A city-dweller wants to bring a farm horse to a city stable; Dr Platzhund advises on possible behaviour problems.
Q: I’m interested in buying a horse from a farming community with the intention of bringing the horse to the city and stabling him so I can train, ride and have close contact with him. However, I’ve heard that stabling may cause certain behaviour problems. What type of disorders can be expected in this environment, how will I notice them, and what can I do about them?
A: Horses are prone to a variety of problems that tend to manifest in a stable, as a result of being confined for lengthy periods. Boredom and insufficient exercise often result in kicking, biting and striking out at people and other horses in neighbouring stables. A horse may even bite itself or its blanket, kick at the stable door or paw at the ground, which may damage its hooves. Putting horses out to graze and giving them exercise or a companion may be a relief and therapeutic. Some horses show signs of cribbing or wind-sucking, which involves chewing on wood or sucking on fixed objects, thereby swallowing air, which usually means a horse’s diet may have insufficient roughage. Some horses weave by moving their head from side to side, usually over the open stable door, while constantly shifting its weight from foot to foot. If the door is shut, the horse may walk around in its stable, almost obsessively. All these problems cause serious trouble to stable owners, horse owners and often injuries to the animals, so it’s best to consult with an equine veterinarian and be referred to a reputable stable to take all the necessary prophylactic measures.