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Horse Depression?

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  • Horse Depression?

    Hi,
    I have a boarded horse who has seemed depressed the past few days. Tonight when I went to throw hay to him and his pasture mates he just stood at the opposite side of the pasture and moped. He is eating well in the stall and he does not act colicy at all, just really sad. We just moves into a new barn and his "brother" came with him, but his other 2 pasture mates moved an hour and a half away. They have been apart a week and a half. He is turned out with his "brother", and four mares from the other barn, so they all know each other and get along. Do you think he could be missing the 2 boys that are gone? His owners have been out twice since the move but they do not ride. His routine, feed, hay, everything is the same except the location and the 2 missing geldings. What do you all think?
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

    http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

  • #2
    Yes i do think he is missing his friends. just like we do, he will get over it in his own time. Try to spend any extra time you can taking him for a walk, let him graze, just let him know you care.

    Comment


    • #3
      Horses don't get "depressed" the people get depressed. A horse off his feed is virtually always suffering from some physical maladay. It might be a low grade fever from an insect bite and it might be Potomac Horse Fever or EPM or something really nasty.

      A day or two off feed is likely something passing. A week plus off feed is a massive Red Flag.

      G.
      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

      Comment


      • #4
        Guilherme: I'd agree with you except OP said horse is eating in his stall - which I take to mean eating his grain.

        Right now my boys are ignoring most of the hay I give them in favor of pasture.
        Grass trumps the dry stuff any day.

        If the new pasture has more/better grass than the last place, that's where I'd look first.

        Is the hay at the new place different too?
        Another reason horse could turn up his nose at it.

        G does have as valid point - my first thought when I read the title was "physical" not "mental" problem.
        *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
        Steppin' Out 1988-2004
        Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
        Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
          Horses don't get "depressed" the people get depressed. A horse off his feed is virtually always suffering from some physical maladay. It might be a low grade fever from an insect bite and it might be Potomac Horse Fever or EPM or something really nasty.

          A day or two off feed is likely something passing. A week plus off feed is a massive Red Flag.

          G.
          Definitely a physical issue.

          Have you checked his temperature? What about pulse and respiration?

          Could be a fever from a tick bite. They will act like this. My boys kept eating too.

          I have seen horses seem mentally depressed after a death of a stable mate or big change in their situation. This sounds physical to me though.

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          • #6
            I agree, sounds physical not mental. Any time there is a change in a horse's usual attitude I would look for a fever or pain of some type.

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            • #7
              Situational depression (being depressed over something that has happened) is probably something any living being could be prone to. Endogenous depression (the kind that just happens, due to alterations in brain chemistry, etc.) is probably a reach for horses. This sounds like the former and I'd be super vigilant for other causes (check temperature, skin turgor, look for soreness somewhere, water intake, etc.) but probably not panic right away if he's eating some of his meals and drinking.
              Click here before you buy.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Well, this morning while I was getting the mares inside for breakfast I saw his gelding buddy run him up and down the fenceline biting him! He has never done this before and the "depressed" gelding is very non-resistant. He will not kick another horse, probably because he is in his mid 20's and it is uncomfortable for him to get his butt up that high. At the last barn mares and geldings were always seperate. He had a lot of teeth marks on his butt that I cleaned up. So I guess that is why he was keeping his distance last night. I can not separate them because I only have 2 turnout areas for now and the other one has 4 horses in it he has never met. It will probably be another week before the "big" pasture is ready. He is fine, or seems to be, physically. He is eating normally except for last night when he sis not want to come close enough to get hay, even though I put more piles of hay than there are horses. Now what to do...??
                http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

                http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

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                • #9
                  Can you keep the bully inside for a few days while the old guy gets turned out? Put one out all day and the other out all night?
                  Click here before you buy.

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                  • #10
                    I agree to first check that he is not ill but I totally disagree that horses don't get depressed.

                    I have two geldings that have been quite down in the dumps after their herd leader/best buddy for the past 10 years was put down last week.

                    Both horses had time to sniff the body. He was buried in the pasture. They called for him for day. Don't tell me they are not sad. :'(

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                    • #11
                      Sadness and brief situational "down in the dumps" behavior is NOT the same thing as endogenous, clinical depression. One is due to circumstances, the other is due to abnormalities in brain chemistry.
                      Click here before you buy.

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                      • #12
                        deltawave, I have a horse who was on five years stall rest and I got him then and have had him for three years. I think he has issues with depression. Do you know anything that might help?

