How to fix your horse’s bad habits – part 1

by horselover2


Some horses have bad habits when they are put into stalls.  Whether these habits were learned from another horse, caused by boredom, or are just part of the horse’s personality, they need to be stopped.  The main stall vices that horses have are pawing, cribbing, chewing, and kicking.  Each of these bad habits can cause harm to the horse.  In addition, each of these habits is somewhat hard to break. 

How does an owner stop their horse from pawing, cribbing, chewing, and kicking before the horse harms itself?  Although the process of stopping these vices can be difficult, they are worth the time, money, and effort in the long run.  Once the habit is curbed, the horse will no longer risk injury nor will the stall continually be destroyed.  This article is divided into four sections.  Each section explains how to break the previously mentioned vices. 

Part 1 – Pawing

Many horses paw to show impatience.  If a horse paws sporadically, it is rarely an issue.  However, if a horse starts pawing constantly, it can cause some significant damage.  When a horse paws consistently, they can risk hurting their hoof, pastern, coffin bone, ligaments, and muscles.  For this reason, it is important to stop any horse with this habit. 

Pawing is often one of the more difficult habits to change.  There are a few steps that can be taken to protect the horse from injury. To protect the horse from injury, it is often beneficial to line the horse’s stall with rubber mats.  This will absorb a good deal of the pressure on the horse’s leg that is created each time the horse’s hoof hits the ground. 

When it comes to stopping this habit, there are a few steps that the owner can take.  If the horse is pawing out of impatience; for instance, if the horse only seems to paw when it is feeding or turn out time, then ignoring the horse is the key.  As an owner, if you feed or quickly turn out the horse to stop the pawing, then the horse is being rewarded for pawing.  Instead, if the horse is pawing, he/she should have to wait until the pawing has stopped.  Feel free to lightly reprimand the horse to get the pawing to stop (this does not mean hitting).  Nonetheless, the horse should not be fed or turned out until the behavior has stopped for at least a couple of minutes.  Owners should not allow the horse’s will to be stronger than their own. 

If the horse is pawing out of sheer boredom, this habit can be a bit harder to break.  Padding the stall will be beneficial for reducing the risk of injury, but it will not stop the habit.  To stop the habit, owners can first provide the animal with a distraction such as a stall toy.  Keeping the horse occupied can curb the horse’s need to paw.  

The other option that horse owners have is to purchase a shock collar specially made for horses.  By “correcting” the horse each time it paws with a small electrical shock, the horse will come to associate the discomfort with pawing and not with the owner.