Pawing is an indication something is not okay in the horse’s world. It's body language expressing either 1) mental stress or 2) physical discomfort ranging from anticipation of a treat to painful ulcers. Pain, boredom, frustration, impatience, anxiety, hunger, excess energy and isolation can all be causes of pawing. If the source of mental stress and/or physical pain is not identified and remedied, pawing can eventually become a stereotypy/habit - presenting a whole new set of challenges for both horse and guardian.
Horses rarely do anything that doesn’t have a purpose. They don’t have the mental capacity to ponder and carry out acts intended to be annoying.
Read on to learn more about why horses paw, possible solutions, and how the source of pawing can be misconstrued.
Let’s face it, in a 24-hour period most of our beloved equines get only one to four hours of mental and/or physical engagement with a human. What they do for the remaining 20-23 hours a day is up to them to figure out (if not provided with opportunities to engage their natural instincts) – and so the boredom and vices set in.
Luckily, we've rounded up 11 tips and toys to help beat the boredom blues and provide natural enrichment for horses during their down time - whether they are on stall rest or in a pasture, pen, or paddock.
Is a horse mentally comfortable in a cozy stall with shavings or a shelter with sides? Probably not.
Horses are prey animals; their main form of defense is flight which requires sight and sound to detect predators in conjunction with other herd members standing guard and alerting each other. A horse may experience psychological tension if by themselves and/or sight and sound are impaired.
Read on to learn more about why a horse's mental comfort often times takes priority over perceived physical comfort!
Chewing is essentially self-medication for the horse. Chewing, or self-medicating, is most likely due to discomfort - stemming from physical and/or mental stress from lack of forage.
Chewing activates saliva production, which buffers gastric acid. The stomach produces acid 24/7 to prepare for constant uptake of food. Approximately 75% of foodstuff passes through the stomach within 30 minutes of consumption. Once feed stuff travels to the small intestine, the stomach continues to produce acid with or without food present. Chewing effectively buffers gastric acid - and can give some relief even without food.
Some horses paw or are aggressive at feeding time. This is more than likely due to frustration and/or pain. They are anxious to self-medicate; their stomach does not feel well due to the build-up of acid and/or painful gastric ulcers. Once they start chewing and eating they experience relief. Read on to find out why.
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Monique Warren invented the Hay Pillow® slow feeder and is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc.