This week I found myself wondering about stress levels in horses – there are so many things that can cause stress to them! I decided to do an impromptu survey on my Facebook page to get more info.
As an Animal Communicator I’m endlessly curious about horse opinions and how they see things. One of the things I like to do is use my large powerful pendulum to connect with a number of horses and ask them questions. I pose a question, and owners post a photo and their horse’s name for me to connect with. (You can read the results of previous surveys here.)
In this instance, I also asked them to add one word, ie the thing they wanted to know their horse’s stress levels for. When I’d connected with each I replied with a ‘low’, ‘medium’, or ‘high’ response.
Disclaimer – these surveys are totally unscientific, and highly ‘woo’, lol. Take them as you will; either curiosity value, or perhaps confirmation or insight to what’s going on with horses. If you’re concerned about your horse’s health please consult your vet.
I tested 77 horses (and also a few dogs and cats).
The first really interesting factor from this was that there were NO instances of ‘medium’ stress – only high, or low.
Why would there be – in this survey anyway – no medium stress levels in horses?
Well, the next point of interest is that only approx one third of the total responses measured ‘high’, with two thirds measuring ‘low’. I suspect that if we were to delve deeper, the ‘low’s may actually have been very low – next time I should probably include a ‘zero’ option! (I went back and revisited this; see the edit at the bottom of the article.)
Which would mean that when horses do have stress, it’s pretty high – and there’s nothing in between.
What sort of things did people think might be causing high stress levels in their horses?
The 2 biggest ones were riding, and pain / health.
- Riding – 41% of horses who were asked about it were highly stressed by riding, and 59% low.
- Pain / health – only 1 horse tested with a high stress level relating to pain / health, and 14 tested low.
Both of these things would indicate to me that either owners are worrying about something that isn’t there, or, something is going on but they need to look deeper at what’s causing it. The same went for things like saddling, bridling, cantering, and mounting – those things weren’t actually causing them stress.
Then there were some factors which, I’d say the owners already knew were an issue, and were looking for confirmation – showing / competing, and floating / trailering.
- Three out of 4 horses had high stress levels to showing, and
- Also 3 out of 4 had high stress levels to floating / trailering.
When it came to jumping however, something different was at play.
- All 3 horses that were asked about jumping had low stress levels around it. I suspect that what the owners are actually seeing is excitement (with whatever training issues go with that).
The other revealing (but unsurprising) factor was how horses are kept.
- Four out of five had high stress relating to their herd or paddock mates.
- Three out of three had high stress from separation.
- Two out of three tested high for being kept alone.
In summary, I found it encouraging that the stress levels in the horses tested were much lower than I expected.
There are a few possible reasons for that of course –
- it’s a reflection of the type of owner who is into animal communication and the type of work that I do
- we’re coming into winter in the southern hemisphere, so maybe they’re doing less,
- and, of course, the covid-19 pandemic has meant that there have been no shows, little travelling, and maybe even less riding than usual.
Edit:New totals are:
Since I’m endlessly curious (and also a Virgo, cough), I went back and had another look at those that had tested as ‘low’. I retested, this time with a ‘zero’ option.
Zero stress – 36 horses – 47%
Low stress – 12 horses – 16%
Medium stress – no horses
High stress – 28 horses – 37%
So overall, 1/3 or horses recorded high stress, and almost half had zero stress.
Here’s the video where I discussed my conclusions, and other things owners may need to consider:
We could of course also look at whether stress levels in horses are mental / emotional, or physical… perhaps that’s a survey for another day!
Does this info help you see your horse differently, or consider what might be stressing them? Let me know in the comments.
Keep connecting with your horses,
If you’re interested in delving deeper and getting all your burning questions answered, you can book an Animal Communication session here.
Or, check out my free pdf, ‘What’s Wrong With my Horse?’, here.
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, and also runs regular Animal Communication online workshops. Find out more about Trisha here.