Spring is finally here! All this extra daylight and lovely weather means it is time for your horse to shed those bulky winter blankets and get back to work. However, it is important to remember that as their workouts increase, so too does their stress. This then brings up an important question. What is the difference between stress and distress?
Stress is an imbalance in the physiological or psychological condition and it is often unavoidable. To regain this balance, physiological changes occur in the body that are collectively referred to as the stress response. It is this stress response that allows horses (and people!) to adapt to a stressful situation. However, if this adaptation occurs over a long period of time or if the stress is intense, then distress is likely to result. Unfortunately, distress is the result of not being able to cope with stressful conditions and can result in physical or mental pain that is observable in behavior. While stress is natural at high levels of competition, it is distress that will reflect negatively on a horse’s performance.
For this reason, it is important for caretakers to gradually make changes in diet and activity as we move into a new season. While the NIGHTWATCH® smart halter™ is not designed for performance-based use, it has great value in ensuring our horses get to the top and stay at the top. The Equine Distress Index (EDI™) is a 10-point scale that NIGHTWATCH® devices use to represent a horse’s general well-being. Since this score is adapted directly to your horse, it is a great way for trainers to monitor how a horse is handling an increase in riding and any dietary changes.