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Archive for the ‘Vices’ Category

Pacing
Dear Cherry,

We just purchased a two-year-old filly and brought her home. She is in a 24-foot by 12-foot outside stall. She paces back and forth. We tried putting her in a 50-foot round pen and she paced there. Do you have any suggestions? We love the filly and are getting her broke. Help!

Heidi

Hi Heidi,

Here are a series of questions that might help you pinpoint the cause and head toward a cure. Possible causes: Have you checked her ration to be sure you are not feeding her too much high energy feed, such as grain, concentrates, or alfalfa hay? Is she getting plenty of exercise with her training? Does she have time to socialize with other horses?
Possible cures: Can you turn this filly out with another horse, at least occasionally? Do you have any pastures or large paddocks that the horse can be turned out in for at least an hour or so a day? Is she the type of horse that won’t get too fat if she eats a little bit all day? If so, can you feed her some grass hay about four or five times a day?

Cherry Hill

Take advantage of our Book Sale. Buy One and Get TWO FREE on this page. New books are being added weekly in both categories.

We’ve just added some great behavior books about vices and bad habits. horse-owners-problem-solver-200hproblem-horse-200h

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Help!  I have a wonderful 5 yr old QH mare that started stall kicking before feeding time and now pins her ears and bites at the stall wall while eating her grain or hay.  She is destroying the stall bit by bit.  We tried kicking chains to no avail.  Now we are using a horseshoe around her heel  and it seems to be working. However, she is still bodyslamming into the wall and pinning and biting the wall while eating.  We have no idea why she is doing this or what is causing her to be so nervous.  We purchased her in May and this didn’t begin until mid July, while we were away on vacation.  She has been treated for a capped hock numerous times and I don’t want this to get worse.  I had my trainer take her for a week and the kicking stopped.  Now that she is back in our barn it has begun again.  I have also talked with my farrier.  I need help as we love her dearly and don’t want her lame.  Unfortunately, we are stuck using our neighborhood barn and can’t really change her schedule.
She goes out at 7:30 am after feeding, to her paddock.  we bring her in at dinnertime and she stays in her stall at night. She is ridden by my 10 year old daughter and myself.  She gets 2 days off a week as be both take a lesson as well.  I would appreciate any guidance you could give.  Sincerely, Kim

Dear Kim,

Behavior such as you describe can have a variety of causes. Some are physical factors which you should discuss with your veterinarian. Others could be more psychological which can be modified with management and training. Observation and figuring out the cause is the first step.

Physical causes could include hormones and eating discomfort.

Mares can be “nervous” as you say, but usually only during certain times of their estrous cycle, so if this happens all the time year round, then hormones are probably not part of the cause.

If a horse is uncomfortable when eating, anywhere along the digestive tract from the teeth to the esophagus to the stomach to the intestines, the horse might exhibit odd body movements.

The most likely psychological explanation would be that it is an exhibition of “pecking order” behavior. At your “neighborhood” barn, if there is a horse in the next stall, your mare could be reacting to that horse’s presence. When eating, she might exhibit aggressive behavior on the stall wall with biting and body slamming to communicate to her next door neighbor – stay away, this feed is mine.

When at the trainer’s the behavior might have disappeared because there was no horse in the next stall or the horse next door was not a threat.

When working on changing a horse’s behavior, always start with the obvious things first:

Check to be sure the feed ration is appropriate

Make sure the horse is receiving adequate exercise and turnout time

Make sure the horse has no health issues such as dental problems, intestinal discomfort and the like.

Change the horse’s companions and neighbors to see if that is changes the behavior.


Best of luck and let me know what you observe and determine!

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Hi Cherry,

I have 8 year old Appaloosa mare which I owned for 4 years. She is a willing, easy going mare but a little on the spooky side though. I have just moved her from the farm she has lived on since birth (paid to board her there) to my place. I also have my friend’s horse stabled with her who was also from the same farm and was stalled beside her.

My problem is she is kicking her stall. I’m at a lost at the cause. I thought the cause is out of frustration but not sure. She did kick her stall some at the farm too but not at this degree. I’m afraid she is going to hurt herself if I don’t figure out the cause. I can watch her go right into it. She will pin her ears back and tuck in her chin, back up to the stall wall then kick repeatedly. It can progressive get worse if left on her own vice until she’s satisifed.

