There are different equine management practices for every season and clearly, managing a horse is different in winter or summer. If you reside in a place where the ground freezes during winter and horses are kept in stalls for most part of the day, then your horse is prone to developing bad habits. These habits usually arise from extreme boredom and some are due to other causes,(such as alleviating pain from horse ulcers, which are harmful to your horse.
Horses have an abundance of energy. They use this energy when training, performing or being ridden. Like us humans horses dont like to be bored, they need to use there natural energy. Horses are known to relieve their boredom by chewing wood.
During winter, your horse could develop the bad habit of wood chewing. By instinct, horses are fond of chewing , as during the long summer months they are allowed to graze for extended periods. Hay, during winter, is usually the choice of forage and may be limited, so that it will leave room for horses to give in to their cravings for chewing, and in this case, anything that is within their reach. As a result, your horse could chew on trees, walls, stable doors, plus, the crunching sound when chewing these solid items satisfies their needs. This, however, does not mean that your horse could eat an entire tree, however it is not ideal for a horse to be eating wood and damaging not only the stall but its health.
Wood chewing in winter can be avoided and here are some tips on how you can prevent such bad behavior from developing.
First is to allow your horse to have enough turnout time; yes, the grass can be dormant at this time but this would fight boredom and allow them to burn out their excess energy. Next is to feed hay as much as possible. Do not just dump a huge bale of hay at one time for him to eat; instead, give small amounts of hay as frequently as possible. You might also want to consider using a hay net just so your horse can be occupied picking out the feed from the net.
You can also lead your horse or take him on a short ride , weather permitting. These light activities may not enhance his performance skills, but more importantly, it will help burn his excess energy and eliminating boredom.
When you do keep your horse in a stable in winter, make sure you place him in an area where he can hear or see other horses. If by all means this is not feasible, at least give him a companion, for instance, a goat.’
You can also minimize wood chewing problem in horses by making the wood unpalatable to their taste. There are safe paint products that may be used to stop horses and discourage wood chewing.
The most important thing to do this winter is to keep your horse occupied. Proper equine management this winter can help prevent problems like digestive ulcers, which could contribute to development of bad habits like wood chewing.