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Boredom Can Lead To Bad Habits
WRITTEN BY: RIRDC Equine Research News   [March 1995]

Abnormal behaviour in horses includes such activities as weaving, crib biting, wind sucking, wood chewing and stall walking. A recent survey looked at the time that dressage, endurance and eventing horses spent in the stable and the prevalence of abnormal behaviours in these horses (PD McGreevy, NP French and CJ Nicol The prevalence of abnormal behaviours in dressage, eventing and endurance horses in relation to stabling The Veterinary Record July 1995 pg. 36).

A horse, crib biting and windsucking
A horse, crib biting and windsucking

The study found that endurance horses spent the most time out of the stable and also showed the least incidence of abnormal behaviour there being a total of 19% of the 211 endurance horses in the survey. The group of 744 dressage horses showed the highest incidence of behavioural problems, with 32.5% of these horses displaying one or more types of abnormal behaviour. The dressage horses in the survey spent significantly more time in the stable that either of the other groups. Eventing horses spent more time in the stable than endurance horses and less than dressage horses. Of the 796 eventing horses, 30.8% showed abnormal behaviour, which was similar to the dressage group but still much higher than the endurance group.

Another survey carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol (PD McGreevy, PJ Cripps, NP French, LE Green and CJ Nicol Management factors associated with stereotypic and redirected behaviour in the Thoroughbred horse Equine Veterinary Journal 1995 Vol. 27 No. 2 pg. 86) examined a number of other factors that may contribute to the incidence of abnormal behaviour in racing stables.

The study showed that by offering horses relatively high amounts of roughage, there was a reduction in abnormal behaviour especially if the roughage was offered at frequent intervals. Supplying horses with roughage other than hay can also reduce the risk of abnormal behaviour. Feeding chaff and hay as roughage seems to be better than feeding hay alone as this better approximates the variety of food the horse would have on pasture. The design of the stable also is important; horses on straw bedding were less likely to show abnormal behaviour, as were horses that had a view of other horses in the yard.

Reprinted from the RIRDC Equine Research News with the permission of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

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