I’ve had to do repairs to her stall I know. I can prevent her from kicking if I catch her at the right moment. It takes several corrections but she will stop except I can’t be there everytime. If she allowed do it, she will kick up to 5ft to 6ft up the stall wall.

I thought the cause was from frustration at being stalled at night but she does it when she allow to run in/out of her stall too. I haven’t been feeding her very much grain about 1/2lb a day but has free access to hay. I haven’t been working her too much to allow her to settle in. She has a acre paddock that she and the other horse to run in which she out in it at least 1/2 the day.

Have any suggestions what I can do?

KC

Dear KC,

A behavior like this is a stall vice since it is occurs in the horse’s living environment irrespective of the presence of people or handling. It is usually a response to management or confinement. With all such vices, you need to eliminate all potential causes some of which you have already mentioned and it sounds like you are aware of, but for sake of completeness, here is a checklist:

Be sure the horse is getting ample exercise in the form of purposeful work.

Be sure the horse is getting ample turnout time alone and with other horses if compatible and safe.

Make sure the horse’s ration is appropriate for the level of work.

Check to see if there is an issue with neighboring horses, that is, if the kicking occurs when a particular horse is nearby.

Since this is a mare, observe the occurrence of stall kicking in relation to her estrous cycle.

Once you’ve evaluated the above and taken necessary measures, I’d suggest getting the mare back into her normal work schedule.

I’ve posted an article on stall kicking on my website that might give you some more insight and ideas, but most of these repetitive behaviors disappear once a horse is given enough exercise and something else to occupy them.

Best of luck. I’d like to hear how things progress with your mare and I welcome comments and suggestions from readers – just click on Leave a Comment at the end of this post.

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Hello Cherry

My miniature horse foal keeps biting, bucking, rearing and jumping up.  He is a 4 month old foal.  I plan to geld him, but our vet said to wait until he is 1 year, so it won’t harm his growth.

Hershey wants to bite and chew on EVERYTHING.  He has toys in the yard that he can play with, but I seldom see him using them.  We have a pet goat who lives with him and his mother, and he is often seen chewing on her legs and tail (she has bite marks to prove it)  I try to enforce the no-bite rule when I am around him by pushing his head away and tapping him on the muzzle, but when I leave for the day, there isn’t anyone to stop him.

Also, when I turn my back to him, he will often run up behind me and rear/kick me.  He also does this to his mother by jumping up and placing his hooves right below her withers.

He is a very smart foal, catches on very easily and  loves to please me.  He let me take his halter on and off him at 5 days old and would move back and to the side with pressure too, but now he is so focused on biting or chewing on me that when I ask him to do something, he ignores my signals.

On a different hoof, when his mother goes to roll in the dirt, she finds it very difficult because he jumps over her.  I have often had to hold him still so she can roll, because I am worried that he will tangle his legs with hers.

Is this a stage, or is it a habit???  And how would I be able to fix it and make him behave?  Would gelding him early help?  I am supposed to show him in showmanship this year.

Thanks, Julia

Hi Julia,

First I want to be sure that you know how to search here on this blog and on my website for information related to Biting and other horse behavior and training topics.

For example, here on this blog, you can type Biting in the Search box at the top of the page or in the right hand column. It will bring up a list of articles here that talk about horses that bite. For example

Horse Behavior – Biting Children

You can also go to the article page on my main website www.horsekeeping.com where there are many more articles. On that page, you can see all of the articles by title, so the fastest way to find what you want is to go to the Behavior category and scroll down to the articles on Biting.

For example, besides the one on the miniatures that bite children, there are the following articles:

Q&As on Horse Biting

Biting Prevention

Horse in Stall Bites at People

Now, to your questions specifically. It is generally a stage that colts (male foals) go through. If a biting horse is dabbed at or played with, or if you lightly tap his nose to tell him no, in many cases it tends to encourage play biting which is a socially acceptable behavior between horses.

You need to make sure your foal knows in no uncertain terms that you are top on the pecking order and biting is not an acceptable behavior.

You also need to set up regular handling sessions so that he learns to respect your personal space. This means 2-3 sessions per day every day – the sessions don’t have to be long – they could be 5-20 minutes each but should be structured. The articles I suggest above and other articles on my website will help with that.

