Weird Horse Behaviors: What Do They Mean and How to Deal with Them
Horses, just like people communicate through body language such as postures and gestures. Therefore, it is important for you to take your time and learn about some of the weird horse behaviors and how to deal with them effectively.
With horses, aggression is a common problem. Aggressive horses usually chase, kick, bite and neck wrestle to name a few. You can easily tell when your horse is aggressive through his body language. Some of the signs to look out for include flattened ears facing backward, quick tail movements, bowing of the head, retracted lips, snoring, threats to kick and squealing.
Aggression normally stems from being confined. Horses are social creatures. They love spending most their time in the field eating, playing and relaxing. When confined for a long time, they get frustrated and aggressive towards other horses and people.
There are two types of aggression namely fear aggression and dominance aggression. Fear aggression is caused by poor treatment, physical abuse and night blindness due to confinement in dark stalls. Dominance aggression is usually towards other horses most of the time. It can be dangerous to keep a horse who is aggressive towards people because he can kill.
So, how can you manage an aggressive horse? You should identify the cause of aggression and eliminate it. You can control aggressive behavior through conditioning and desensitization. You can also reward your horse regularly with good food, attention, exercise and grooming. Your horse should have adequate space, food and water all the time. Sometimes, aggression is hereditary. In such cases, aggressive horses should be neutered.
2. Eating Disorders
Chewing wood is an eating disorder that involves grasping wood using the front teeth and swallowing it. It signals lack of roughage in the diet. When horses are under free range, they graze for about eight to fourteen hours every day. On the other hand, when confined, they eat less than three to four hours a day. Chewing wood is common with horses who are fed pellets most of the time. Horses chew wood due to boredom, prolonged confinement and lack of regular exercise. If not controlled, wood chewing can be extreme. Addressing the problem before it escalates is very important. You can eliminate this behavior by providing more roughage, exercising and increasing free range time. You can also cover exposed wood in the stables.
Eating feces or coprophagia is a common behavior in foals. It normally happens during the second month after birth and declines gradually as the foal grows. According to essays on time foals indulge in this behavior because they need certain nutrients and bacteria. If a fully grown horse indulges in this behavior, it could signal low roughage in his diet or a dietary deficiency. Consulting a veterinarian can solve this issue.
- Pica is the consumption of items that are not food such as sand or soil. Consumption of such items can lead to serious digestive complications. You should not take this behavior lightly. Horses are supposed to spend most of their time grazing. If you interfere by confining your horse for a lengthy period and giving him concentrated feeds, he will get bored and start indulging in abnormal behaviors. You can prevent this by adding roughage and salt blocks to his diet. You can also increase grazing time.
Anorexia or loss of appetite is normally associated with changes in environment or relationships. As we said earlier, horses are social creatures. If a horse is separated from his companion, he will stop eating. Also, hierarchy matters. A submissive horse cannot eat near a dominating and aggressive horse. If your horse is not eating, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will determine if it’s a behavioral or medical issue. Poor appetite in foals could be due to poor weaning or an aggressive mare attacking a foal that wants to share its mother’s food. You should erect barriers to enhance normal development and feeding. The foal’s food should be placed near its mother for them to bond.
Obesity is a health condition that is caused by lack of exercise, increased food intake and under stimulation. If your horse is obese, do not remove food abruptly instead, decrease it gradually while increasing exercise and social contact with people and other horses. You should also consult a veterinarian before making any adjustments on his diet.
3. Sexual related behaviors
- Poor libido commonly affects stallions who are overused or injured when breeding. Again, masturbation is a common behavior among horses. However, masturbation depletes the value of semen because stallions that masturbate do not ejaculate. If a stallion has been overused, he should be left to rest and recover.
Also, environment plays an important role when breeding. If the environment is not right, stallions will show signs of poor libido. Rough handling, yelling and other distractions will lead to the stallion losing interest.
If a stallion has poor libido, you can have him watch other stallions mate or use an artificial vagina and other medications that your veterinarian may prescribe. Providing him with several mares can also boost his libido. After this exercise, ensure your stallion is well fed and rested.
- Nymphomania is a common sexual behavior in mares that arises due to changes in the ovary. A nymphomanic mare shows the clitoris, squats and urinates frequently even when they are not in heat. Mating behaviors should not be considered abnormal if they occur every 21 days as the mare cycles. Mares that are not in heat but are receptive to stallions should be checked by a veterinarian.
4. Fear and phobia
Your horse can show signs of fear and phobia. Fear arises when your horse perceives a real or imaginary threat. Phobia is a sudden and profound fear that leads to panic. It can also be defined as an exaggerated fear. Horses become fearful due to environment and noise. Most horses fear new environments. If your horse is fearful, you have to discover the cause.
You can either choose to eliminate the cause or desensitize and condition the horse. For example, if the horse is afraid of noise, you can play a song in low volume while petting him gently or giving him treats.
If the horse is calm, you can continue increasing the volume gradually. Desensitizing and conditioning a horse takes time before the results to show. Patience is key. You should never punish or physically abuse your horse as this will only escalate the fear.
Horses can be wonderful companions or rough enemies. The secret is how you treat them. If you know how to treat and look after them, they will reciprocate the love. If you confine and punish them, they will return the favor.
If it escalates, they can kill you. Since you want to have a great relationship with your horse, it’s important for you to understand his verbal and non-verbal communication. The body languages discussed above will help you understand what your horse is going through and come up with effective solutions to eliminate the cause. If you don’t understand what’s wrong with your horse, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.
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