Why Do Horses Paw The Ground: 12 Common Reasons & How To Stop It

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price

A beautiful Appaloosa named Red was my new horse. He would constantly paw at the ground whenever I was near the feed area. Although it didn’t bother me initially, I was concerned that it would become a problem and make it difficult to stop. I was inspired to research why horses paw at the ground and how to stop it.

Two main reasons horses pawe the ground are behavioral and physical. Sometimes, physical pawing is caused by pain and can be accompanied with other symptoms like loss of appetite. On the other hand, behavioral pawing can occur when the horse is hungry, bored, or anticipating food. A horse’s natural behavior may include pawing.

Although pawing is often viewed as an annoying behavior, it can be a sign that your horse is unhappy or has other issues. While horses can and do paw the ground, it is part of their natural behavior. If your horse starts to paw while being ridden or in stables, there may be an underlying problem.

Why do horses paw at the ground?

Although pawing on the ground is a natural part of horses’ behavior, it could also be a sign that something is not right.

Horses can’t tell you when something’s wrong. It’s vital that you are able to read your horse’s body language so that you can identify the problem. If your horse is pawing the ground and also showing other symptoms like a change of mood, weight loss, or abnormal sweating, then it’s time to address the problem.

Why Do Horses Paw The Ground

Even if there are no obvious signs of discomfort or pain, you should consult your veterinarian. They will be able not only to diagnose the problem but also provide treatment.


Horses in pain, particularly if it is abdominal pain like an ulcer and colic often paw the ground to try to ease the pain or at least distract their minds.


Your horse may try to make himself more comfortable by pawing at the ground if his saddle is too tight or his rear cinch rubs against him. You should inspect your horse’s tack and make sure it is properly fitted. If it isn’t, it could lead to worse behavior problems such as discomfort that turns into pain.


Although it might seem counterintuitive, some infections can cause changes in your horse’s behavior. A course of antibiotics can usually resolve these issues.


If your horse is not pawing on the ground for any reason (and it’s not part in his natural behavior), then it could be a behavioral problem. While it’s unlikely to be serious, you should still resolve it. It’ll make your horse happier.


Your horse may be trying to get your attention, or the attention of another horse. Pawing the ground is one common method of getting your attention. Horses will paw at the ground, unlike us calling out to them or whimpering to get our attention.


Horses are intelligent and need stimulation. If they’re left alone for long periods of time, or if they have nothing to do, they can get very bored. Boredom can lead to horses kicking at their stall doors or pawing the ground. This is a way for them to pass the time and relieve boredom.


Although this is not a common occurrence, it should be addressed. If your horse straightens his legs while pawing at ground, he may be trying to assert his authority. If he does it in front of you, then he is trying to show you that he is the boss. However, if he does it in the field, then he is claiming that he is in charge of the herd (or wants to).

Excessive energy

Horses who are given high-energy foods but are not exercising enough can start to paw the ground. This is a way for them to get rid of excess energy and let off steam. This pawing usually takes place while the horse remains stabled, but it can also take place while they are outside. However, this is more likely than more serious vices like rearing.


You may sigh out frustration if you don’t get what someone is asking. Horses are the same, except that they paw at the ground (though they might sigh). Your horse may not be being a bad-tempered horse or refusing to do what you ask. It is simply that he doesn’t know. You should not leave your horse tied up too long. He may vent his frustrations by pawing at the ground.


You’ve all been there. While you prepare your horse’s meal, he begins to paw at the ground. He’s anticipating his food and getting impatient. This is the most common reason horses paw at the ground. However, it’s also one of the most annoying traits we can ignore. This type of pawing is also seen in horses who are eager to be turned out, brought into the barn, or just want to do something.


Flies can cause horses to swish or stamp their feet, and they will also be able to paw at the ground. The flies are irritating horses and can be annoying.


Horses that have been kept away from other horses for long periods of time can become bored. Horses without companions can also begin to paw at the ground due to boredom, loneliness, stress, and boredom. Horses are herd animals and need companionship. If that is not possible, then other horses or alpacas are options.


There are many reasons horses may pawe the ground. However, it is possible that they are anxious or worried about something.

Natural behavior

Wild horses can also pawe the ground, unlike other behavior.


Horses can have difficulty getting to grass if the ground is covered in snow or frozen. They will often gently plow the ground to remove any snow and ice. Horses can also dig roots.

