Weaving in Horses

Something that we see often in stalls and paddocks are horses weaving. A lot of people wonder why horses weave and a quick search will show an abundance of articles on the topic of weaving horses.

Simply put, weaving is what happens for horses that aren’t handling their environment well. Cribbing is another good example, or wind sucking, or kicking doors and walls. Each of these undesirable behaviors are not only undesirable to you, they are to the horse as well. Given the option, no horse would start cribbing, weaving, kicking things etc, and instead they would lead a very normal horse life of eating grass and wandering around with the herd.

One of the most common environments that a horse will weave in is a stall. Some do in paddocks or any confined area where they have either nothing to do or nowhere to go. They may also do this because they can’t see their buddies, or perhaps just out of food and water. This behavior is induced by stress and it’s very very important to deal with, as stress leads to all kinds problems for horses, some which can lead to injury to themselves or their owners.

This type of weaving can probably be seen at almost any stable or barn that has horses on board that have turn in, “there’s always one”, kind of thing. When we look at this, it’s important to just analyze what the horse is feeling and thinking to get to this point. Some horses don’t do anything and just dully hang out in a stall or paddock waiting for their life to just continue. Some don’t and in fact there is a video that went around the internet of a guy walking by a stall with a bucket of water and a horse just lurched out at him to knock him over.

When we look at a horse that is weaving, and most likely pinning it’s ears when doing so, we can determine that most likely it’s not happy. If it’s not happy then there are repercussions. In the case of the guy in the video, he got knocked over and possibly hurt. In turn he “punishes” the horse by throwing water at it in anger. This unfortunately only exacerbates the problem and has the horse feeling justified to have done so as obviously this human was going to throw water at him.

These types of behaviors start with weaving, cribbing, kicking walls etc. If left unchecked and not dealt with in a way that is healthy for the horse, it can quickly get out of hand and cause injury to the horse, owner or just somebody at the stable or barn.

The bottom line is that weaving is what some people call a “vice”. A way for the horse to get by in it’s life. Kind of like shaking leg syndrome in humans, or nail biting perhaps. These each become habits to deal with stress, impatience, frustration, boredom etc. Weaving is not something you want your horse to do, as again, this can lead to worse behaviors. I know first hand that the horse in the second clip is an absolute danger to it’s owner and likely anybody that handles it. This isn’t the horse’s fault and no punishment should be dealt out to it for it. The environment the horse was placed in has set it up to fail like this.

The easy answer to this particular problem is to allow the horse to get out more. Whether that is pure pasture board, or just plain far more time outside of it’s stall or paddock. Somewhere to burn off energy, talk and play with other horses, travel, walk, explore and use it’s mind. Anything that removes it from that environment. I say it’s the “easy answer” because it’s not always so easy to find such an environment for our horses. In some cases we don’t have the option to put our horses out to a pasture or field. Turnout into an arena may not even be possible. In these cases then take your horse for a walk, jog a little if you can. Do lots of turns, backing up, walking calmly etc. Bring a few treats maybe or find bits of grass if possible to just let your horse know that it can relax and enjoy the time.

If none of the above is possible then you will likely forever have a horse that will weave. Other undesirable behaviors may start to show themselves, poor “listening”, pushiness, obvious aggression and defensive maneuvers may happen. All of these lead to a less safe horse and environment to be in. As much as you can, play with your horse, ride it, walk it, let it out to walk around and/or play with other horses. It’s the days on end stuck in a small area that drive them nuts, and in some cases as can be seen above, it could be the neighbor.

While weaving isn’t the end of the world, it’s a clue as to how your horse is managing it’s life. Do what you can within your abilities and time constraints if you can’t completely switch out the environment. Hopefully in time you can help your horse lead a less stressful life and be ok with just hanging around without having to do some form of obsessive behavior.