Weaving

Also Known As

Locomotor stereotypy

Description

Weaving is a stereotypic behavior that usually occurs in the horse's stall, although some horses weave in other settings. Essentially, the horse walks in place, stepping off first with one front foot and then the other, while bobbing the head and neck from side-to-side.

The horse often goes into a trance-like state while engaging in this behavior, which can lead to strain or injury to the joints, tendons, ligaments, or hooves over time. Allowed to continue for a significant length of time, the horse may be tired from the constant exertion and may lose weight if the behavior interferes with eating and drinking.

Symptoms

  • Horse walks in place, bobbing and weaving head and neck rhythmically
  • Behavior may lead to trance-like state
  • Damage to hooves occurs over period of time
  • Weight loss may be noticeable

Causes

The cause of weaving is often believed to be boredom on the part of the horse, but most horsemen believe that the behavior is more complex than simple boredom. Horses are social animals and enjoy being part of the herd. Studies show that horses that are surrounded by other horses, even if in individual stalls, seldom engage in weaving and other stable vices, and the general consensus is that separation anxiety plays a part in weaving behavior.

The stress of a sudden change in routine or ownership may cause the horse to engage in stall behaviors, such as weaving, to relieve anxiety.

A lack of grazing time and the visual stimulation that comes from such activities is also recognized as a possible cause of weaving. A horse that is grazing in a pasture engages in plenty of movement and receives visual stimulation during the grazing process. Certainly, spending most of the day and night in a stall does not correlate well with the natural state of the horse living in a herd outdoors.

Prevention

Making sure that a horse has plenty of exercise to relieve pent-up energy, along with time to graze, especially with other horses or animals present, are important ways to prevent stable vices such as weaving. Feeding horses natural feed on a natural schedule or several times a day also helps relieve the monotony of confinement. .

Treatment

Treatment of a stall vice such as weaving works best when the horse's environment is changed to better resemble the natural life of a horse in a herd, while getting most of its feed from grazing, plus engaging in enough physical exercise to release pent-up energy.

If it is impossible to make these changes to the horse's environment, the best alternatives include providing companions -- either other horses or animals, installing metal mirrors at eye level for visual stimulation, increasing the number of feedings per day, as well as making sure the horse has plenty of roughage and minerals in the diet, getting the horse out to exercise as much as possible, and keeping stalls well-ventilated.

Once established, these vice-type habits are difficult to break. A veterinarian may be able to offer good advice about how to work with the individual horse to change any behavior that might cause physical injury or result in less-than-optimum health and performance.

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