Do some horses suffer from POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 | Filed under Medical

I was wondering…

Today a reader wrote to me as a last resort.

She told me that her horse had become aggressive.

There was a long story – starting with a strong minded colt who injured himself at 18 months…

…Much excellent care and therapy ensued.

And then, as time went on, he became human aggressive.

This well bred and very loved gelding is now 7.

The reader asked if I had any ideas as she was fresh out and the only option presented to her now is to put her gelding down…

She was resigned, but reached out to me anyway.  Just in case.

I asked her several questions.

And then I asked myself a question.

“Could a horse have PTSD?”

Do horses suffer PTSD?

Do horses suffer PTSD?


Of course, I am no expert.

I am not a vet nor an equine psychiatrist.

But, I think that any sentient being could suffer PTSD.



Both Hubby and I suffer from PTSD.  His from Iraq.  Mine from a childhood tragedy.

I always have my ear to the ground when PTSD treatments circulate.

A while back, I had heard of a light therapy that helped war veterans.  In fact, I’ve heard of a few different types of light therapies that help those who suffer PTSD.

So, I got to thinking…

Could light therapy help a horse with PTSD?


Arcequine – light therapy

I contacted Ian from ArcEquine in the UK. (no affiliation)

I asked if his ArcEquine could help with PTSD/big behavioral issues  in equines

This is what he said:

Hi Dawn

Please do not allow him to be put down!!
In humans, but equally as relevant to horses and all other animals, the clinical areas that I use it in regularly with huge results are:

1.   ANY pain ( including cancer pain and Phantom Limb Pain )

2.   Any hormonal imbalance

3.   Any immune / auto-immune deficiency ( hay fever, asthma, eczema, psoriasis )

4.   Boosts the immune system

5.   Rapidly disperses lactic acid

6.   Last, but not least, and an area that is associated with many of the above clinical conditions, is the full spectrum of psychological traumas, from anxiety through to PTSD

In this particular area I work all the time with Prof Gordon Turnbull, a Psychiatrist specialising in Trauma, and especially PTSD.

 He and I are now very good friends and when I give major presentations ( Olympic athletes, etc ) he acts as a keynote speaker and explains, from a biological, physiological and a psychological point of view why it is that chronic stressors, both physical and psychological, have such a damaging effect on the immune system, which in turn can lead to depressive type symptoms and / or ulcerative colitis, diabetes etc.

As a Psychiatist in the Royal Air Force, he personally dealt with many high profile PTSD sufferers including Terry Waite, John McCarthy, the Tornado pilots ( first Gulf War ) and the Lockerbie survivors.

Over the last 11 years he has sent many of his patients to me, suffering various physical and non-physical problems. We often work togetrher on his most troubled patients.

He is very strong in saying

1.   there is never a physical trauma without an associated psychological trauma

2.   that unless the trauma is addressed ( both physical and psychological ) the physical healing will be very slow / may not happen.

I regularly work with people whose horses are presenting with a physical problem, usually leg or back, where ALL veterinary examination / scanning fails to enable a diagnosis. Also, horses with severe behavioral problems.

I strongly suspect that all are suffering from psychological trauma, ( almost inevitably as a result of physical trauma earlier in their lives ) and “treat” them accordingly .

ALL have rapidly improved, as will “this” horse, when “treated”. The currents can be delivered via a leg pad OR by way of a long back pad.

Within a very short time ( probably minutes ) of starting, he will become calm. I have seen this many, many times, including when used on stallions.

Other than because of his behaviour, is this a good / quality horse and, if given the option, would the owners want to help / save him?

Kind regards


Why not try?...

Why not try?…


I told the reader with the horse that I would bring a unit into the US for her to use on her horse.  Her only requirement was to talk to Ian and give him all of the information he needed to help her horse.

Since this horse had years of medical records and years of therapies and treatments, he would be a good subject for a trial.

And, the reader had to agree to the procedures, do them daily and keep excellent notes.

She said she would, excitedly!  She does not, at all, want to destroy her horse.

My hope is that we can help this horse, and in doing so, help many more…

Crossing fingers and willing to dip the toe into these cloudy waters.

I’m sure many of you are shaking your heads.

I am, too.  A little.

But I’m also excited…

What if…  what if it DOES work?!

To me, a try is worth it.

And if it works… well…

Wouldn’t that be grand?!

They are worth it.

They are worth it.

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!






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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

21 comments have been posted...


    The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson is extremely helpful in animals. I have used it on myself with tremendous results, but more so with animals. I did it on a rescued 12-year-old Paso Fino mare who was nearly starved to death. She was swayback. After releasing the trapped emotions of abandonment and fear her back raised up to nearly normal. I have a rescued dog who had had coprophagy (eats poop). After removing the trapped emotions of abandonment, betrayal and guilt, he no longer eats poop. I recommend everyone to purchase “The Emotion Code” you can find it on Amazon.

  2. Bob Burdekin

    I have been working with various low level light therapies as well as integrating other modalities. I presently have close to 30 horses that our program has made a difference in their lives and their owners. Even horses suspected of be PTSD.

  3. Danielle

    I have a very well bred mare that has PTSD. I’m at my whits end. Do any of the treatments work. I’m about to have her put down.