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                        • #13
                          You're asking the wrong person. I'm not a vet, nor a psychiatrist, and my opinion (and a fairly amateurish one in the grand scheme of things) is that it's highly unlikely that we can make meaningful diagnoses of endogenous depression in animals with brains the size of grapefruits.
                          Click here before you buy.

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                          • #14
                            Guilherme, Deltawave (and others) out of real curiosity, why do you think depression can't happen in horses? Do they lack the brain chemistry that can result in depression in humans? As I understand it, depression can be an imbalance or lack of neurotransmitters and certain hormones, do horses lack the same ones that we do? I'm really truly asking this seriously, I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I think it's an interesting topic and it could apply to other animals as well.

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                            • #15
                              I think it's more of a "why are we asking this question?" type of process, personally. These are non-verbal animals whose wants and needs are seen only through the lens of human interpretation. We already anthropomorphize too much--saddling (no pun intended) them with human diagnoses like mental illness just seems to be non-productive. What can we do for them, other than provide them with what SEEMS to be an ideal horse lifestyle: lots of turnout, companionship, forage, comfort, no predators, etc. Everyone knows a horse who doesn't conform to the "normal" desirable lifestyle, and almost nobody makes NO compromises in caring for them, so how is the average horse owner to do more than their level best, and how is giving a horse a diagnosis like this going to help the animal or its owner?

                              We know virtually nothing about how drugs like SSRIs, etc. might work on animals with very small cerebral cortexes, and how would it be possible, assuming there even WAS such a thing as safe, well-studied, affordable and low-risk Horsey Prozac, to ascertain that the horse is really feeling better, beyond simple observation?

                              Just seems like a massive exercise in futility to me. It's not that it couldn't possibly exist, but much more likely that we'd be struggling really hard to make a meaningful impact. Note the use of MEANINGFUL. Maybe the diagnosis DOES exist in horses, who knows? But how can we realistically diagnose, treat, prevent, avoid, or MEANINGFULLY impact such a thing, beyond what we all strive to do anyway: give them a good quality of life?

                              I know it sounds like just semantics, but I'm a very practical person--if something can't be well defined, clearly diagnosed, adequately treated, prevented or monitored . . . why torture ourselves with labeling it? Remove the things, if possible, that make most horses unhappy, and go from there.
                              Click here before you buy.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                Sadness and brief situational "down in the dumps" behavior is NOT the same thing as endogenous, clinical depression. One is due to circumstances, the other is due to abnormalities in brain chemistry.
                                Maybe the horse has an adjustment disorder, then the solution might be to remove the chronic stress causing factor from the horse.

                                If the horse is getting beat up by another horse, he might be unhappy about that.

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                                • #17
                                  I think that trying deltawave's suggestion on turnout makes sense if it's feasible for you.

                                  I do completely disagree that horses cannot be depressed, at least in the emotional sense. And I have a mare who, if she was human, would be diagnosed with PTSD. Horses have highly developed limbic system, which is responsible for emotions. Plus, it's now known that the heart and GI system also generate and receive neurotransmitters, and horses have large hearts and GI tracts. Thus, horses are capable of great emotion, and it's human arrogance and insensitivity that propagate the falsehood that horses can't become depressed, or feel any emotions.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by sayyadina View Post
                                    I think that trying deltawave's suggestion on turnout makes sense if it's feasible for you.

                                    I do completely disagree that horses cannot be depressed, at least in the emotional sense. And I have a mare who, if she was human, would be diagnosed with PTSD. Horses have highly developed limbic system, which is responsible for emotions. Plus, it's now known that the heart and GI system also generate and receive neurotransmitters, and horses have large hearts and GI tracts. Thus, horses are capable of great emotion, and it's human arrogance and insensitivity that propagate the falsehood that horses can't become depressed, or feel any emotions.
                                    I agree, and it's likely that horses can get ulcers from feelings of stress.

                                    Horses may not feel on the same intellectual levels that we do, but because we both arose from the same fish the lived in the primordial sea, I think that on some level we and our horses may be very much the same.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I think they can get depressed, sure. After being separated from his herd and girlfriend, my one horse has never,ever since let the other horse out of his sight.
                                      That was 6 years ago. He never had that behavior before (I've owned them both for 20 years).
                                      And one of the ways I assess a barn is whether the horses are "happy" or "depressed" based on my subjective view.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Since we've wandered down the primrose path, I have to wonder how much of the persistent depression being reported is learned. I think that sometimes animals get in a funk over a situation, and begin an undesirable behaviour that just sticks. Because they likely aren't taking time to sit and reflect on why they began that behaviour, it's almost certain that they persist in it merely out of habit not some lingering memory of disappointment.
                                        "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer
                                        http://dressagescriblog.wordpress.com/

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