top of page

What Can Cause Trauma In Horses

Observing horses engaging in harmful and destructive behaviours can be a daunting and upsetting experience for all concerned. These actions are often inherited when we buy a new horse and are no fault of the new owners. They may have stemmed from factors that might not be immediately apparent to the horse's caretakers that can take an emotional toll on both horse and human, as they often require constant monitoring and intervention.

Natural Horse NZ has been committed to aiding numerous horses in overcoming many of these behavioural problems for the past two decades through our equine charity work. During this period, we have acquired a valuable understanding of the different indicators that horses may exhibit when impacted by Equine PTSD Syndrome and Behavioural Displacements brought about by their perception of trauma.

These behaviours can afflict horses in many ways, causing various symptoms that can include fear, anxiety, hypervigilance, bucking, bolting, freezing, refusal to move forward, difficulty picking up their feet, and a fear of the farrier or the vet, plus phobias involving horse trucks and floats, hoof care, bits, whips, spurs, tack etc. In addition, horses may exhibit aggression, biting, scrambling, pacing, wall kicking, stomping, bucking into the canter, crab walking, striking, kicking, pushing, tripping, stumbling, learned helplessness, catatonia, depression, self-harm, tongue sucking, head flicking, head bobbing, repeatedly rubbing their face on their legs, mouthing the bit excessively, wind sucking and cribbing, weaving, rubbing themselves raw, itching, scratching, biting themselves, purposeful asphyxia, lip popping and wood chewing, fence running, pawing, unable to be caught, and extreme fear of external stimuli and more. 

Below are some potential explanations that could be contributing to such behaviour.


*A lack of equine understanding of natural needs and behaviours in equines by owners

*After an accident, illness or traumatic experience such as being gelded or having teeth done

*Mutilation such as tail docking

*Physical abuse by owners, including hitting and corporal punishment

*A lack of food and general neglect
*Moving home and leaving the horse's previous family and paddock mates behind

*Being separated from family, such as when being weaned 

*Travelling and transport worries, including being forced into floats

*Drill training, which entails repeatedly performing an exercise without rest or reward

*Isolation from other horses

*Non-species appropriate living conditions, ie- spending too much time in a stable 

*Use of invasive tack, such as tie-downs, muzzles, and harsh bits

*Inability to engage in natural horse behaviours like running in a herd, rolling, and being themselves

*Insufficient turnout and exercise

*Stressful training

*Lack of groundwork preparation before ridden work

*Mineral deficiencies or overdosing

*Blanket trauma caused by temperature extremes from inappropriate rugging

*Pull back issues from being hard-tied, causing fear and/or injury

*Pain such as from a poor-fitting saddle or sore or incorrectly trimmed hooves

*Digestive upsets and discomfort from an incorrect diet

*Mycotoxins ingested in the grass, hay, chaffs and grain, that can cause permanent hypervigilance as these attack the horse's central nervous system and cause stress and anxiety, including making the body sore and painful, too

*Consuming inappropriate foods that lead to excitability and inflammation, such as too many grains or plant sugars found in baleage, haylage, lucerne, wrapped fibre products, and lush grass, etc.

*Illness or medical conditions, including metabolic issues like cushings, PSSM, EMS, laminitis, ulcers, skin issues, inflammation, etc. 

*Inappropriate feeding, such as not having access to forage on a 24/7 basis, which is required for health

*Overconsumption of fresh green lush grass and pasture which can cause sugar highs and insulin resistance.

*Being bullied and treated harshly

*Negative riding experiences and associations

*Being backed too early 

*Overly demanding training 

*Being micromanaged and not allowed any choices or opinions

*Being forced to do things they take no pleasure in

*Not having any boundaries with humans

*Not understanding what is expected of them from the horse's point of view.

*Not receiving and release or reward during human interactions/training

And More.....

So, how do you help a horse overcome trauma? 

This page is under construction-Check back shortly for the finished article 

bottom of page