Is My Horse Upset

Is My Horse Upset? – Signs, Causes, and What to do

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Blog

Navigating the complex world of equine emotions can be an intricate task. As majestic and robust as they appear, horses, like us, have a myriad of emotions and can get upset due to various reasons. Understanding these emotions is a cornerstone of horse management, ultimately affecting their well-being, performance, and the strength of the bond you share with them. This article delves into the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of an upset horse, common health issues that may lead to distress, and other common triggers of equine upset. We will also discuss practical measures to soothe an upset horse and provide effective strategies to prevent future upsets. From recognizing distress signs to maintaining a stable environment, let’s journey together into the heart of understanding and managing our horse’s emotional state.

How to Recognize an Upset Horse

Decoding the equine language can be a daunting task, yet it’s critical to ensure the well-being of your horse. The key to understanding your horse’s emotional state lies in interpreting their body language and behavior.

An upset horse may exhibit signs like ears pinned back, head tossing, restlessness, and constant shifting of weight. Look for physical signs such as tense muscles, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, or a consistently high pulse rate. Even subtle cues like a swishing tail, a wrinkled nose, or a fixed gaze should not be overlooked.

Changes in behavior are another prominent indicator. Has your horse’s appetite waned, or are they drinking less than usual? Are they more lethargic or showing an unusual surge in energy? Are they isolating themselves from the rest of the herd? A deviation from their regular routines may signal that something is amiss.

Common Health Issues that Can Upset a Horse

Horses are susceptible to various health issues that can disturb their emotional equilibrium. One of the most common health problems is colic, characterized by severe abdominal discomfort. Symptoms include restlessness, frequent rolling, excessive pawing, and a lack of interest in food and water. If your horse exhibits these signs, prompt veterinary attention is crucial.

Gastric ulcers, caused by excessive acid production in the stomach, can also lead to distress. These ulcers are prevalent in performance horses but can affect any horse. Signs include reduced appetite, weight loss, dull coat, and changes in behavior. To manage gastric ulcers, consider products like Finish Line U-7 Gastric Aid Powder or CORTA-FLX U-Gard Pellets which support a healthy gastric environment.

Lameness can also upset your horse. Whether it’s due to an injury, infection, or a chronic condition like arthritis, lameness causes discomfort and distress. Incorporating joint supplements like Cosequin or MSM Joint Support into your horse’s diet can support joint health and improve mobility.

Skin issues, such as rain rot or allergies, can cause itchiness, leading to an irritated horse. Topical treatments like Equiderma Skin Lotion can offer relief.

Regular vet check-ups are essential in identifying and managing these health problems. Besides, maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and appropriate grooming routines can go a long way in preventing many health-related upsets.

Unveiling Common Causes of Horse Upset

Beyond health issues, a horse’s emotional state can be influenced by numerous factors ranging from environmental changes to interpersonal dynamics. Environmental changes, such as a new location, an unfamiliar training regimen, or the introduction of a new equine companion, can unsettle horses. Horses thrive on routine and familiarity, and sudden changes can provoke stress. When such changes are inevitable, equine calming products like the OralX Calm and Cool Supplement can help ease their anxiety.

Poor handling can also trigger upset in horses. Handling that is too forceful or inconsistent can confuse and scare them, leading to distress. Training aids like the Dually Training Halter can help promote effective and gentle communication with your horse.

A lack of social interaction can create emotional discomfort. Horses are herd animals, and isolating them from their peers can lead to distress. If socializing with other horses isn’t possible, interactive toys such as the Horsemen’s Pride Jolly Ball can provide mental stimulation and alleviate loneliness.

Finally, an unbalanced diet or lack of physical exercise can contribute to emotional upsets. Over- or underfeeding, rapid changes in diet, or feeding poor-quality hay can lead to digestive discomfort and general unhappiness. Nutritional supplements like Farnam Sand Clear Digestive Aid can aid digestion and enhance overall well-being.

Practical Steps to Calm an Upset Horse

Calming an upset horse requires a gentle and patient approach, coupled with techniques designed to instill trust and comfort. Building trust starts with consistent, respectful handling. Use training tools like the Dually halter to guide them gently, creating a sense of security.

Comforting an upset horse can involve their favorite grooming routine. Most horses find grooming soothing and pleasurable. A grooming kit equipped with gentle brushes, like the Weaver Leather Grooming Kit, can offer a relaxing experience. Additionally, you could offer your horse a calming massage using a product like the Equilibrium Therapy Massage Mitt.

Positive reinforcement is another potent tool to calm a distressed horse. Reward them with praises or their favorite treats, but avoid feeding by hand if it encourages aggression.

If your horse’s distress continues despite your best efforts, it may be time to seek professional help. The insights of an equine behaviorist or a professional trainer can be invaluable. Case examples like the famous stallion Shy Boy, turned from wild to domesticated by Monty Roberts, attest to the effectiveness of professional intervention.

In all circumstances, your patience, consistency, and empathy will be the strongest calming forces for your horse.

Tips for Preventing Future Upsets in Horses

Preventing emotional upsets in horses is largely contingent upon maintaining a stable environment, effective training, and adherence to consistent routines. Ensuring a calm and predictable environment can significantly reduce stress. If changes in environment are inevitable, again consider utilizing calming supplements like OralX Calm and Cool Supplement to help them adapt.

Proper handling and training are pivotal in preventing upset behaviour. A training aid like the Basic Pull Back Training Halter can facilitate communication between you and your horse, promoting understanding and reducing frustration. Remember, horses are prey animals, they respond better to persuasion than force.

Consistent routines, especially around feeding, exercise, and rest, create a sense of security and contentment. Regular and high-quality nutrition is essential, consider integrating Grand Meadows Grand Digest into their diet to support digestion and overall well-being.

Lastly, regular social interaction with other horses or using engaging toys like the Jolly Ball can prevent loneliness and alleviate stress.


Recognizing and managing an upset horse is an essential skill for any horse owner. Understanding horse body language, familiarizing yourself with potential health issues, and knowing how to implement calming techniques can effectively address and prevent upsets. Let’s ensure our equine companions enjoy a life full of joy, comfort, and tranquility.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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