Can horses be bipolar?

I was flipping through the latest Horse and Rider magazine (December 2013) and the Q&A portion caught my eye.  A horse owner was asking if horses can have a psychiatric disease, specifically if they can be bipolar.

The answer from Lore I. Haug, DVM, MS, DACVB, CABC from Texas Veterinary Behavior Services, gave a vague answer but said the possibility exists.  The reason is that while psychiatric diseases occur in animals (humans included), horses can’t verbalize what they are thinking or experiencing, so it’s difficult to determine exactly what they are going through.

While I started reading the article almost as a joke, I was glad I did.  We’ve wondered for years now if Sugar experiences some sort of psychotic break from time to time.  Some days everything is sunshine and roses, and other days she treats normal experiences (like taking off her fly mask or being hand fed apple cores) as something that is going to kill her.

I understand that I’ll never know what happened to Sugar to give her these episodes, but it alerts me to the possibility that something else is going on in that pretty Paint head of hers.

BTW, I tried to link the article here, but was unsuccessful finding it on-line, but Dr. Haug recommended the following two website for more information:

behaviorworks.org

stalecheerios.com

About Heather Hamel

Growing up with horses is a little girls dream come true. Heather’s dream in life was to be a horse trainer - how dreams change - sort of! She moved to the wonderfully historic town of St. Augustine, Florida and was a historic tour guide and a ghost story teller while putting herself through college to become a special education teacher. After graduating, she felt the pull of horses in her life again. That's when she met Kobi! She learned quickly that when you own horses you become a part time vet, part time nutritionist, and full time equestrian. She wouldn't change a thing! In addition to being completely obsessed with her herd, she still teaches and tutors students with learning disabilities, and more specifically, dyslexia.
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