The truth behind Stable vices in horses
Horses are built to graze on forage for long periods. Their daily routine can consist of up to 16 hours of grazing as well as enjoying the company of other horses. Stable vices in horses are bad habits as a result of boredom or confinement. In this article we discuss common habits and ways to fix them.
Types of Stable Vices in Horses
Wood chewing: This can be either a psychological issue or a nutritional issue. More often than not it is lack of exercise or boredom. Part of fixing the problem is finding ways to decrease this boredom or increase their exercise. Covering fences where possible is recommended.
Cribbing: Often caused by boredom, horses will set their incisors into a horizontal object, arch their neck and pull backwards, swallowing air. This causes a release of endorphins and can be very addictive. This can lead to weight loss, colic, and extra wear on their teeth. There are covers you can use for wooden surfaces or sprays that deter the horse – ask your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
Kicking: this can be a result of boredom or hunger in stabled horses. This needs to nipped in the bud straight away as these horses can soon learn to kick down the doors and fences keeping them in and teach other horses this bad habit. The best ways to kick this habit are to add an extra meal to their day, allow extra play time outdoors as well as adding a stable toy.
Weaving: This describes a horse that exhibits shifting from side to side, moving weight from one front leg to the other and swaying their head and neck. Although it seems harmless, it can lead to weight loss, weak tendons and associated problems. Most of the time the easiest way to fix this problem is to allow your horse more pasture time.
Box walking: this term describes a horse that walks around his stable in circles. Usually due to boredom. This can lead to ligament damage along with just generally wearing your horse out. More time in the pasture will help solve this behaviour and when the horse is in the stall provide it with a toy or an extra feed as a boredom preventer.
Tail rubbing: If a horse has a particular type of parasites they will reverse up to surfaces to rub their tails. Sometimes even after the parasite has gone, the horse can continue to rubbing out of habit. Not only can it make the top of their tail bald but it can cause damage to the skin. Eliminating the parasite as soon as possible is important to prevent this becoming a habit.
Overall preventing stable vices in horses is easier than trying to cure them, some key advice is:
- Allow your horse more time out of their stall
- Provide toys or exercise to keep your horse occupied
- Companions in any animal form can be helpful
- Increase their roughage and use slow feeders to lengthen meal times
Remember this is just a short list of common vices and habits. There are many more and always seek your veterinarian’s advice for more specific information.