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Mental Disorders In Horses
Can horses have mental illnesses? I know a lot of people claim to have "crazy" horses that just don't have proper training. And I'm not claiming my mare is crazy, I just want to understand a little to as why she acts the way she does.
I bought my mare last March as a green broke 6yo. I trained her over the summer and took her to a few local shows where she did great, taking home 1st/2nd/3rd places. I never pushed her past her mental/physical limits. She's a quiet mare, never spooks and completely fearless and tries her hardest to do what I ask her and just loves learning.
She would randomly freak out [rear up, launch forward, overall just complete horrified panic] and I figured it was just her spooking being young and inexperienced. But it's been getting worse and more frequent. She's had the winter off [late December to early March] and I noticed she did the same thing sometimes out in the pasture [she got some funny looks from the other horses :p].
She'll start breathing heavily, then her eye's will bug out and she'll start snorting and looking around like she doesn't know where she is. When I notice her getting upset I try to soothe her and sometimes that'll delay her from going into a complete panic.
I don't know if I'm just being overly worried or if there might be something mentally wrong with her. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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I would think that mental illness in horses falls under neurological conditions. It is relatively normal for a horse to “have it down” one day and not speak the same language the next. Or to be fine with something and then all of a sudden decide that its scary. But I am interested in what others have to say regarding this. There are plenty of smart horses, not as sharp horses, hot headed horses, dull horses and everything in between.
On a side note we’ve joked about my twenty five year old mare becoming senile in her older age. Molly might need a padded cell soon. She has just started to pick up some real stupid thoughts to run with… Shes a stocky little Quarter Horse and just the other day she thought she’d jump the 5’6” fence? Of course that didn’t work and she looked completely embarrassed. We’ve owned her for fourteen years and I have always turned her loose to “mow” the yard, especially now that she is older and could use more grass time. She has taken to running off lately. I let her out and she will run around the yard, over to the field, down the field for about a quarter mile and run back home. Uh? She is also beginning to think that she fits places she actually doesn’t, seems to forget what she was asked mid question, has stood untied to be tacked up for the past ten years but requires being tied now because she’ll forget and walk away, always rode out alone great but lately acts like a clueless four year old who tries to run home. This is a brilliant horse that’s always been treated a little differently because of how smart, sweet and sensible she is but lately…. Sigh.
Curious to hear input on anyone whos noticed an aging horse change. People do, I’ve never looked into it but I guess I have no good reason as to why she wouldn’t be ageing mentally too.
At the barn where I take lessons, we used to have a horse who I was always told wasn't completely mentally stable. She was as sweet as could be, but a really nervous at times under saddle. She would always be weaving in her stall. She wasn't a good lesson horse, so she was sold to a place that had gotten a horse from us a few months earlier. These two knew each other, and they ended up turned out together. Ella got super, super attached to the other mare to the point where she wouldn't eat at all when they were apart. She lost a ton of weight in just the first month, so they couldn't keep her. Now she "babysits" weanling thoroughbreds and has been retired from riding and last I heard she's a happy healthy horse :)
But there obviously is something not right in her head.
We got a mare that went crazy (I think so, anyway). She didn't catch her breeding at the same time as her pasture mate, so we eventually had to separate them when the baby came. I don't honestly know what's wrong with her, but she does the same thing the OP's horse does. Paces the fence, constantly, freaks out at nothing, runs around like an idiot for no reason, and will just generally have a panic attack out of thin air. We thought it was separation anxiety, so after we weaned the foal we were able to put her and her mate back out together, but then she just began driving that mare insane. Not literally, but the little thing would spook and run around and then the other mare would get paranoid because it was wondering what the hell was going on... It's a shame because she's a Zippo daughter that we haven't bred yet, and want to, but are too afraid for the foal. She might abort because of all that imaginary stress. We're still trying to get rid of her as cheaply as possible....
Worst part is my mom wants me to start breaking the broodmares (including her) so we can sell a few. x.x We got her checked out at the vet and she is fine by him, gets fed good food and never puts on weight. I really don't know what I'm going to do when I get on her.
I know, but she's been doing this for the past two years... She just stands in the pasture, not eating, staring off into the distance, then runs away and bucks. And she is still freaking out even with the mare with her. x.x
yes they can. Worked with a quarter horse gelding like this, He would be fine, then loose it, then fine again. Definately a mental issue. I've heared something about horses with lyme disease getting like this.
Wow, this is a very interesting topic, and I'm curious about it as well. But why not? Just the simple fact that if animals can have diseases similar to ours at all, why on earth not mental health problems? Now, remember that there are many species out there that don't have certain parts of the brain like us, or have something a little more. Because of these things, animals won't and cannot function anywhere close to us.
A fine example of this is cats. They don't have the frontal lobe like humans, and therefore cannot make a decision as we can - everything a cat does is based completely off of instinct. Period.
I don't know much about the equine brain, but I hope to learn a lot when I start training to be a veterinary assistant (and I'm hoping an equine vet will take me on as a practicing student). I'm going to assume, for the moment, that horses do have the possibility to suffer from mental illnesses, possibly such as anxiety and depression. We all know horses can flare up their instincts and run away from a blade of grass any day, but if I've learned anything from watching groups of horses, one usually doesn't freak out by itself - usually at least one other will stare at the scary thing or flip out as well. And surely we all know depression can reach it's affects on horses. I know my old mare Princess seemed a little less giddy for awhile after my other mare, Goldie, had been given away and moved.
I'll be watching this thread. :D
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