Today’s Horses ~ Stress and the Endocrine System

Today’s horses are experiencing more stress than ever! 

Whether they are show horses, or endurance horses and even horses used for camping, all are subject to added stressors.

With the show season in full swing it’s a good time to stop and take a look at how stressors may affect competitive horses.

Horses are very emotional creatures who are adversely affected by stress.

Understanding this is imperative to having a healthy and happy competitive equine. How individual horses respond to potentially stressful situations differs, but many health ailments are originated from stress of one kind or another.

Stress can be defined as a general term which describes the combination of psychological and biological responses of an animal during real or perceived threatening circumstances. While the physiological response to stress is a highly complex subject, and certainly is not completely understood, scientists agree that there are two types of stressors.

Physical stressors are things such as injury, over-exertion or a change in the environment. Psychological stressors typically include situations that make the animal anxious or fearful. Uncertainty and fear of the unknown can be categorized as two of the major psychological stressors. Competing horses, and even horses who travel for seemingly leisurely activities such as camping, are exposed to both physical and psychological stressors.

The primary concerns with stress are the effects on the endocrine system.

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The equine endocrine system is a collection of small organs that produce hormones that travel through the bloodstream to distant sites in the body. These hormones act to regulate metabolism, growth, reproduction, stress response, sweating and much more. This vital system regulates many of the horse’s physical and mental functions.

When a horse is stressed, the first component of the endocrine response to be activated is the sympathetic nervous system. This response promptly engages the fight-or-flight instinct, creating an increase in their heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and causing a rush of cortisol to be released into the body.

Too much cortisol weakens the body’s natural defenses and suppresses the immune system.

Today’s horses who are suffering from a strained endocrine system are rendered susceptible to succumbing to a myriad of health issues.

In the short-term, cortisol release is beneficial to the horse as it helps them cope with a stressful situation. However, chronic stress and subsequent release of cortisol has been implicated in many undesirable conditions including: aggressive behavior, decreased growth and reproductive capability, inhibition of the immune system, and increased risks of gastric ulceration, colic, and diarrhea.

Recognizing and understanding the signs of stress is an important part of being able to effectively provide a competing (or traveling) horse with optimal health and performance.

Acute Signs of Stress:

Trembling / Vocalizing / Increased Heart Rate / High Respiration / Tense Muscles / Sweating / Shying / Running / Flared Nostrils / High Head-Neck Carriage / Worried Expression / Tightly Pricked Ears / Clenched Jaw / Tail-Swishing / Pacing / Refusing Food

Chronic Signs of Stress:

Stall-Walking or Weaving / Change in Attitude / Depression / Aggression / Gastric Ulcers /    Teeth-Grinding / Skin Infections / Colic / Dull Coat / Bolting Food / Anorexia / Immune System Deficiencies / Decreased Performance

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Taking actions to reduce the stressors that we put on our horses is something that should be addressed from many different angles. Planning ahead and setting the stage for smooth and manageable excursions is one of the first steps. Part of this planning is that we, the horse handlers have everything aligned in ways that our own mental state is positive. Meaning that if we are stressed out – our horses will feel our impactful energy and react to it with their own fear setting in.

So, having everything handled efficiently ahead of time, and taking time for ourselves to exhale, possibly meditate a bit, and stop and take a moment to feel grateful about all we have accomplished. Channeling the focus on being happy about the exciting new adventure being set upon with a beloved equine partner.

Though, it’s also wise to keep in mind that many horses may already be experiencing some endocrine strain

due to today’s modern industrialized feeds and way of living. Therefor it’s vitally important to be proactive in supporting today’s equines continuously assaulted endocrine system.

A great way to do that is with the bio-identical support provided by Serene By Nature® Equine Calming Cream.

An endocrine balancing product unlike any other, that naturally helps your horse consistently be their best during all their seasonal cycles. Supporting the endocrine system is crucial to over-all health and mental well-being. Adding this easy to apply topical cream to a horses’ daily care sets a stage that enables them to show up calmly and consistently to each and every event. It’s time to help your horse be their very best ~ with the help of Serene By Nature.

Have you checked out the phenomenal FREE resource guide: The Healthy Horse Holistic Handbook? Over 200 live links! Exclusive product discounts on all the best naturally holistic products for your horse.


Ruby a Serene Mare who now proudly has a foal – thanks to Serene By Nature!


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