As far as limiting his biting when you are not handling him or near him, that would be difficult. You can deter his biting of certain things like wood rails by coating them with a No Chew product, but that’s a big world out there, so while he is at this stage, perhaps teething, you should focus on his good manners when he is being handled and when you are near him when he is loose.

In terms of gelding him, here is a thorough discussion of why a horse is gelded, when, and aftercare. You should follow your own veterinarian’s advice as to when to geld but do know that many horses are gelding “early” which means before they are a year old – even at weaning – with good results and no negative effects. I don’t want to advise you on that as I can’t see your horse. Your veterinarian has the best picture of your horses, management and so on.

Gelding and Aftercare

Best of luck and remember, there is no substitute for thorough regular effective handling.

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Vices in Horses – Description, Causes and Treatment

Horses are some of the kindest, most generous and trainable animal partners you can find.  That’s why when a horse does something ”bad”, it’s usually due to poor management or training.  In order to deal with vices and bad habits, we need to understand what causes them.  THEN we can design our horse care and training to PREVENT them.

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry HillHow to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

A vice is an abnormal behavior that usually shows up in the barn or stable environment that results from confinement, improper management, or lack of exercise.  A vice can affect a horse’s usefulness, dependability, and health.  Examples are cribbing, weaving, and self-mutilation.

A bad habit is an undesirable behavior that occurs during training or handling and is usually a result of poor techniques and a lack of understanding of horse behavior.  Examples are rearing, halter pulling, striking and kicking. (See previous posts on Bad Habits)

Horse for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have by Cherry Hill

Horse for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have by Cherry Hill

Vices in Horses
This chart is an excerpt from

Horse For Sale ©  2006 Cherry Hill

VICE

DESCRIPTION

CAUSES

TREATMENT

Cribbing Colic, poor keeper (prefers mind drugs over food).
Anchoring of incisors on edge (post, stall ledge), arching neck, gulping air.
Theory: endorphins are released during the behavior; horse is addicted to endorphins which stimulate pleasure center of brain. Incurable.
Cribbing strap prevents contraction of neck muscles; also available with clamps, spikes, electric shock.
Possible future pharmacological treatment.
Surgery possibleMuzzle can be used in some situations.
Pawing Digs holes; tips over feeders & waterers; gets leg caught in fence; wears hooves away, loses shoes; most often young horses. Confinement, boredom, excess feed. Curable.
Provide exercise, diversion, don’t use ground feeders and waterers, use rubber mats, don’t reinforce by feeding.
Formal restraint lessons.
Self Mutilation Bite flanks, front legs, chest, scrotal area with squealing, pawing, and kicking out. Onset 2 yrs, primarily stallions.
Can be endorphin addiction similar to cribbing; can be triggered by confinement, lack of exercise, or sexual frustration.
Manageable/might be curable.
Geld non-breeding stallions; increase exercise, reduce confinement, stall companion or toy, neck cradle, muzzle, possible future pharmacological treatment
Stall Kicking Smashing stall walls & doors with hind hooves resulting in facilities damage and hoof and leg injuries. Confinement; doesn’t like neighbor; gets attention. Can be curable depending on how long-standing the habit.
Increase exercise, change neighbors, pad stall walls or hooves, use kicking chains or kicking shoe, don’t reinforce by feeding.
Tail Rubbing Rhythmically swaying the rear against a fence or stall wall. Initially dirty udder, sheath or tail; shedding HQ, pinworms, ticks & other external parasites or skin conditions. Later, just habit. Manageable with grooming, cleaning sheath and udder, deworming, other medical treatments. For chronic habit, use electric fence.
Weaving/Pacing Swaying back and forth often by stall door or pen gate/Repeatedly walking a path back and forth. Confinement, boredom, excess feed, high strung or stressed horse. Manageable.
Turn out where he can see other horses.
Use specially fitted stall door for weaver.
Wood Chewing Gnawing of wood fences, feeders, stall walls, up to three pounds of wood per day. Lack of course roughage in diet, boredom, teething. Manageable.
Increase roughage in diet.
Decrease palatability of wood.
Increase exercise & activity.
More time out on pasture.

