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  • Depression?

    In horses!? How? Signs? All things i want to know desperately! No one wants there poor baby to be depressed right

    So, what do you guys know about depression in horses, what are the signs, what can you do to prevent it, and what can you do if your horse is depressed?

  • #2
    Not sure the word applies to horses, exactly, in the way it does to people.

    I have seen my horses appear "depressed" when they were in physical pain: being slow moving, quiet, not wanting to move around, grumpiness, keeping to themselves in the pasture.

    Sourness to work wouldn't be "depression" - the horse would be happy enough in the pasture, but grumpy, unwilling, or fretful when asked to work.

    When my horses have moved to a new place and don't have new friends yet, they don't seem depressed, more anxious - walking the fenceline, a bit jumpy, running to greet me when they see my familiar face.

    Hope that helps.


    • #3
      I don't think of my horses as "babies", poor or otherwise, and also try not to saddle them (no pun intended) with a lot of human baggage. If they are NQR, I think of health or physical problems first. Horses don't ask for much in terms of being "happy"--good food, room to roam, a few buddies and fair treatment. I've certainly seen horses with a variety of neuroses, but ones I've seen that have appeared "depressed" are sick or hurting in the vast majority of cases.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        The closest I have seen is what happened when our ancient pony died. He had had a buddy who had cared for him almost like a mare with a foal as the pony's age and senility got worse. The pony was deaf and senile and the gelding would follow him around, protecting him from the other horses (not allowing them near the pony), herding him away from a fence, or out of a corner if he was getting blocked in.

        When the pony died, (in the barn, the other horses could see) the buddy horse stood in a corner of the pasture with his head down, ears at half-mast, occasionally whinnying. He didn't want to eat. This lasted about 2 weeks, then he started looking happier.

        But I don't think they feel depressed the way people do (Hopeless despair sorts of feelings).


        • #5
          I bought my first horse from the auction when he was 19. At the time, the place where I could keep him was about a half an hour from where I lived and work was about 20 minutes in the other direction. Between college and work, sometimes I wouldn't get out for a week.

          It would always happen, he would start acting off, wouldn't eat and just would not look right. I would get a call, come around and he would perk up. I think he was more worried that I was abandoning him than anything else, but that would be the closest to any depression I noticed in a horse.

          I have seen horses mourn the loss of a friend and get upset when a friend leaves the facility, but not clinical depression. With horses there always seems to be a reason.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Ajierene View Post
            With horses there always seems to be a reason.

            About depression - My vet once told me that horses don't worry about the future like people do. They are in the "now" and present. Physical pain and hurting makes them depressed.

            And one thing I'd do is check to see if the horse is developing an ulcer. That makes them do all sorts of things. Acting depressed is one of them.


            • #7
              A "depressed" attitude in most animals, for lack of any other explainable reason ( loss of friend, not being used, being left behind at show time, etc) often ends up being a physical or medical issue, in my experience, causing the animal to just not feel well.


              • #8
                Originally posted by myhorsecouldeatyours View Post
                In horses!? How? Signs? All things i want to know desperately! No one wants there poor baby to be depressed right

                So, what do you guys know about depression in horses, what are the signs, what can you do to prevent it, and what can you do if your horse is depressed?
                There are many stories from the past about horses who have been conditioned and cared for and aimed at huge big events, world championships and Olympics, 24/7 care, then the competition is over, they come home, get dumped into a field and not touched for a week or two and lo and behold - they experience what people call "depression". Most of the time, it's sickness! Lung infections, Lymes, EPM, rhino, etc. Horses may or may not have mental stuff, but I would guess that what we look at and term one thing may be physical, or more likely, IS physical. In 45 years of owning horses I don't think I've seen a depressed one, but I sure have seen ones that were sick and we didn't know it. I had a horse with a 104 temperature bright as a new penny who ate the bottom out of the feed tub, just a tough bastard, but sick as a dog. Any time a horse quiets down I take out the thermometer!
                Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                • Original Poster

                  thanks for the posts. i just thought it would be interesting to see what other people thought about this. And i call my horse a baby because he sure acts like it, just the puppy dog personality.


                  • #10
                    What about the school horse who's unhappy in his job? doesn't want to come out of the stall, seems "checked out" when he's supposed to be working? Pain is probably a big factor most of the time, but how would you think about the rest of it? Just wondering - I'm not sure what I think other than we use the word "depressed" to describe a different group of behaviors in animals than maybe we do in humans?


                    • #11
                      My gelding "gets depressed" when I get after him overly agressively. This is never under saddle, but sometimes the little turd doesn't MOVE out of my space and we have to step back and do some Clinton Anderson stuff. After a bit of "rough housing" he'll get sad and sulky, won't come around and beg for food anymore, etc, for about a week....and then he gets over it and becomes his same old self.

                      As funny as it sounds, I really do think it more of a mental sulking than depressed. More like he learned his lesson and won't come near me because he's sad he can't be himself, haha......

                      But depressed? hmmmmm.....I would think it would be illness related if it's a long term thing.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by betsyk View Post
                        What about the school horse who's unhappy in his job? doesn't want to come out of the stall, seems "checked out" when he's supposed to be working? Pain is probably a big factor most of the time, but how would you think about the rest of it? Just wondering - I'm not sure what I think other than we use the word "depressed" to describe a different group of behaviors in animals than maybe we do in humans?
                        I've certainly seen horses that seem "shut down" - sour to their work, or having a sort of constant sullen tension because they expect to have to endure something unpleasant or painful (endless beginner lessons, rough handling). Maybe that's somewhat similar to human depression. I think there is the pain factor in there - the work is physically uncomfortable due to bad riding, bad tack, or just the repetition without reward.