Play or have fun

Horses can have fun!


Horses are naturally curious and will use their muzzles, or their hooves, to explore the world around them. Although this behavior is often mistakenly thought to be pawing, it is actually the horse trying to feel what it is and if it poses a threat. This behavior is more common in foals, but it can also be observed in horses of all ages, especially when they encounter something unfamiliar or new.


Horses will often paw at the ground before they roll. This will allow the earth to be loosened, which can then be used to cool or protect the horse from the sun. This can be used to relieve an itching or dry the horse’s coat if they are wet.

Waiting for their turn

Horse herds are highly hierarchical, with lower-ranking horses having to wait for their turn for water. They may paw at the ground while waiting, but it’s not clear if this is to show their horses that they are still there.

What can I do to find out why my horse is pawing at the ground?

Your veterinarian will be able tell you if your horse is pawing because they have checked it over. They’ll let you know if there is. If not, you can look at the behavior of your horse to determine if it’s a physical problem.

Most cases will be obvious. For example, if your horse spends most of his day in a stable, there is a high likelihood that he’s bored. If there is no obvious reason, you may want to consult a specialist equine behavior therapist. They will talk with you about your horse’s personality and lifestyle, and help you to address the problem.

Can a horse be hurt by pawing on the ground?

Most horses won’t pawe the ground, even if it’s only occasionally. However, if your horse does it constantly, he could cause damage to his hooves. They are essentially filing their hooves over rough or hard ground. This can cause uneven hooves that often require corrective shoeing.

Your horse may pawe with any force, which could cause shock injuries to his legs, hooves and joints. Even if your horse is pawing behaviorally, you should stop him from doing so.

What can I do to stop my horse from pawing at the ground?

To stop your horse pawing at your ground, first determine why. If you don’t find any obvious reason, consult your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able examine your horse and perform bloodwork to determine if there is an infection. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your horse and perform blood work to determine if there is a medical reason for his behavior.

However, if your vet doesn’t identify a physical cause, then you should look at the environment and lifestyle of your horse to determine the root cause.


Some say your horse will paw more if you don’t pay attention to him when he is pawing at the ground. Others say if your attention is focused on your horse, he won’t need your attention. Both arguments are valid. However, the best way to keep your horse busy is to give him something to do. This can be done by allowing your horse to interact with other horses, giving him toys, or exercising him more.


The solution is to get your horse out more often. However, if your horse is on stall rest and quarantined, then this is not an option. It’s best to distract your horse as often as possible if this is the case. Horse-friendly mirrors, such as self-adhesive ones, will give your horse the impression that other horses are nearby. Stall toys like Bizzy Bites will keep his attention for long periods.


You must assert your authority as the leader if your horse attempts to tell you he is the boss. Although it can seem difficult, simple groundwork exercises can help you establish boundaries and set expectations.

Excessive energy

Horses that are too energetic eat more grain than their actual workload. They have an excess of energy and need to channel it somewhere. You can reduce the amount of grain your horse eats or increase his workload to solve this problem. This behavior can be stopped by allowing your horse to socialize with other horses. Horses at pasture, even though you may not know it, are able to expend a lot of energy just walking around.


Be patient with your horse if he is not understanding what you are asking him to do. You shouldn’t shout at your horse if he does something wrong. Instead, praise him for doing it right and reward him with praises. Ask a friend to help you get your horse to do the right thing. Horses learn from each other and this can be far more beneficial than you might think.

If your horse is frustrated by having to wait for too long, you can untie him and walk him around for a few minutes.


Although we may think that asking for food is a sweet thing, it should be discouraged. This can be done by changing your routine from time to time. For example, instead of feeding your horse first before grooming, you should feed him afterwards every now and again. It will be harder for your horse learn what you are going to do and when. If you feed your horse while he paws the ground, it will encourage him to do so more often.


You should get rid of all flies that could be a threat to your horse’s health. Fly traps and masks will catch the flies and keep them away from horses’ faces. This article I wrote recently about how to get rid of mosquitoes.


Your horse won’t paw at the ground if it isn’t only. He’ll be occupied by a companion to keep him busy and avoid bad habits.


It’s crucial to identify the root cause of your horse’s nervousness before you can stop him from pawing. Most cases will stop pawing once your horse has overcome his nervousness.

Allison Price
Allison Price

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!