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 Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook (Howell Reference Books)

How to Think Like A Horse: The Essential Handbook for Understanding Why Horses Do What They Do

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities


Weaving and Stall Walking

Weaving and stall walking are vices that many horse people fear. However, while either one can be a very annoying vice, they may possibly have a worse reputation than they deserves. Weaving can create health issues, which will be covered later on, but thankfully, both are fairly easy to resolve.


Many of us are familiar with the term weaving, whereas they might not know much about stall walking. Stall walkers circle their stalls in a constant fashion, usually in the same direction all the time. Their speed in walking through the stall indicates their mood, generally speaking. If a horse is walking slowly, he probably has an overall dislike of his surroundings or situation, whereas if he is circling really quickly, he's probably very anxious or stressed out.


Weaving is when a horse basically "walks in place", swaying his front end and neck/head from side to side repetitively. This usually happens by the stall door, when the horse can look through the door. Some experts believe that horses do this to provide visual stimulation as he watches the background change as he sways side to side. Most of the time weaving is caused by isolation or a lack of companionship for a horse, or if the horse is unhappy with its atmosphere - not necessarily by boredom, as is generally thought.


If a horse has to stay in a stall all the time, make sure to provide as much mental stimulation as possible - windows, clear view of other horses, and lots of hay. There are toys and boredom busters you can purchase for your horse too. Usually, stall walking and weaving come with separation anxiety. If horses are separated from their herd for a long time, they can become unhappy and circle, whinny, etc. Usually, even having other horses in surrounding stalls is plenty to prevent a horse from forming these behaviors.


Weaving, like many other vices, is an expression of boredom or frustration from the horse. It's born out of a desire to be anywhere but in the stall. Over time, weaving can become such a bad habit that even when the horse is taken out of its stall and put in a pasture, it will continue to pace or weave. Most of the time, if a horse spends enough time in h field, the horse will eventually return to its normal walking and grazing behavior.


Unfortunately, this is a habit that takes a long time to break. It won't happen in the space or just a few hours or days - it will probably take a permanent change - take the horse completely out of its stall and turn it out permanently. It's well worth turning the horse out permanently though - by pacing or weaving, the horse is probably damaging its legs. Constant swaying puts extra stress on the horse's tendons and the ligaments on their forelegs. Turning a weaver out with other horses will eventually rehabilitate the habitual weaver.


The good news is that this doesn't appear to be a vice that "catches" from other horses - it tends to be more of a genetic disposition trait than from spreading to other horses. Thankfully, weaving and stall walking are less harmful to a horse than many other less desirable vices. Repetitive weaving or stall walking can create unnatural wear on the horse's hooves or the stall floor - both of these problems are easily solved, though. Put rubber mats down on the floor of your horse's stall to keep from damaging the stall and creating dangerous ruts, and put shoes on your horse to keep his feet from becoming worn down unevenly.


The best solutions for weaving and stall walking are lots of hay, constant companionship, and full-time turnout. It's impossible to guarantee that a horse can be broken completely of either habit, but there is a very good chance that they will "kick" the habit once and for all.