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When Good Horses Do Bad Things

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Most horses are good. However, any horse can become a bad actor with improper care or handling. Certain horses have a predisposition to neurotic breakdown when faced with domestication pressures. This psychological frailty may be genetically inherited, formed from early experiences with the dam or training, or may develop later in life due to disease or trauma. Horses with neurotic tendencies often form vices.

Vices are undesirable habits that horses exhibit in the stable environment and are generally caused by confinement, over feeding, and stress. Examples are cribbing, stall kicking, and weaving.

Bad habits, such as rearing, halter pulling, or tail wringing are undesirable behaviors in response to human handling and are generally caused by rushed or improper training, uncertainty, insecurity, or resentment. A resentful horse is uncooperative and resistant. His resistance can be based on confusion, fear, disrespect, fatigue, and occasionally high spirits.

How  to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillOften a horse’s action is interpreted by humans as misbehavior but is perfectly legitimate horse conduct. Of course, what is acceptable behavior between two horses is not between a horse and a human. Here’s where practical horse psychology, behavior modification, training, attitude adjustment, conditioning, whatever you want to call it, is essential.

Most vices and bad habits are preventable, that is, with forethought and proper management and training, most of them can be avoided. Prevention is the desirable route because once certain habits are established, they can be extremely difficult to change. Some habits are manageable, that is, certain techniques and equipment can be used to diminish the negative effects of the habit, but the underlying habit is still there. If the equipment is not used, the habit resurfaces. A few habits are curable. With carefully planned, diligent efforts, some habits can be permanently changed. Some vices and bad habits are incurable.

Vices and bad habits are best approached in a step-by-step manner:

1. Understand horse behavior and needs
2. Identify and describe the vice or bad habit
3. Determine the cause(s)
4. Make management changes (facilities, exercise, nutrition, conditioning, grooming)
5. Implement appropriate training practices
6. Consider remedial training practices
7. Consider medical and surgical solutions.

UNDERSTANDING HORSE BEHAVIOR AND NEEDS A horse’s natural behavior must be altered somewhat so that the horse can adapt to domestication. Basing these modifications on natural behaviors results in minimal stress and long-lasting results.

Whether or not there is action, there is always behavior. A sullen horse, rigid and unyielding, is “behaving” just as is the wildly bucking one. Behavior that is repeated may become habit (even though it was not a human-designed lesson). Horses are constantly learning as a result of their casual handling and their everyday environment as well as from formal training sessions.

The horse is a gregarious nomad with keen senses and instincts and highly developed reflexes. These characteristics are responsible for sending a reining horse to the winners circle as well as sending a panic-stricken horse through a wire fence. Gregarious animals are sociable herd animals. Given the choice, horses are rarely seen alone, preferring to be in close proximity to other horses; there is safety and comfort in numbers.

Horses perform daily routines in response to various needs: eating, drinking, rolling, playing, participating in mutual grooming. The desire to perform these rituals is not diminished, and in fact is probably intensified, for the horse in confinement. Humans might think a horse Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanacprefers to be clean, clipped and blanketed but most horses will opt for a good roll in the mud. The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is based on firmly implanted habits which are governed by a biological-clock. Many behaviors are socially oriented (and contagious): eating, pawing and rolling, running and bucking, wood chewing, cribbing.

Just because horses want to be with other horses doesn’t mean all horses get along. Battles are fought to determine the pecking order or dominance hierarchy. This establishment of social rank usually makes future aggression unnecessary. Humans occupy a rung on the ladder of power and are tested by horses to see where they stand. A horse handler must convince a horse that the human is on top. Sometimes horses try to interact with humans as if they were horses. While a young horse is being groomed, he often wants to reciprocate as he would to his mutual grooming buddy in the pasture. Even though such a gesture is meant to be friendly, not aggressive, intentions don’t count. The act of nibbling must be discouraged with a clap on the horses neck or shoulder along with a firm “No”. Then get the horse busy doing something else.

Horse  For Sale by Cherry HillIf a horse has not been sufficiently socialized away from other horses and with humans, the horse will be insecure and often will desperately attempt to retain communication with or proximity to herd-mates or the barn. The chronic case is called herd bound or barn sour because the insecure horse links comfort, companionship, and food with the barn. What may originate in a young horse as a temporary insecurity may evolve into a long-standing and dangerous habit. In order to ensure that such a bad habit does not get started, handle horses separately from a very early age.

Look for upcoming posts on specific vices and bad habits.

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