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Posts Tagged ‘stall kicking’

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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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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