Vices, Horses and What To Do
By Jo Thompson
An equine vice is really just another name for a bad habit. Most of these vices are pretty harmless but maybe annoying, while other habits can seriously affect your horse’s wellbeing. Many of these vices can be ignored, while others need to be dealt with and stopped. If the vice is extremely severe all you may be able to do is try to make life more comfortable for the horse. Horses seem to develop vices for any number of reasons, but the majority appears to develop them because of boredom.
Out of all the vices, here are three that you are likely to encounter.
Wind Sucking also known as cribbing, is more common than you think. Wind sucking is characterized by the horse biting onto something hard like a stall door or fence post and sucking in and swallowing air.
It does vary in degree of severity. Some horse you will hardly recognize the behavior and yet in others it can be lethal.
The air the horse sucks in can then enter the gut where it can cause air pockets. This may result in severe gas colic if the horse is unable to release the gas. The air sucked in during cribbing can also hinder digestion.
It is thought that horses wind suck because they get an endorphin rush that causes a kind of “high”. Generally, a horse can be treated by wearing a cribbing collar, which sit around the neck and prevents the sucking motion. In severe cases the horse may require drugs or surgery though the collar will often work.
Weaving is where your horse will sway from side to side on its front legs. A weaver may do this when they have to stand still for a long period of time and or are bored. You will generally spot this vice when the horse is tethered or standing in its stall. It seems to occur because the horse becomes bored though it may also occur due to stress. Once again it is thought that the weaving somehow release endorphins.
My sisters best eventing horse was a weaver, which was a good thing in a way. Her mare started life at a racing stable and was in training to be a race horse but because she developed such bad weaving she was retired before ever racing. And thus my sister came to own her and she turned out to be a fantastic eventing horse and now mother to hopefully more great ridding horses. She only did weaving when stabled, so we just never kept her stabled.
You will find this the case with many weavers. If you keep them occupied eating in the paddock or munching on hay then the weaving stops.
Door and Wall Kicking can be most annoying. Whilst most common at feeding time in a stall, I had a horse that did it when been floated. He must have liked traveling because he only did it when we stopped, so fuel stops were very quick and we always got him off quickly when we arrived. Otherwise, he would kick so hard as to destroy the truck.
It seems to be triggered by boredom and some horses that are stalled for long periods may begin kicking for amusement. Whilst it is annoying it can become dangerous, some horses can actually kick hard enough that they break the bones in their ankles. While this is an extreme case, wall kickers may will obviously be a high risk for lameness and leg issues.
Hope this assists with your horse’s vice.
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