  4. Silke Juppenlatz

    I’d love to know if the treatment worked.
    I have a Paso gelding with severe separation anxiety, who cannot be left alone. At all.
    I believe he suffers from PTSD.
    He is now 14 years old, I’ve had him since age 9. He spent those 9 years in a herd, but was sold once before I had him. (And was brought back) The guy who bought him was a beginner (he is *not* a beginner horse) and locked him in a dark barn for 3 months. Alone. He got out an hour a day if he was lucky, and became almost uncontrollable. Now he box runs and will not calm down until another horse is either in with him, or directly next to him.
    If he is left alone, he just runs in circles the whole time, or if in a paddock box, runs in and out of the stable. People keep telling me “He’ll get used to it, just leave him. He’s just buddy sour.” But that’s not it. He’s not buddy sour. He’s more than happy to go out and be ridden on his own. He comes in from the field on his own. But he becomes very stressed and panicked, to the point where he is liable to injure himself, or people, when he’s left in a stable.
    It is such an issue for him, that I now bought another horse for HIM, not for me. However, it’s a weanling and he’s not ready yet. I simply can’t watch my horse run himself ragged with stress.
    We’ve tried everything I can think of, nothing helps when he’s stabled.
    He’s a *little* calmer when out, but there has to be another horse at least over the fence. If there is a horse with him, he’s fine. Calm and happy. Take the horse away, and he instantly turns into a lunatic.
    He also has separation anxiety from me, btw. If I walk away while he’s tied, I have a shredded rope / halter after a few minutes.
    I think he became so stressed over being locked up all day, it caused mental trauma. It’s not something that can be fixed by “Just leave him”. It only makes things worse. (Calmers do not work either.)
    I think it’s PTSD, hence I landed here.
    Any help would be most appreciated.

  5. Anouk

    Mark Rashid’s book, Whole Heart, Whole Horse, covers a bit of trauma in horses. Usually, they deal with it by running it out (turning the energy outwards). Abuse is a different kind of trauma, as it is directly connected to humans and trust in them, but it might help to read the book.

  6. Jeannie

    Thank you, Dawn, for taking the time to both investigate and share this information.

    I opened this page out of simple human curiosity, that thirst to grow we all understand, and perhaps found a tool to help my lad in the process. You see I have a seven year old gelding who survived a significant pelvic fracture due to a pasture accident; we are boarders and that alone has presented many challenges.

    We are now past the 18 month mark in the healing process and I am pleased to share that after much love and care I am able to hack around with my lad. He currently represents the first equine any of the medical professionals in this area have ever seen survive a fracture of this nature, they never imagined he would come this far along. It has been a long road filled with many challenges however he is worth it for he holds my heart and would offer me no less I am certain of it.

    I have written arcequine an inquiry regarding the use of their technology on bone injuries, I look forward to their response.

  7. ChristinaRae

    I’m very interested in the results of this as well. I have read that military dogs coming back from war can have PTSD, why not others?

  8. Delrene

    I am very excited to follow this treatment on this horse. It is worth every bit of effort. Thanks Dawn and I look forward to the follow up with great interest.

  9. Shelley Fitzpatrick

    Wow! This sounds interesting. Please keep us updated on the progress of the horse. Can’t wait to read the follow ups!

  10. Moiselle Bruns

    Thank you for the extra mile! Keep us updated as I have a rescue that has suffered some sort of trauma. She is the sweetest mare towards other animals and fellow pasture mates, but scared to death of humans. She has a abscess scar on neck, and was reportedly abused and tied down at the auction she went through. We have spent countless hours with her, and thousands of dollars on gentle ground training…still scared to death. After 31/2 years she softly nickered at me a week ago, but she runs backward at almost every chance.
    Thank you again!

  11. dawndi Post author

    Elayne: I am not the expert in Arcequine. You can go to the site and contact them. They can help you with the product when you describe your issues. They can send a unit…

  12. Joanne

    Wow! I am anxiously awaiting the results of this experiment. I firmly believe that animals can and do suffer from PTSD, probably more often than humans as they can’t discuss their issues away. If this works for the horse in question, it will be a breakthrough for the entire industry! And I’ll be researching the Arc system for my self as well.

  13. Elayne Tingey

    How exciting. Thanks for researching this subject. I have horse who reminds me of this diagnosis I would be so interested in receiving any and all information. Where I could find the treatments that were mentioned in your blog.
    I have done everything that I could for this horse.

  14. Kathleen Simler

    Dawn this is So exciting to see if this particular light therapy works on this dear horse! Kuddos to the gal who called YOU and to YOU for moving forward and calling about this therapy. I sure hope you keep us informed. I think i would like one for myself!! I will contact the company and see what they have …
    This is great!

  15. lelani A. Lundgren

    How wonderful, and what a wonderful companion this horse has.

  16. Nicole

    I think that is a fabulous idea. I love these kinds of experiments :-) Could be groundbreaking.
    Depending on where the horse is located I have another resource that might work. But, lets wait and see for now what the light therapy can do.
    Great stuff. Can’t wait to hear about the results.

  17. Mikey

    I believe PTSD to be very real for horses. I bought one very cheap off Craigslist because he had 1- been in a bad trailer accident and was injured. Will always have scars. I see those kind of scars on the outside, I know the real damage is inside. 2- as a result of the accident (I think) he developed a cracked abscessed tooth and had extensive dental work. The people who bought him told me he does not bridle, can’t be ridden without a tie down (which I hate and won’t use) and he won’t trailer unless its an open stock.
    2 yrs later, he does all that and more. Great working horse. Took me an hour to talk him onto our 4 horse slant load, and then months of very careful trailering to overcome his fears. Proper gentle bridling helped, although he still won’t let a stranger bridle him. But a lot of careful handling and tons of praise and he’s made a complete turn around. He’s my husbands rope horse, my team sorting horse and a good all around horse. I took him to a team sorting, really clicked, made a smoking final cut that was a race to the line. He gave me all and then some, and the whole crowd cheered for us. We won the biggest cash jackpot of the year because of that run and that horse was SO proud of himself. I smothered him with love.
    I don’t know if this light will work, but my point is don’t give up! A great horse is in there.

  18. Gail Dwyer

    Dawn, where is this horse? I have a horse that Ian described, possible back issues, unable to be diagnosed. We are in Nebraska.

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