By Heather Smith Thomas
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Additional resources for Care & Management of Horses: A Practical Guide for the Horse Owner
The confined horse has no way to channel his energy or social needs, so he tries to release his frustration through other means such as stall walking, pawing, or cribbing. These rhythmic actions invented by a confined or frustrated horse are similar to other stereotypical behaviors such as paw-licking in bored dogs, cage pacing in zoo animals, feather plucking in caged birds, etc. In horses these repetitive actions were earlier called stall vices and include head bobbing, kicking the wall, chewing at themselves, hanging the tongue out the side of the mouth, blanket chewing, and obsessive water drinking.
You may need only a firmer leg (when mounted), a tug on the halter, or a tap with a whip, depending on the situation.
Whether in stall or paddock, make sure a horse has plenty of feed to keep him busy; he needs a high roughage diet that gives him something to do and keeps his digestive system working properly. Concentrated feeds fall short on both counts. The further you remove a horse from his natural eating and living patterns, the higher the risk of stress-related illnesses and metabolic or behavioral problems. qx 5/21/04 8:24 AM Page 49 3 Practical and Safe Horse Handling HANDLING HORSES SAFELY, EFFICIENTLY, and in their best interest requires a working knowledge of horse psychology.