Believe it or not, horses can become depressed, just like people. A depressed horse can show symptoms such as a lack of motivation, low energy, dull hair, or even chronic illness. Luckily, horses are fairly straightforward, which means that horse depression can often be treated with simple changes to in the horse’s management program or job description.
Horse Depressions – Different Causes
Like people, horses become depressed for different reasons, depending on their temperament type. Below is a short summary of the causes of depression for each of the five basic horse temperament types (learn more about horse temperament typing at Horse Harmony).
If you want to keep your Fire horse from becoming depressed, here are three words you need to know: attention, admiration, and accolades. Fire horses are all about quality time and bonding. It’s a good idea to brag on your Fire horses as much as possible, and find multiple opportunities to praise him. If your Fire horse does not get this kind of dedicated quality attention, he may become depressed. A depressed Fire horse will likely stop eating, treat you to constant views of his backside when you try to catch him, and sulk when you ride him. He will lack of the sparkle and animation that makes him shine in the show ring. To get back into your Fire horse’s good graces, spend time with him every day, offer tasty meals with plenty of variety to satisfy his choosy palate, and praise him constantly.
The Earth horse gets depressed when his routine is disrupted, is asked to work beyond his level of ambition, and when not rewarded enough with plenty of food. Unlike the Fire horse, the Earth horse may eat more food when depressed, since food is a source of comfort for this type. Other signs of depression include the bad habits like cribbing, a poor work ethic, and general lack of movement. The end result can be a chronic condition like insulin-resistance, or other digestive or metabolic disorders. Earth horses can be lazy even when healthy, but when depressed they literally become immovable objects! To lift this type of horse out of depression, provide a solid routine, offer praise in the form of food treats, and give him a job that doesn’t overtax his skills or ambition.
The Metal horse loves to know his job, do it well, and then be left alone. If any of these factors are compromised, the Metal horse can fall into depression. In this temperament type, horse depression manifests as a dull coat and eye, symptoms of over-dryness like coughing or impaction colic, or lack of energy. During training or work, the depressed Metal horse is prone to bucking. If your Metal horse is depressed you can raise his spirits by giving him a solid job with clearly-defined activities. Train him well for his job and then get out of his way. Finally, give him plenty of ‘alone time’ to recharge his batteries between work sessions.
The Water horse becomes depressed when he is asked to work beyond his comfort level, lacks adequate support from his human, or is prevented from moving his feet. If depressed, this kind of horse can pick up nervous habits like weaving or cribbing, and often loses weight. He might also develop chronic health conditions like Equine Metabolic Syndrome, arthritis, or weakness in his back or hind end. To restore a Water horse to happiness, give him a safe environment with plenty of room to run and play. Put him in a job where he feels secure, and offer plenty of praise and support during all interactions.
The Wood horse loves competition, winning, action, and variety. The simplest way to drive this type of horse into a depression is to give him a boring, refined, repetitive job. The depressed Wood horse will become pushy and more destructive than usual, often taking his resentment out on his pasture mates or handlers. To help your Wood horse avoid depression, put him to work in a job that has plenty of variety and requires lots of energy. Work him hard and train him in multiple disciplines that allow him to channel his high energy and aggression productively.
Horse Depression – The Bottom Line
A depressed horse is a horse in an unsuitable management program or job. Each horse temperament type wants to be loved in a different way. When a horse doesn’t see or feel the expression of love in a way he understands, he may slide into a depression. The key to helping your horse avoid depression is to discover his temperament type (find out with our no-cost online horse typing test). Once you know his type, you will understand how to express caring in a way he will recognize. The right kind of love equals a healthy happy horse, not to mention a happy human!
Type Your Horse and Learn About Temperament Typing Online
Knowing your horse’s temperament type can give you some real insight into his psyche – what he likes, what he hates, how he wants to be loved, and what kind of work he will enjoy. If you want to discover your horse’s temperament type, take the online Horse Harmony test.
To familiarize yourself with horse temperament typing at your own pace, check out the online course developed in conjunction with Tallgrass Publishers.
For even more information on the Horse Harmony temperament typing system, visit these resource links: