Horses were made to wander, roaming endlessly in search of food.? This instinctive need for activity can create many problems for domestic horses that are left in stalls or paddocks for days at a time, without much stimulation.? Here are some typical vices to watch for:
- Cribbing.? Cribbing horses are unmistakable ? they bite down on their stall door or paddock fence, pull back with their teeth, and inhale air, causing a rush of endorphins in their system that provide them with a reassuring feeling of well-being.? Cribbing can cause colic, weight loss, and tooth erosion.? Be wary if another horse in your barn is a cribber ? horses have been known to copy this behavior.
- Stall weaving.? A weaving horse shifts his body weight to and from each foreleg, sometimes swinging his head as well.? This can lead to weight loss and weak tendons, and presents a very neurotic image.
- Stall walking.? Similar to weaving, but in this case the horse actually walks circles in his stall, potentially wearing a path in his bedding.
- Pawing or digging.? A horse that continually paws at the ground is often frustrated, impatient, or nervous.? Many horses do this in anticipation of feeding.
Food bolting, mane and tail chewing, wood chewing, tail rubbing, and stall kicking are also common problems with stabled horses.? All of these problems are caused, at least in part, by boredom.? The best thing you can do to prevent your horse from picking up these bad habits is to keep him happy and stimulated.? Give your horse plenty of exercise, especially when turnout in a field or pasture isn?t possible, and try hanging toys in his stall, such as an empty milk jug or a tether ball.? Putting small mirrors at eye level can also help.? Additionally, try increasing the number of feedings you give your horse ? many small feedings is a better solution than one large feeding.?