Horses are gregarious animals that naturally move in herds. They are also creatures of habit and understand patterns and consistence. Changes in their comfort zone can make horse behaviour and health change, showing classic signs of distress or depression. Not much research has been put into this topic, but horse owners, trainers and veterinarians witness this on a regular basis.
Researchers do not believe that horses share any of the same emotions that humans experience, yet those who work with horses on a regular basis do not agree.
Changes in routines, atmosphere and pasture mates can cause signs of depression in equines. The most common causes of equine depression are losing a pasture buddy or when a mare loses a foal.
Like humans, horses who are depressed will stop eating, lose weight, not be as physically active and seem listless. Older horses will become more arthritic and ailing.
Horses that are depressed seem to do well with lots of attention, more physical activity and sometimes prescribed medicines such as Valium or Prozac. Adding a buddy can sometimes work and other times not be effective, as the horse may resent its new partner.
Contact your veterinarian when you notice clinical signs of depression in your horse. Especially for older horses who will physically decline faster than average age horses, veterinarian observation is essential.