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Can you spot the secret stresses?

Try to spot all six secret stresses, then scroll down to find the answers and learn how you can help support your horse. (We’ll give you a hint: it’s not what you think!)


More than meets the eye

This scene might look picture perfect, but things aren’t always what they seem.

The fact is, no matter how pampered a horse is, there are aspects of modern horsekeeping that are at odds with the way he was designed to live. These conflicts can take a troublesome toll, causing a range of problems from digestive upset to compromised immunity and even a affecting your horse’s soundness and performance.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to support your horse. We’ve revealed six of the most common “secret” stresses and included tips that will help you help your horse.


1. An empty hay net may be more problematic than you think.

At first glance, an empty hay net poses a clear and potentially serious threat because your horse could become hung up and entangled. What may not be so clearly visible, however, are the problems associated with a lack of consistent access to free-choice roughage.


In their natural state, horses are meant to spend up to 17 hours grazing every day, taking in 1–2% of their body weight in forage. However, that’s pretty hard to replicate in most barns. Adequate acreage of fresh pasture is tough to come by, and the increasing cost of hay has some horse owners rationing their bales. However, the longer your horse’s stomach sits empty, the more his sensitive gastric lining is exposed to harsh stomach acids, which can increase his risk for ulcers. This painful condition effects 60–90% of performance horses and can lead to decreased performance, poor attitude, loss of appetite, weight loss, and more.

2. Could you be serving up trouble at mealtime?

Grain provides a highly concentrated source of calories, which is great for hard keepers and horses in intense work. However, the typical fortified grain is full of simple carbohydrates (sugars and starches), which are very different from the structural carbs found in the forage your horse was designed to digest. For this reason, it’s best to feed your horse the minimum amount of grain he needs to support his weight and workload.

If you have a hard keeper or a hard-working horse that truly needs the calories from grain, be sure to space it out throughout the day. Feeding a large grain meal makes it difficult for the stomach and small intestine to digest sugars and starches fast enough, allowing them to pass undigested into the hindgut. This is problematic because your horse’s hindgut wasn’t meant to digest simple carbs, and doing so can alter the delicate pH balance, potentially causing hindgut acidosis. In a worst case scenario, this may set your horse up for colic or laminitis.

Instead of loading up on grain, consider adding a fat-based weight gain supplement like SmartGain 4® or Cool Calories for a concentrated source of calories.

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3. Turns out your horse can have too much of a good thing.

Corn oil has long been a staple in many barns because it’s great at putting a shine on your horse’s coat. That’s because it’s chock full of omega 6 fatty acids, which support skin health and coat quality. However, omega 6s also support pro-inflammatory reactions in your horse’s body, so they need to be balanced with an intake of roughly 2–4 times as many inflammation-fighting omega 3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, unless your horse has nearly 24/7 access to fresh pasture, omega s are pretty tough to come by. And without the proper balance, your horse is at risk for cellular stress from a chronic state of inflammation.

Luckily, you can help! Ditch the corn oil for a skin and coat supplement that provides omega 3 fatty acids, like SmartShine® Ultra, and bring your horse’s diet back into balance.

SmartShine® Ultra Original

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4. Keeping him cooped up can cause more than “cabin fever.”

In this example, the horse is on restricted turnout because he’s new to the barn and hasn’t been introduced into a turnout group. Just like for us humans, moving to a new location can be very stressful on our horses due to the trailer ride, change in surroundings, all the new friends to meet and the generally unsettling nature of any big change.

But that’s not the only change here that’s potentially stressful. A sudden increase in stall time, like an injured
horse put on stall rest or a new horse waiting to settle in, has been proven to increase a horse’s risk of colic.

Learn more on how you can combat an omega imbalance at

Get the basics on proven colic risk factors, warning signs and how you can help lower your horse’s risk at

5. Travel can take a silent toll.

A Sunday drive might sound nice and relaxing to you, but trailering and changing environments can be very stressful for your horse. Even if he seems unphased on the outside, there may be internal reactions you can’t see that cause stress at the cellular level. In fact, research has shown that stress compromises immune function.

Many horses also exhibit additional signs of stress when they travel. Reluctance to drink, loose stool, loss of appetite, and general anxiety are all indicators of stress that can lead to more serious complications. If your horse
travels regularly, consider providing him with immune, gastric and digestive support. Next time you travel, make sure your horse has the support he needs with SmartShip & Show™ Paste.

SmartShip & Show™ Paste*
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6. You’re not the only one who gets stressed at work.

Sure, your horse might not have impossible deadlines or a boss breathing down his neck, but that doesn’t mean he’s not dealing with work-related stress.

A study in the Equine Veterinary Journal concluded that the osteoarthritic process (“arthritis”) is naturally occurring in horses, and the researchers further suggested that the stresses associated with training may accelerate that process. In other words, if your horse is in regular work, his joints are at a greater risk for early arthritic changes that could affect his comfort, soundness and future performance.

Luckily, additional research indicates that key ingredients found in joint supplements can help ensure your horse has the support he needs for healthy joints.

Is your horse suffering from secret stress?

Head to for a fast, fun, and easy way to make sure you’re giving your horse everything he needs.

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2 comments on “Can you spot the secret stresses?
  1. Nathalie Salie says:

    No light, no sun, no air, not enough place, it looks like a prison. Sorry, that ist the only stress factor for the horse.

  2. Jules says:

    I hate seeing hay nets in stalls. They’re great for trailering but that’s it!! Using a hay bag because your horse is “messy” drives me crazy. Your horse is an animal, not a toddler. If you’re going to make them sleep inside then at least let them eat how their bodies are designed for.

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