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The stable is for horses an artificial environment that deprives them from long walks at the grassland or even napping at the shadow of a tree. However, the stable becomes necessary for horses that perform other activities more demanding than light agriculture work.
Stable vices are repetitive behaviors with no purpose. The origin of these vices seems to be the boredom and anxiety that the horse feels for being confined in a stable for long periods of time. It is believed that these behaviors can be learnt: son copies from mother and other horses from their stable neighbors.
The eradication of this behavior is difficult and practically unreachable. As habit animals, the horses that adopt those behaviors rarely cease displaying them. So, the prevention of these vices becomes even more important.
There is no effective way of eliminating the stable vices. The necessary conditions to prevent de development of these behaviors are:
- Exercise, riding and training;
- A balanced diet
- Proper health care
- Some time at the grassland (preferably with other horses, ponies or even other animals, like goats, donkey, sheep and even birds).
Wood chewing – This behavior doesn’t only damage the materials but it also wears out the teeth of the animal. Besides exercising the horse, as last resort, apply pepper or mustard in some problematic areas. This measure should be used only in extreme cases, because the smell can upset the horse and make him even more stressed.
Box walking – Wandering around in circles. This behavior usually occurs when the horse is anxious for being separated from his family. It is advisable to find him company, not necessarily a foal, but even a goose may help to decrease the degree of anxiety.
Crib biting – Swallowing air. This vice carries serious consequences to the horse. Besides being difficult to eliminate, the horse may develop colic and loose weight. Once again, exercise and a correct feeding with plenty of roughage may help the horse to overcome the boredom. In more serious cases, it can be used a crib-collar or crib-strap.
Weaving – Swaying from side to side with head and front legs. Behind this behavior may be a hoof related issue – the horse tries to transfer his weight from one foot to another. This behavior can be harmful for the horse’s joints. If the hoofs are in good conditions, the problem may be stress related. Exercise, company and time outside will only do him well.
All these behaviors show a frustrated and anxious horse. Once learnt, they are difficult to get rid of. So, provide the horse some free time with other animals and let him be some time at the pasture. However, check his feeding and weight frequently. Fat horses shouldn’t jump, since it is harmful for the joints of the animal. And horses that have eaten shouldn’t train immediately after.