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How to Recognize and Address Signs of Stress in Performance Horses

Performance horses are an essential part of various equine disciplines, such as racing, show jumping, dressage, rodeo, and endurance events, among others. As horse lovers, we always seek top-tier performance from these horses. However, there is a price these horses pay in terms of physical and mental stress. Stress is known to affect horses in various forms, such as stiff muscles, increased heart rate, and decreased performance. As a result, as a horse enthusiast, it’s crucial to learn how to recognize and address signs of stress in performance horses. This post discusses the signs of stress in performance horses and how to address them.

Signs of stress in performance horses:

Change in behavior: Expect performance horses to be alert, focused, and willing to work. However, when under stress, their personality changes, and they may become aggressive, agitated, or unresponsive. You might notice the horse shifting its weight from side to side, freezing, or displaying an overall anxious demeanor.

Poor Performance: A clear indicator that your horse is stressed is a decrease in performance. This might show up as a reluctance to go through exercises they usually excel at, or continually placing lower in competitions.

Loss of appetite: Horses under stress may refuse to eat, which can lead to various health problems.

Changes in bathroom habits: Stress can also lead to a change in bathroom practices. Your horse might poop more frequently than usual, or not defecate at all.

Physical signs: Stress can manifest in a horse’s physique. Horses may experience muscle tension, sweating, rapid pulse or breathing, or trembling.

Addressing Stress in Performance Horses:

Exercise: Horses are natural runners; therefore, exercises help release any pent-up energy that might contribute to their stress levels.

Diet: A steady and healthy diet is necessary to prevent physical stress in performance horses.

Scheduling: Creating routines that offer a balance between training, rest, and social interactions is crucial in reducing stress in your horse.

Environmental considerations: The environment in which your horse lives and trains plays a significant role in their well-being. Ensure that their surroundings are spacious, well-ventilated, and free of any hazards.

Therapy: You can try horse therapy techniques like massage, acupressure, and hydrotherapy, among others, to help reduce stress in your horse.


As a horse enthusiast, you can keep your performance horse in shape and relieve any stress they may experience by paying attention to their body language and behavior. It’s your job to ensure that your horse’s physical, dietary, social, and emotional needs are met to reduce stress levels. By following some of the techniques outlined in this post, you can help to keep your horse healthy, happy, and performing at their best!

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