Have you heard of the ‘emotional bucket‘ for horses?  I first became aware of it when I saw this infographic on Facebook:

horse emotional bucket

It’s based on the ‘Five Freedoms’, which Wikipedia describes as:

The Five Freedoms outline five aspects of animal welfare under human control. They were developed in response to a 1965 UK Government report on livestock husbandry, and were formalised in 1979 press statement by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council. The Five Freedoms have been adopted by professional groups including veterinarians, and organisations including the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Five Freedoms are:

Freedom from

  1.  hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  2.  discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3.  pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4.  freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  5.  from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

If each of the Five Freedoms is fully met, your horse’s ’emotional bucket’ would be full, and the graphic gives examples of the sorts of things that empty, and fill, your horse’s ‘bucket’.


So, how full are our horse’s Emotional Buckets?

Always curious, I wondered how full most horse’s buckets are, and I did a quick survey on my Facebook page, of about 90 horses.

For these surveys I use a pendulum, so they are pretty ‘woo’ and unscientific, but they do give an overview of a decent sample of horses.  That said, bear in mind that the results will reflect the type of people who like my work, animal communication, pendulums etc, and are probably already looking after their horses well.  The results may not reflect the wider horse community, or specific disciplines.

Interested owners posted a photo and name of their horse, and I checked to see what % full their horse’s emotional bucket currently is.

The Survey Results:

Here are the results from my compiled stats, and the feedback from some of the owners.


  • The majority of horses tested as their buckets being 55% full or more – only 4 out of 90 horses tested lower than that.  One was a racehorse, and the others had known injuries.
  •  One that tested 55% had recently lost a paddock mate.
  •  Overall the majority – 61% – tested in the 70-80% full range.
  •  One ‘rating’ had more horses than any other which was interesting – 30% of horses tested as 75% full.
  •  21 horses (23%) tested 80% or higher.
  •  Only 3 horses tested as their buckets being 100% full (and 2 of them were mine, lol).

Which of the Five Freedoms is lacking?

That’s the next question, right, because you need to know  what needs topping up in your horse’s emotional bucket…


My newsletter subscribers always get the opportunity to go a bit deeper when I run these free surveys, because I like to reward them for listening to me, lol.  For them, I checked (again, with my pendulum), which of the 5 areas needed to be topped up.

Of the Five Freedoms:

  1.    only 1 horse tested as needing ‘hunger and thirst’ topped up.
  2.    4 were in the ‘discomfort’ range
  3.    17 – the majority – have an issue with ‘pain, injury or disease’
  4.    4 tested for ‘fear and distress’
  5.    and none needed ‘normal equine behaviour’ to be addressed.


I was also super curious about all those horses in the initial survey that tested as 75% full, because that really stood out.

So, I did a little side foray to check which of the five areas they each needed attention in – for one, it was ‘discomfort’, and for all of the rest it was ‘pain, injury or disease’.  Interesting!


Owner feedback:

Coming back to my email subscribers, many replied confirming what I’d found.


The ‘hunger and thirst‘ one was interesting because the owner reported back that this horse has plenty of grass and in fact is over weight.  I did a quick check in with it and my feeling was that the horse ‘thinks’ there’s not enough food.  Perhaps this goes back to how it was fed with a previous owner.


Of the ones that tested for ‘discomfort‘, the replies were:

  • (serious teeth issues). Very painful.   I have an appointment at the hospital to have them removed.
  • There is something wrong with her, I have had her at the vets and waiting blood test results


And for ‘pain / injury / disease‘:

  • Well that makes sense as he ran into a gate gugeon 15months ago. Huge hole is lucky to be here it missed all the important bits!
  • Lower back, hip and stifle issues. He did hurt his near fore leg pastern 2 weeks ago
  • yep, exactly what I thought. Thanks Trisha! Working on it!
  • You’re spot on – her big problem is pssm
  • Makes sense, he has heaves and an old shoulder injury so he’s not fully sound. 

Fear and distress:

  • Yes I was thinking that.  Think shes been bagged as worries with her cover going on every time. 
  • This is to do with the float.

From some other feedback I got, separation anxiety, and grief, would come under ‘fear & distress’.

What can you do about your horse’s emotional bucket?

Well first off, don’t panic!  Most horses that I tested were in a pretty good place, and where there were gaps, the owners did actually tend to know about them.

It’s about awareness as much as anything.  Take some time to view your horse in this different way, and see what your gut – and knowledge – tell you about how he’s doing.  Is there anything you can improve for him?

Make sure your horse gets regular checkups.  Remember, no matter how little you think you’re doing with them, they are athletes (and prone to all sorts of injuries) and need the appropriate care.  So make sure those feet are getting trimmed on schedule, and their teeth checked at least annually.  Inspect your tack regularly and make sure it still fits.  You might set up a regular bodywork session, whether to pamper them or get feedback on how they’re doing physically.


And of course, you can always book an Animal Communication & Healing session, to get their views on how they’re doing, and how full their Emotional Bucket is!

Keep connecting with your horses,

Trisha x


About Trisha

Trisha Wren has been an equine professional for most of her adult life.  She rode, competed, and taught Western Riding for 15 years in Scotland, then taught horse and rider bio-mechanics in New Zealand and Australia for 10 years.  She’s been a full time horse and animal communicator since April 2016. Find out more about Trisha here and sign up for her self paced Animal Communication course here.