Stall Walking

Also Known As

Repetitious walking in stall

Description

Stall walking is a stereotypie or stable vice characterized by the horse walking either around or across the stall in a repeated pattern. Commonly considered a problem brought on by boredom, knowledgeable handlers and owners of horses realize the problem is more complex and often relates to temperament, confinement, lack of interaction with other horses, and/or lack of grazing time.

Symptoms

  • Repetitious walking
  • Nervous, upset manner
  • Trance-like state
  • Going without water or food for a prolonged period of time

Causes

Although stall walking is often considered the result of boredom on the part of the horse, the causes are far more complex and relate to the the horse's genetics, individual temperament, pasture or turn-out time, social interaction with other horses and with handlers, type and amount of exercise, and anxiety.

Horses that spend a great deal of time in a pasture situation with other horses seldom engage in stall walking. Some horses stall walk after having their manes or tails braided or groomed, which indicates they know they are going to a show and are anxious about the upcoming activity.

Stall walking may also be caused by a lack of a variety of feed that provides adequate fiber in the diet and that is available on a more natural schedule. Good quality feed that is available at least several times a day not only relieves boredom, but is consistent with the horse's natural desire to graze.

Stable conditions can contribute to development of vices. Wind drafts, too high or too low temperatures, poor ventilation, or too high or too low light intensity can contribute to discomfort and restlessness that can develop into a repetitious pattern of physical activity.

Prevention

Good horse management appears to be the best prevention of stall walking. Research and general observation show that horses with living conditions similar to horses in a natural habitat do not engage in these behaviors.

Horses need a certain amount of pasture time with room to graze and interact with other horses. They also need adequate exercise, along with a trusting relationship with owners and handlers.

Treatment

Treatment of stall walking depends on the individual horse's temperament and living conditions. For the most part, some stall walking will not harm the horse unless it is engaged in to the point that it affects the hoofs, physical health, or performance level.

Usually, putting the horse out to pasture for a period of time will eliminate stall walking. If that is not possible, making sure the horse has a variety of feed, daily exercise, and interaction with other horses or companion animals will often resolve the problem.

If the stall walking occurs as a reaction to an activity such as braiding the mane before a show, vary the pattern by braiding the mane randomly at different times, not just before a show. If the behavior is becoming compulsive and is threatening the health of the horse, a veterinarian or horse trainer should be consulted.

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