What It’s Like Being an Anxious Horse Owner

What It’s Like Being an Anxious Horse Owner

One of my favorite blog titles ever is Diary of an Overanxious Horse Owner, because I can sooooooo relate to that title.  Really,I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first!

Anxiety hasn’t always been present in my life.  Through school, I was pretty care free.  Sure, stuff would come up but I always just kind of assumed that everything would be okay and things would work out for the better overall.  I’m not exactly sure when or why it happened, but for the past year I’ve been battling a lot of generalized anxiety.

It’s not like I get a panic attack, but generalized is more like a slow fog.  It starts with a little worry that spreads, and before you know it you’re worrying about everything.  I have certain triggers, but they aren’t always consistent.  The other night I laid in bed worrying about a mole I’ve had since birth being skin cancer now, for far far too long.  At its worst, I can’t think or do anything else but worry.  At best, there’s no worry at all but usually I live in the in-between land of worries lingering in the back of my head at all time and me trying to squish them down like Whack a Mole.


Being a horse owner with this is an interesting adventure.  The semi-chronic NQR’ness of the summer almost drove me insane.  I left the barn in tears a lot, which was hard for some people to understand since my horse didn’t look lame and hacked around mostly fine with me.  In my brain though, I jumped around from ‘What if I have to retire him at 9?’ to ‘What if I’m slowly crippling him by my horrible negligence?’

You can probably see why I’ve taken some things “off the table” on this blog since then.  Lameness is one of them.  I just can’t handle it mentally.

Anyway, being a horse owner with anxiety means it’s a constant battle between “Am I being a crazy person?” and “Am I looking out for my horse’s best interest?”  I’m trying to walk that line gracefully, but don’t always succeed.  This fall, I started every single lesson with yelling across the ring to my trainer, “DOES HE LOOK SOUND?  HOW IS THE LF?  HOW IS THE RH?  IS HE EVEN?  IS HE OKAY?”  Luckily, she is awesome and just patiently answered my questions (Answer?  He looked fine) until I stopped second guessing myself all the time and just rode my horse.

These days, things are a bit better.  I still worry.  I worry when my horse has been recently body clipped and the temperature drops to freezing in a week.  I obsess over which neck thing to buy in order to keep his “wittle naked neck” warm, and go against my trainer’s advice to buy him jammies.


When he ruins those jammies, I worry the next freezing temperature will make him moderately uncomfortable.



When he spooks at cold weather, I don’t think that it’s just cold, windy weather giving him a little extra.  I think that he has ulcers, and that I need to treat them and that I should probably put him on a digestive supplement but then that would put my SmartPak budget too far in the red and then I remember that I’m awful at budgeting and then I go back to the fact remains the same that Simon needs ulcer treatment…

You get the idea.


Any other anxious horse owners out there?  I’ve been working on my issues, but at this point I’m still a member of the crazy horse owner club.

49 thoughts on “What It’s Like Being an Anxious Horse Owner

  1. I’m so glad someone else uses sleezies! and I love silly simon’s look with it all goofed up…

    I never used to be a horse worrier but I am starting to understand! With Ray being 21 I keep waiting for the unsoundness ball to drop (though there isn’t even a hint of it in sight, fingers crossed)

  2. Well, I just wrote a blog post where you can see my anxiety in action. Barbed wire = swollen leg and in my mind, possible retirement or need to euthanise. The other horse keeps falling in the pasture and I’m already thinking she has a horrible untreatable degenerative neuro disease. I worry about Charles at work when he’s working in the psych ER, that some crazy person will hurt him. I worry about the cats. I worry about my mom. I worry about my car. I worry about the truck. I worry about my job. I worry about money. I guess I should go be on meds, but I’m usually able to tell myself, “You’re being silly. Stop it.” And I’m able to make the gerbils stop. For the moment…until the next worry crops up…

    1. I should probably be on meds too. That’s exactly what it’s like – I can force the gerbils to stop but then they start going without me realizing it and I’ve almost driven myself into a panic over money/simon/dogs/something. No bueno!

    2. Yikes I hope the horses are okay! I’m still trying to get caught up on your blog so I had no idea this stuff was going on.

      I should probably be on meds too, but I’m terrified of taking medicine LOL. It’s a never ending cycle.

