How to Recognize Anxiety in Horses

How to Recognize Anxiety in Horses

5th Jun 2020

It is not uncommon to see a horse struggle with anxiety. Since horses are prey animals, many will show signs of anxiety at one point or another. Knowing how to recognize anxiety in horses is important to help keep your horse calm and happy.

Some horses may only display anxiety in stressful situations, but others may be frequently anxious. It is not unusual for some horses to struggle with anxiety on a regular basis. It is important to be able to spot this anxiety to help your horse work through it.

How to Recognize Anxiety in Horses

There are many things that may give a horse anxiety. Fireworks, crowds, sudden movements, and separation are among a few of the many that may trigger a horse to become anxious. Some horses will also show their anxiety more than others.

It is important to know how to recognize anxiety in horses to find out what may be causing it to happen. Anxiety can be caused by anything from vision problems, pain, ill-fitting tack, separation from friends, long trips, lack of training, lack of exercise, wrong diet or it may simply be they were born that way. Some horse breeds or more prone to be anxious if they are hot-blooded, whereas some breeds are known to be calmer.


If you see your horse weaving in his stall or along the fence in the pasture, this is a sign that he is anxious. Horses that weave or walk-in circles in their stall are stressed out, which causes them to become anxious. Stall weaving can cause horses to lose weight and can cause stress on their joints and ligaments.

Backing Up

If your horse backs up on corners of his stall or starts quickly backing up while being ridden, this is a sign of anxiety. Your horse is scared and trying to get away. It is their response to try to quickly flee from you or whatever is stressing them out.

Seeing the Whites of Their Eyes

When horses roll their eyes, you will see the whites of their eyes. This is a sign that they are frightened and nervous. In addition to the whites of their eyes showing, they may also tremble and tense up.

Spooking and/or Bolting

If your horse is frequently spooking at things, this could be a sign that he is anxious. Constant spooking shows that your horse is nervous and possibly uncomfortable with his surroundings. Some horses will also bolt to get away from whatever is spooking them.


Though horses may rear when they are fighting or even playing, they may also rear when they are scared. This could be a sign that they are in fear of something or something is making them uncomfortable.


Horses can shake for several reasons, such as being cold or because they are nervous. If you notice that your horse regularly shakes while standing, being ridden or leading, he is probably anxious. There is something scaring your horse or making them uncomfortable that is causing him to shake.

Addressing the Issue

Once you are able to recognize the signs of anxiety in horses, then you can address whatever may be causing it. It is important to make sure your horse is healthy and not in pain or experiencing any underlying issues.

Best Horse Rider

Guest blogger, Michael Dehaan is founder and editor-in-chief at Best Horse Rider. Based in Oklahoma, Michael has been working with horses all his life, acquiring rich experience and professional insights, which he happily shares with other fellow equestrians.