Causes, Effects, and Prevention: Stereotypic Behaviour in Stabled Horses

August 7, 2015

Stereotypic behavior has a tendency to develop in stabled horses in less than ideal conditions. You may have heard of these behaviors being referred to as “vices”. They can take many forms but have some commonalities as well. Many experts have studied stereotypic behavior and the general consensus is that if your horse exhibits these issues it is likely due to stress. Despite being explained in a variety of ways, (aggressive, fear-driven, performance-related, etc.), the problems still boil down to stress in one form or another. It is common to find these types of behaviors in horses acquired through an animal connection.

Some examples of stereotypic behavior among stabled horses include: box-walking, crib-biting, and weaving. Other less common behaviors occur as well; generally they are centered on oral activities such as chewing the tail and/or mane or odd ambulatory issues.

The consequences of stereotypic behavior vary widely based on the specifics of your horse. Some behaviors, such as pacing their stall are more nervous behavior and present little health hazard. Other more detrimental habits like chewing body parts or stalls may cause harm to your horse.

Once these behaviors begin in your horse, they can be difficult if not impossible to get rid of. Many treatments such as metal collars for cribbing or electric shock generally do more harm than good. The surest method in the case of stereotypic behavior is prevention.

Prevention can be performed in a variety of ways. One of the best ways is to socialize your stabled horse. An animal connection can be a very valuable resource in preventing the development of stereotypic behaviors. Horse toys can also be useful tools in the struggle to regulate behavior. Whatever method is chosen, it is important to keep the horse engaged and stress free. Stress and boredom will lead to behavioral problems and whatever method works best for you should be employed to prevent these situations from occurring.

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