  3. Ha! I think we all do that to some extent. You may cringe hearing this, but I think the best “cure” was having two horses. I couldn’t afford a ton of extras so everybody got what they needed, when they needed it, and ONLY if they needed it. It forced me to be a little more hands off with the “BUY ALL THE THINGS” approach and Courage actually did great, so I’ve just maintained that.

    He may have all the tack, but he gets no supplements or massages or anything, and he’s doing just fine.

    1. I agree SprinklerBandit. I used to obsess about getting all the right tack and blankets and supplements and training and….the list goes on. Once I brought the horse to my house, got a few (6 total!) more, I stopped worrying as much. I have found they have survived in my care for 7 years living outside with access to come in the barn and blankets only when its cold AND wet. They are happy and healthy. Wicket is 26 years young, still sound, and still tried to buck me off last week!! HAHA!

  4. Ugh I can relate to all of this!! When I was a kid I don’t remember being particularly anxious, but as an adult it has been BAD. I’ve been dealing with this for years. Probably around seven or eight years. 🙁 I do the same thing with moles and thinking I’m going to die and I do the thinking I’ve ruined my horse, he’s going to die or he’s going to be injured and retired. It’s awful! My anxiety about trailers is so bad I can’t haul him unless it’s absolutely necessary… and I really want to take lessons at the barn ten minutes away. So yes I can totally relate. :\

      1. Me too! I have had panic attacks before (not fun!), but I’ve learned how to control them so I don’t get them anymore, but the every day, all day long generalized anxiety I just can’t seem to beat. I’ve considered going to a cognitive behavioral therapist, but I can’t find one and I worry about not being able to afford it or it not working….

  5. Oh, that’s me too! 🙂 Read my recent blog post about my bad ride. I’m immediately thinking I suck as a rider, my saddle doesn’t fit, the bit is no good, maybe her back is sore cause I’m too fat, maybe the vet didn’t do a good job with her teeth….etc etc etc.

    Or maybe, just maybe, baby pony was sassy with the cold weather and some time off? 🙂 Seriously though, I do worry to some degree about everything in life but I feel like it’s actually getting better as I get older. Horses are the one thing where I still worry way more than I need to!

  6. I’m not an over-worrier, but my husband and one of my best friends are. So I’ve gotten PRETTY GOOD at talking them down from the ledge. If you have someone who can go through with you, step by step, WHY something makes you anxious, what the REAL issues are, and HOW you are going to fix them, it can be a big help. Try to formulate a plan of action about whatever worries you.

    1. This is such good advice! I think one of the main reasons I worry less now is because my husband is a huge worrier and by default I’m in the role of the ‘talker downer’ and forced to use my own advice for myself 🙂

    2. Yeah, my husband can be very good at calming me down… but sometimes he gets frustrated since I’m always in a frenzy about something and loses his patience a bit. I don’t necessarily blame him!

  7. Yeah, I feel ya. It’s always a fine line between worrying enough and worrying too much. Doesn’t help that they can’t just open up and say what it is that’s bothering them..

  8. I’ve only turned out in a sleezy once and it was because I braided the night before a show. I think Houston would destroy one if it didn’t have a real neck cover over it.

    I think small amounts of worry are normal. and I am plenty anxious but I try to reason with myself with a lot of success 🙂

  9. I have much more anxiety in my non horse life than with my horse. Shy is really independent and able to fend for herself. She is quite warm enough under all her fuzz. I really do not worry about her all that much. Strange :/
    Now, I do have anxiety when riding, but I think that is a control thing.

  10. I worry about everything…and the unending lameness saga of this past summer (it did technically finally end) didn’t help that at all. I worry if I’m doing right by my horse, I worry if I making the right choices in my life, I worry if I’ll have enough money, I worry if I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life, I worry about if I’m smart enough to be trying to join the profession I am, I worry about all my animals all the time, especially since I’m not around. My worries are unending, but I can’t do a damn thing about any of them, so I just keep on keep in’ on. The alternative is to stay in bed and never come out, and that’s not actually an option! Anxiety sucks, I truly can relate but sometimes we just have to tell ourselves that it really will be okay!

