Horse Colic: Caused by Emotions?

Most horse owners have dealt with straightforward impaction, gas, or spasmodic colic associated with changes in diet, weather, management, or the environment. Whether you choose to alleviate this kind of horse colic (with known causes) using conventional or homeopathic approaches, you can at least deal directly with the cause.

But what if you have a horse who colics chronically with seemingly no direct cause? Could his emotions be causing his colics?


Horse Colic: Emotional Causes
As strange as it may seem, when horses with colic do so with no seeming cause, I tend to look at their emotional states. Since horses can’t use words to communicate with us, they often use body language, including health conditions, to tell us that “something is wrong.” If you think about the common language expression, “a gut feeling,” then chronic colic in horses is a “gut feeling” that all is not well in the horse’s world.

Colic, of course, is a digestive disorder. Another digestive disorder that is closely linked to horse colic is ulceration. In fact, many times when horses colic without cause I also look for ulcers, of which there are many types. Both horse colic and horse ulcers can be signs of emotional pain or discomfort, and there can be many different reasons a horse might feel this way.

Horse Colic and Horse Temperament Types
If you have been learning about the 11 different horse temperament types on our Horse Harmony website then you know that each of the types are motivated and comforted by vastly different factors. The same is true is horse colic: each different type suffers emotional discomfort for a varying reasons. If you know your horse’s temperament type and you know what makes his type emotionally fragile, then you can do a lot to prevent colic in your horse.

Here we list the causes of emotional discomfort for each of the 11 horse temperament types which, if ignored, can lead to chronic horse colic. You can really support your horse’s health by reading up on the factors that cause his type to feel emotionally out-of-balance, and avoid putting him in those situations. If you are not sure about your horse’s type, take the no-cost Horse Harmony Typing Test at

FIRE: This horse temperament type gets disgruntled if he does not get enough personal attention on a daily basis, or enough admiration. Being part of a “lesson program” won’t feel like personal attention for this type. The Fire horse in dedicated personal attention just about every single day to feel emotionally secure.

EARTH: This food-loving horse also loves routine. He becomes emotionally unstable when his routine is changed, he feels his job is too difficult, or he doesn’t get enough appreciation (food treats are best, of course!). The Earth horse loves to please so may continue to “try” even when he is emotionally unhappy. He is somewhat stoic, so you really have to pay attention to this type’s gut health, and take action the moment you see any signs of colic or ulcers.

METAL: This temperament type horse gets upset when he is unclear about his job description. The Metal horse like to have a single job, know it well, and do it on a regular basis without interference from incompetent handlers. Like the Earth horse, the Metal horse loves routine. The Metal horse is also very stoic and has a high pain tolerance, so you also have to pay careful attention to this horse’s gut health to prevent colic.

WATER: The Water horse is all about trust. When he is with a person he trusts completely, he is happy and content. If, however, his trust is betrayed regularly, he may start to colic chronically. Other factors that can throw this horse out-of-balance are fear and pain. This horse does not have a high pain tolerance and will let you know right away when his body is uncomfortable. It’s best to attend to these “messages” right away in the Water horse.

WOOD: This temperament type needs plenty of exercise and variety in his life to keep him emotionally content. Otherwise he tends to destroy all kinds of things (from fences to other horses) or pick up bad vices. Bored Wood horses easily become cribbers, which can lead to colic!

SHAO YANG (Fire/Wood): This combination temperament type isn’t emotionally happy unless he has a regular and challenging job. Like the Wood horse, he needs plenty of exercise and a job that takes a lot of energy. Else, he becomes bored and picks up vices that can lead to colic.

JUE YIN (Wood/Fire): This fun and funny type also gets bored easily, and tends to be emotionally troubled when he’s not having enough fun and/or he is put under too much pressure. You don’t have to worry too much, though, the Jue Yin type will be sure to “tell” you that something is wrong before he colics. There will be plenty of bucking fits, running away, and maybe even some creative tree-climbing!

TAI YANG (Water/Fire): This combination temperament type needs to have lots of room to roam else he becomes emotionally unhappy–fast! This type of horse should not be kept in a stall unless you want him to colic after doing plenty of weaving and stall walking! This horse is much happier living in pasture and having a job that involves a lot of energy!

SHAO YIN (Fire/Water): Far more sensitive than his counterpart, the TAI YIN, this type becomes emotionally out-of-balance when out under too much pressure, is in pain, or feels a lack of appreciation from his human. The good news is that the Shao Yin horse will tell you that he is unhappy. He might limp or refuse to work when he is pain. If he feels overly pressured, he tends to run away. If your SHAO YIN behaves like this, stop and slow your program down. Take care of physical pain and take the pressure off to avoid colic!

YANG MING (Metal/Earth): Being a combination of two stoic types, this temperament type wants to understand his job, do it well, and please you. If put in a job that is too much for him, he will attempt to please you anyway. Because he has a high pain tolerance and stoic, you need to watch this type like a hawk to prevent colic from emotional causes.

TAI YIN (Earth Metal): Like his YANG MING counterpart, this type also likes to please … but not just anyone. He likes to be partnered with a single person he loves and trusts. If he cannot find that single human partner, he will not feel emotionally content, and may be prone to emotionally-based colics.

Hopefully this summary of conditions under which each temperament type can feel emotionally happy will help you help your horse avoid emotionally-based colics or ulcers.

To learn more about how to holistically treat horse ulcers (of which there are multiple types) and horse colics, check out our online resource section filled with educational articles for you and your horse.


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