By Heather Smith Thomas
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Extra info for Care & Management of Horses: A Practical Guide for the Horse Owner
When a horse develops abnormal behavior, it’s a clue that something is seriously wrong with his environment and his needs are not being met. Once established, a stereotypic behavior can become a need in itself, and the horse insists on continuing it. Underfeeding, restricted feeding, and insufficient roughage are triggers for oral compulsions, such as cribbing, that later become preferred pastimes regardless of how much feed the horse is given. When dealing with a horse that performs stereotypic actions, it is important to remember that punishment is not effective and that the behavior is simply a result of the horse’s attempt to cope with a stressful environment.
He may fracture the coffin bone or pastern bone when kicking a solid wall. This behavior is considered a stereotypy if a horse repeatedly strikes the wall or floor of the stall. The sound made by kicking or banging may be enough to stimulate the horse to keep doing it. When a horse exhibits this type of behavior only at feeding time or when someone is in the barn (as an attention-getting device, hoping for food), it is a ritualized pattern rather than a stereotypy, since the behavior is only associated with feeding and is not an obsessive/compulsive action.
Wood chewing often occurs at night and early morning. A confined horse that is being ridden or exercised during the day is not as restless and bored at night; he is content to rest — unless he is shortchanged on roughage. Horses at pasture graze a lot at night, but confined horses don’t have as much food to occupy their time and often do some nocturnal wood chewing. Giving the horse more exercise during the day and more grass hay in the evenings (not alfalfa, unless it is overly mature and stemmy, providing more fiber) to keep him occupied longer may solve the problem.
Care & Management of Horses: A Practical Guide for the Horse Owner by Heather Smith Thomas