  11. I think all horse owners worry to some extent, just like all parents worry to some extent. For me, it got a little easier after the first horse, because I’d already been through a lot with him.
    I worry most when I can’t DO anything about the problem. Saga’s mysterious ever-worsening lameness gave me ulcers, as did Echo’s incessant head-shaking. If something has me worried, I try to figure out the problem and then take action to address it. If I’m doing something, at least I know I’m trying, even if it doesn’t work.
    Currently I’m worried that my poor nekkid Paddykins might be stuck outside in the rain without a rain sheet. In 60 degree weather. He might die/melt/freeze. It never ends.

  12. I can totally relate! My TB is on stall rest and anti-inflammatory meds for two weeks after having the vet out twice and no one ever believing that something just wasn’t right! The vet had me work him until it did come out and it’s a stifle problem…so crossing my fingers and saying a prayer that we don’t have to start injections. Anxiety is definitely worse as an adult! I never worried about it when i was younger…maybe because the parents were always footing the vet bill.

  13. I think it’s normal to worry. Really, it’s better safe than sorry. Plus, horses are some of the most self destructive animals on the planet. It is definitely hard to find that happy medium. Being at the track has been good for me as it’s taught me to take a step back, evaluate the whole situation, and stay calm no matter how bad something seems. It’s not easy to do though.

  14. From my somewhat frantic messages and texts whenever Miles is not 100% you know I’m the same way. So unfortunately, I don’t really have any advice for you 🙁 I just try to keep on keeping on without my brain exploding.

  15. You know what you need? Your own personal “Fuck It” Flag. Also, that is clearly what Simon is waving in regards to his jammies.

    1. Ahahaha, this. Forever this. I’ve tried to employee this flag since I left college and started “the real world”. I did well until this year, then I got stuck. Now I’m getting UNSTUCK! Fuck it flags and yoga FTW. And no, those aren’t totally contradictory or anything :-p

  16. I can totally relate. Especially to the “am I being a crazy person?” Emi’s current troubles are definitely making it worse!

  17. I definitely worry, but after all the crap I went through in the first year of ownership at this point I realize I can’t let it affect so much of the rest of my life. That’s not fair either. So much to think about!

  18. I wouldn’t say I’m an anxious horse owner…but I am exceptionally anxious in real life. About everything. Its so hard to cope with. I feel crazy half the time, knowing its all in my mind. But at the same time, theyre legit worries. I cant handle it sometimes haha.

    For some reason though I’ve been oddly calm with the horses.

  19. My anxiety issues really blossomed when I put the deposit down on Val, and had a few months to prepare for first horse ownership. I’m pretty sure I had a full blown anxiety attack at one point.
    Five years later it’s – living super far away from the vet, living super far away form the farrier, will I find enough hay, will I ever find a trainer, will I ever be a decent rider, NQRness, am I ruining my horse…
    Then there are the non-horse related worries – will I cope with building a house, taking over the business, parents aging…
    Kudos to you for your honesty. I hope you take comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone.
    Alli and Dino’s step by step advice is really good. 😀

  20. I completely relate to the mental struggle, and I also get physical symptoms of anxiety (can’t breathe fully, tightness in chest, dizziness, etc) when too many different things are going on in my life. My body tells me to slow down, chill out, deal with one thing at a time. I’ve found that overcoming the negative chatter with positive/distracting chatter is helpful, plus mapping out specific action plans (no matter how silly they sound) helps me feel better. Hope your anxiety settles down!!

  21. Yep, anxiety is a tough battle to wage. I never had it much when I was younger, but it has off and on been downright all-consuming as an adult (in a variety of forms, including OCD). There are a lot of different ways to get it harnessed, you just have to figure out which works for you. But there definitely ARE ways to get it under control!

  22. I’m so glad you wrote this post because it helps me feel like I’m not alone in this. I am constantly doubting myself, doubting others, worrying that I’m messing Max up, and I’ve always wondered if I’m just plain ol crazy and everyone’s just been kind enough not to say it to my face! With love comes the downside – fear, worry, doubt. I think they will forever be linked. I hate to think that loving something so strongly to a point that you feel like you’re nuts is a bad thing. Nice to know there are other ‘crazy’ horse folks out there 😉 😉

  23. I am a member! I worry and obsess over each little thing. Now that my horse is clipped and blanketed, sometimes I go to the barn BEFORE and AFTER work to change what he is wearing. Horse ownership causes more worries I think than having children! totally guessing since I don’t have any 😉

  24. Constantly! Being treated for GAD, but I still have to tell my mare I love her last thing before I leave the barn, because OMG WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS AND I NEVER SEE HER AGAIN. Said mare ended up ultimately retired with sort-of-navicular after a year and a half of off/on mystery lameness, so any time one of my other rides dings themselves in turnout/is stocked up/brewing an abscess it’s OH NO I BROKE ANOTHER HORSE. And I’m totally guilty of under-riding when not under trainer supervision, because otherwise I’m totally going to RUIN SOMEONE ELSE’S HORSE’S TRAINING FOREVER.

