The Dark Horse: Recognizing Equine Depression
If you or a loved one has ever battled depression, you are probably familiar with the numb, helpless feelings it creates. Although medical experts do not fully understand human depression, they say that chemical imbalances in the brain and environmental factors are likely culprits. Did you know that horses can experience debilitating depression just like us? Recognizing equine depression is something that can ensure your horse a happy and healthy life.
Recognizing Equine Depression
At Oak Haven Acres, we make a concerted effort to socialize with our equine friends and become familiar with their daily patterns. Like humans, horses have personalities and peculiarities that make them individuals. If your horse is feeling frustrated or depressed, he can’t tell you. Part of recognizing equine depression is remedied by bonding, observation, and loving intuition, you learn your pet’s habits and know when something is wrong. Knowing your horse is the key to noticing if she is depressed. Some of the signs of equine depression are like those in humans. Since these symptoms may also indicate underlying medical issues, you need your vet’s recommendations. Here are some warning signs that depression is affecting your horse.
1. Isolation from Others
One of the reasons you feel a connection with your horse is that humans and horses have a lot in common. Horses are social animals, and they need interaction with other horses to stay healthy. Most horses form a bond with their humans that are mutually fulfilling for a lifetime. At the ranch, we have seen cases of horses displaying aggressive and antisocial behavior because of abuse or illness. Knowing your horse’s social patterns is crucial to determine if he is not acting normal. Talk to your vet if you see your usually social horse isolating himself from you and other horses as it may be a sign of depression.
2. Changes in Eating Habits
Since we closely monitor our horses’ diets at Oak Haven Acres, our handlers and vets quickly notice any changes. Our veterinarian has worked with our beloved team of horses for several years, and he says that changes in their eating habits send up red flags. If your horse has always been a hearty eater at the trough and now barely touches her meal, medical issues should first be ruled out. If she proves healthy and is not having pain issues, depression may be the cause. The only way to know is a consultation with your veterinarian.
3. Lethargy and Apathy
Perhaps nothing is more inspiring than to watch our horses run through the slopes and pastures of our spacious ranch. Even some of our senior equines can kick up their hooves for a little gallop up the paths. When a horse is feeling blue or has full-blown depression, she won’t be as energetic as usual.
You might see her moping around by herself in the stall instead of interacting with her playmates. Does she usually perk up and trot over to greet you in the morning? Can you see the delight in her eyes when you bring her a juicy apple or sugar cube treat? When she no longer takes pleasure in these things, something is up. Depressed horses lose their zest for life and need immediate medical intervention.
4. Chronic Pain & Stress
Thanks to our compassionate handlers and vets at Oak Haven Acres, senior horses and those with chronic health issues are cared for to the best of our ability. We know each one and the obstacles they face. Again, loving intuition and observation play a considerable part in diagnosing chronic pain in horses. While some signs are apparent, such as limping or keeping a sore eye closed, internal pain may not be as easy to see.
When your horse is not acting in his usual way, he needs a full medical workup by your vet. Has your horse been diagnosed with chronic pain or health issues? Maybe your horse has a stressful environment that needs to be changed. Naturally, these can induce equine depression. Your vet can help you find a treatment that is best for your dear friend.
How Can Equine Depression Be Treated?
Did your horse receive a positive medical checkup from your vet? Our veterinarian recommends that you and your vet formulate a plan to alleviate the depression. Horses are often victims of sheer boredom. Make sure your horse is let out to pasture often and has plenty to stimulate his interest.
If you only own one horse, consider socializing her with friends’ horses for her mental well-being. Remember that you are an integral part of your horse’s life. Bond with your horse and spend quality time with him as often as possible. Like humans, horses get lonely and depressed when their loved ones are distant.
Identify and eliminate environmental stresses for your horse. Perhaps he is uncomfortable with his handling or needs more stall space. Consult your vet about any illnesses, pain, or medications your pet has. When your equine friend is depressed, you can be the compassionate hand that lifts the darkness.
Don’t leave your horse in a stall getting stiff from joint pain and depressed from age. Bring them to Oak Haven Acres where we can pamper them, allow them to them mingle with the other horses, and live out the rest of their life in tranquility. To read more about our services view our boarding care page.