Six Tips to Reduce Stress in Domestic Horses Horse stress can cause a variety of equine health problems but it is easy to spot and control. Stress causes the release of cortisol, the "fight or flight" stress hormone. This is a good thing when the situation requires it, providing extra energy to flee predators or other dangers. Chronic exposure to stress and the continued release of cortisol, however, will have a negative impact on immunity, digestion, behavior, reproduction and the cardiovascular system. Gastric ulcers, colic, and diarrhea may also occur due to stress. So what stresses out a horse? They're not on deadline, they don't commute in heavy traffic, they don't have to manage the complicated school and sports schedules of their children. Typically, change to any of a horse's routine can cause an imbalance that leads to stress. Have you changed feed? Different bedding? Changed pastures or pasture mates? Small changes can upset even the biggest horse. Here are some common sources of horse stress and some tips to overcome them: 1. Improper Feeding In the wild, horses move and graze. In fact, feral horses spend 70 percent of their time grazing. If your horses are not on pasture, try to feed at least four times a day at regular intervals. Some feeds provide too much quick-release carbs. Consider switching to a slow-energy feed. 2. Lack Of Exercise Like people, a little exercise goes a long way towards burning off stress. A walk, a ride, additional turnout...it's all good. 3. Isolation Horses are herd animals. A herd provides security, status, emotional support and entertainment. Without a companion, many horses get lonely and stressed. Pasture mates can be horses but they don't have to be horses. Goats, llamas and donkeys are amiable companions, too. When stabling your horse, be sure she can see her companions. Let her know she's not alone! 4. Boredom Boredom can cause stress in horses. Provide toys to combat common stress related behaviors such as cribbing and weaving. Mirrors can reduce anxiety for horses confined in their stalls. Looking at themselves is very calming to some horses. This doesn't work for people. I've tried it. 5. Lack of Confidence A confident horse is better able to cope with stress. Gently expose your horse to new sights, sounds and smells, allowing your horse's natural curiosity to expand their experience of their environment. Encourage exploration; don't force the issue. 6. Contagious Stress Speak to your horse in calming tones and stay cool. Do not become stressed over the fact that your horse is stressed. Reducing horse stress increases horse health. Many techniques require nothing more than an understanding of a horse's basic evolutionary needs. Respect your horse's natural instincts and she'll thrive, stress free! Let Practical Horsekeeping show you how to become an efficient, effective equine expert! Moira Clune and Noreen Girao provide helpful horse care information with a practical twist at http://www.PracticalHorsekeeping.com/ Our free horse care ezine shows you the fastest, safest, smartest ways to care for your horse and create an organized, appealing environment that works for horse and rider! Sign up today and get our free, veterinarian approved Colic Preparedness Report that shows you exactly what to do in a horse colic emergency. Join us today at http://www.practicalhorsekeeping.com/horsecarenewsletter.html and start getting practical!
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