  25. Ugh I am so anxious. My horses legs were mildly warm and swollen and I took him to the vet immediately. Did x-rays and a lameness exam. He got hock injections and when the vet suggested them to me I cried (does this mean I can’t jump?!) And the next day when he banged one of his hinds on a rail and it was swollen he promptly was taken to the vet again (I mean he just had injections what if something is wrong!) the vet didn’t even charge me because he felt bad that I was so crazy (yeah my horse was fine..)

  26. OMG. Guinness would have EATEN that Lycra thing before he even made it to his pasture. I am so impressed Simon put up with it that long! 🙂

    I try not to be a worrier. It helps that Guinness is on full turnout, and I have become accustomed to the scrapes and bangs accumulated regularly by a horse living most of his life like a feral thing. The knowledge of his fetlocks arthritis and managing his feet myself, also give me some peace of mind. When he’s off in the ankle or foot (both feel and look somewhat similar, and can be hard to tell apart), I know it’ll be okay and I can manage it.

    Any other lameness does worry me, especially if there isn’t a corresponding injury. So far I’ve been lucky with those, but the vet bills have been expensive. Fingers crossed that Pig doesn’t slip on the ice again this year and bang up his poor legs again!

  27. Thanks for sharing…Another worrier here! Although, I’m getting better about horse worries – I figure I do the best I can and hope it all works out. My anxiety falls more to my health, finances, house, pets, work, etc. etc.

    I have to talk myself down, think things through and do some research/write out a plan, etc. and that usually helps. I had some medical anxiety this fall ( I just turned 40 OMG I’m going to croak!) and instead of keeping on worrying, I went to the dr, got some tests done and that helped me feel better.

  28. I think I am nearly alone in how completely not-anxious I am about things. The things I do stress about – do my horses have enough hay to last them for 24 hours of munching, do they have shelter and clean water and room to move, and do they eat good food – are things I all have under my total control, and my horses are visibly thriving.
    I used to be a worrier about everything, all the time. Then all of my worrying totally failed me when Gogo got injured, and despite spending two years living and breathing rehab, she died anyway. It sort of shell shocked me into a new way of thinking, I think. When all of your stresses and greatest efforts and time spent worrying all completely fail to work, in a way it is kind of liberating – why worry so much, when ultimately it doesn’t matter? I still put all the effort into caring for my critters, definitely, but I no longer freak out if it gets colder overnight than I thought, and they might benefit from a medium instead of a sheet. I try to eliminate things that could kill them – they need safe fences, and safe living space, and safe shelter, etc – but I accept the fact that they’re probably still going to kill themselves anyway. Having seen a horse break her neck in a stall, and one break his leg while strolling around, and more than one colic and die from just rolling the wrong way… I guess I’ve seen how they can and will kill themselves no matter what we do for them. Having *also* seen a horse literally shish kabob himself by jumping onto an uncapped t-post – and that poor critter was still alive with his guts hanging out everywhere when he was found – I also know how important it is to try and eliminate dangers.
    I guess in summation: eliminate all the things that they could easily kill themselves on or that can kill them/cause them harm (basically boils down to making sure they have safe shelter and fencing, room to move, and enough hay and fresh water to keep them happily munching nonstop) – and beyond that, embrace the probability that they are going to cripple and/or kill themselves anyway.
    It’s a liberating realization. Depressing, but liberating. And it has freed me from my endless worrying.

  29. I think you are basically describing a person who cares. When you care, it is stressful! That’s what makes you a good person. Do what you can and at the end of the day – you made an effort. Anxiety is not fun. Hope you can feel less anxious soon. xx

  30. My husband would say “all you horse people are crazy.” It’s true, we love out animals so much that we worry about them constantly.” I have horrible anxiety about leaving mine. Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing but they make me physically sick with worry.

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