While there are many reasons for stalling a horse, these are only a few. First and foremost, stalling a horse can cause emotional stress and can lower cortisol levels. Stalling a horse can also cause cribbing, which is undesirable for your pasture.
So what are the reasons for stall training?
Read on to find out!
Stalling a horse causes emotional stress.
Stalling a horse causes emotional stress for many reasons, including physical factors that impact the body, athleticism, and mechanics of motion. Specifically, it causes chronic, unavoidable stress, which encourages the body to develop coping mechanisms.
This can manifest in various ways, such as exhibiting vices, pulling back while tied, or playing hard to catch. In addition, stall rest prevents the horse from getting the exercise and socialization it needs.
It reduces cortisol levels.
The HPA response in horses is a biomarker of stress and welfare state. Although the HPA response is usually high in horses confined in stables, there was no difference between the two groups when the horses were stalled.
Stallions are known to be under high cortisol levels during their confinement, which is a major reason why they are often considered therapeutic animals.
It can lead to cribbing.
Cribbing is a behavioral problem with many health consequences for horses. It is common for the upper incisors of a horse to wear down as it cribs on hard surfaces, which can lead to a deficiency of forage.
Cribbing can even lead to a horse needing a complete feed. If your horse exhibits this behavior, you may want to consider switching your horse’s diet.
It damages pasture
The physical risks of stalling a horse on a pasture are well documented. Stall-confined horses have been known to engage in physical misbehavior. These risks are minimized by introducing your horse to pasture boundaries and finding a pasture mate with whom he or she gets along.
It can cause injury
While stalling a horse is not always necessary, it is not a good idea. The physical and emotional stress of stall rest can hurt the horse. There is a connection between stall rest and performance; both can result in injury. Stalling a horse is also detrimental to the health of its legs, and a lack of exercise can affect the condition of the hock.
To Stall or Not to Stall a Horse?
By guest blogger Juliane Dykiel
Upon reading Margit H. Zeitler-Feicht’s Horse Behavior Explained, I came across some important information I believe every horse person should know, yet not many seem to.
While I already knew how psychologically and physically important it was for a horse to get out of its stall or turn out, I was unaware of the specific facts proving that keeping a horse stalled all day is detrimental.
So I decided to attempt to share this important information with the rest of the horse world. Horse Behavior Explained is a fairly dense book, but its importance can’t be missed, so I’ll summarize some of it here.
In the wild, horses walk between 3.7 – 10.6 miles a day. A horse that remains stalled all day travels 0.1 miles per day. In Margit’s words, “the ‘day off,’ a day on which the horse never leaves the stall, is designed exclusively for human benefit. It offers nothing but disadvantages for the horse’s health and psyche…days off should rather include a quieter form of exercises such as pasture turnout or a trail ride at walking speed”.
Margit also explains that the walk is the primary gait used by horses in the wild. They walk long distances with rare occurrences of trot and canter. However, stalled horses “spend most of their time standing and exercise is often limited to 1 hour, but a proportionally faster…highly concentrated exercise in this manner cannot compensate for a lack of slow movement spread out over a long period”.
This clarifies the importance of trail rides, especially walks: after all, horses are nomadic creatures, and moving through woods is a psychological necessity.
A way to help satisfy the exercise requirement for horses that are not ridden enough is to turn out horses at least several hours a day.
Another way to help is to “motivate horses to walk” by spreading out the “areas designed to meet the horse’s varying needs” – for example, putting the water bucket on one side of the pasture or paddock, shelter on the opposite, and feeding them in a completely different corner.
This will bring the amount of ground the horse covers a day when turned out for 12 hours from 1.8 miles to 3 miles, almost double.
Once the exercise requirement has been satisfied, and I have found this true from first-hand experience, a horse will usually be less prone to behavioral problems. After all, “Lack of exercise is a well-known cause of problems arising during handling.”
Other physical aspects of the horse, such as its musculoskeletal, digestive, cardiac, and circulatory systems, will be healthier, and your horse, like any human who takes care of their body and exercises enough, will last longer.
Reading all this, I found that I’m guilty myself – many of my projects don’t get out as much as they should. I feel like I’ve been subconsciously aware of this yet always justified it by the fact that “I don’t have enough time” to ride all of the horses I’m charged with adequately.
Today, instead of riding my client’s horse hard for a half hour, I also squeezed in a half-hour walk. Tomorrow, I’m going on a trail ride, and I will pony one of the other horses since she’s been trained to pony students for years.
Consider leasing a horse out to a quiet or experienced rider. Take your horses on trail rides; it’ll be therapeutic for both of you.
But most of all, pick up Margit Zeitler-Feicht’s Horse Behavior Explained for even more mind-blowing horse truths that most people need to be, yet are not aware of…or just wait for my next summary to come out: “Why A Horse Should Always Have A Companion.”