Avoid use of anti-weave grills. These can be fitted to stables to force the horse to stop weaving; however this creates an even smaller, more claustrophobic space for the horse, which will only add to their stress, so this is highly discouraged!
Watch the horse carefully. If the horse is not able to move freely or be with its herd, and the horse isn’t permitted perform the vice, he/she will become even more stressed.
- Try a very gradual approach to increasing outdoor activity and herd-time for about 6 weeks to give the horse time to adjust to the new situation.
Continue to gradually increase the outdoor activity and herd-time for another six weeks, if the abnormal behavior is still present. At some point, you may realize that the horse has other reasons to be stressed, which is why the behaviour has not gone away completely.
- If a horse has been performing the abnormal behaviour for a long time, it may be because of trauma suffered at a young age (such as being weaned too early, or in an insensitive way). A horse that learned a behaviour early in life due to traumatic events may carry that behaviour until he/she learns that the behaviour is no longer necessary.
- This is especially true with wall-kicking during feeding time, in which case you may need to try many different ways of feeding your horse to figure out the least stressful method. This could involve a floor pan instead of a bucket hung on the wall, or a different corner, or a nose bag instead of a bucket, or feeding within a wider window of time instead of exactly at the same time every day. Be creative and don’t be afraid to try something if no one can give you a really good reason why you shouldn’t.
Speak with the barn/stable staff and/or all of the horse’s handlers (and riders, if any) about their reactions to the horse’s vices. Do they pay more attention to the horse when he/she kicks, weaves or stall walks? Do they give the horse more hay if he/she kicks the wall? Do they yell, strike, throw water or objects or otherwise try to actively/physically discourage or stop the horse from the behaviour? Anything other than completely ignoring the behaviour when it happens may be reinforcing the behaviour.
- If it turns out the people around the horse do try any of these tactics, ask them to change their responses. They should completely ignore the horse until the behaviour stops, and then as soon as it stops, they should put the horse out or let him/her have some quality herd-time. This may take many months of pretending to not hear the horse kicking or seeing them weave or stall-walk, but if everyone is consistent and the horse is receiving increasing outdoor and herd-time, the behaviour should subside. Be patient and diligent – horses are not machines, and sometimes it takes time for them to adjust to a healthier way of behaving.
- In the meantime, protect walls and doors with wooden or rubber kick boards
Get the horse’s feet and legs checked regularly for abnormal wear and tear caused by the stereotype behaviour.
Be patient. Remember that as your horse becomes more happy and stress free, the abnormal behaviour will fade into an occasional annoyance, and may possibly disappear altogether.
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