Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price
Q: I adopted an ex-racehorse who is a sweetheart. I feed him only and he spends his time in the pasture with my horses. He weaves when he’s in his stall, which is a concern for me. He will sometimes just stand and weave his heads back and forth. Other times, he’ll move both his front feet and his head. He can even weave while eating: He grabs one bite and walks up and back to his stall. Then he grabs another and continues walking.
My veterinarian examined him and found that he is in good health. He weaves because he is bored, but that’s not what I believe since he spends so much time in his stall. I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to stop him from doing this.
Name withheld upon requestAvoiding confining your horse in a stall for any reason, even to get his food, is the best way to stop weaving.
A: Weaving can be described as a stereotypy. This is a compulsive, repetitive behavior that has no purpose. A weaving horse is one that moves his weight from one side to the other while moving his neck and head back and forth. Stall walker is a horse that walks obsessively up and down his stall. Some horses may compulsively walk along the fence while being turned out.
These behaviors are often attributed to boredom. However, this is not the case. There is nothing more boring than slowly walking across a field, taking only a few grass bites every few steps. Horses love to be occupied in this way. They don’t like solitude. Horses are herd animals and fear being separated from their fellow horses. Horses naturally move away from danger and weave is their escape strategy. Actually, the horse is walking in place. Your horse is probably weaving at his stall door, which I believe is his escape route. I’ve never seen a horse weave while his rump is pointed toward the stall door. It seems like your horse is grazing in that you see him weave a few times, then take a bite of food, then weave again, as if he were out on pasture.
Avoid confining your horse in a stall for any reason, even for meals. This will help you curb the behavior. If the buckets are placed far enough apart and the horses can be tied while they eat their grain, you might be able feed them on pasture.
You can use other methods to stop your horse from weaving if you have to bring him into a stall for feeding. You can let your horse see other horses, or give him a stall that has windows so he can look out at the other members of the herd. Horses are calmed more by seeing horses in pasture than being in stalls.
Mirrors may be helpful. Mirrors may also help horses recognize themselves in the mirror. A metal or plastic mirror is safer than a glass one. You can also put the mirror behind a screen to protect it from breaking. Even horses posters have been proven to reduce weaving.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!