of stress, anxiety and fear when the two are separated or one of the two dies. Sometimes these feelings can be calmed by the introduction of another companion animal. Another equine is ideal, but in cases of limited resources or space, small animals, such as goats, dogs, cats or even chickens can provide comfort and companionship.

2. Can horses become accustomed to living alone?

If you are very active with your horse, he or she may be able to get along with only your companionship. This sets up a situation of having all your eggs in one basket, though. If your horse is entirely dependent upon you for companionship, what will happen if you take a trip, get sick or pass away? It’s better to have some sort of companion present for your horse, even if it’s just a barn cat.

3. How can you keep solitary horses from getting bored?

In addition to providing a small companion like a cat or a flock of chickens, give your horse some stall toys to keep him occupied. A jolly ball hung up like a tether ball from the stall rafters can provide some entertainment. Feeding hay in a net bag will also help keep your horse busy. Be sure your horse has plenty of turnout time, and give him a big kickball to boot around in the paddock or pasture. Place feed in one area, water in another and hay in still another place. This will encourage your horse to move around and forage rather than simply standing in one place munching.

4. How can I calm my horse when he is anxious?

Avoid anxiety by always being predictable and dependable. Show up at the same time every day to feed and groom and spend time with your horse. Establish a regular, daily grooming routine, even on days when you are not riding. Daily grooming provides the perfect opportunity for calming interaction. Add a little aromatherapy with lavender essential oil to further help your horse relax.

5. How can I keep my horse calm when I am not there?

In addition to providing a small pal, like a barn cat or chickens, keep a radio playing quietly in your barn at all times. Music and quiet talk can keep your horse company and will help soothe him or her.

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