Be­hav­iour Un­usual habits Ag­gres­sion to­wards food

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents - SARAH CLARK equine be­hav­iour Consultant If you’re still con­cerned, it’s safest to seek long-term ad­vice. Find a lo­cal SEBC pro­fes­sional at so­ci­ety­ofe­quine be­haviour­con­sul­

QMy horse has de­vel­oped this habit of snap­ping the air when he’s up­set. It’s most ap­par­ent when other horses walk past his sta­ble. Why is this hap­pen­ing and how can I stop it? Har­riet Min­ster, War­wick­shire

AFrom what you de­scribe your horse could be show­ing a less com­mon type of ‘STP’ (stereo­typic be­hav­iour pat­tern). Or­di­nar­ily known as a ‘sta­ble vice’, an STP can be a sign that there’s some­thing spe­cific in his en­vi­ron­ment mak­ing him feel stressed, anx­ious, frus­trated or even ex­cited.

Foal snap­ping

With­out know­ing about his en­vi­ron­ment or his his­tory it’s hard to di­ag­nose ex­actly, but it’s also pos­si­ble he’s ‘foal snap­ping’, al­though this is rarely seen in adult horses. Foals do this as part of nat­u­ral ‘equine eti­quette’ when they’re learn­ing from other horses. It’s a sub­mis­sive ges­ture which, roughly trans­lated, means: “I’m re­spect­ing that you’re older” or “I’m still learn­ing”. Oc­ca­sion­ally they don’t grow out of it.

Try th­ese tips

It can be a chal­lenge but try to find the spe­cific trig­ger for your horse’s be­hav­iour. This is key to stop­ping it from hap­pen­ing. From what you de­scribe, his be­hav­iour is likely to have a ‘so­cial’ mo­tive. Want­ing a horse to keep their dis­tance, or want­ing to be with oth­ers, are just two pos­si­bil­i­ties. Can he spend more time at lib­erty — in other words, away from his sta­ble? As a nat­u­rally so­cia­ble, graz­ing her­bi­vore, this can help. Is it pos­si­ble for other horses to use an al­ter­na­tive route past his sta­ble? If not, you could try feed­ing him to­wards the rear of his box at times when oth­ers are likely to pass by. By per­form­ing an STP, the horse ac­tu­ally calms him­self. It’s sim­i­lar to when a per­son taps their foot or bites their nails. As horse lovers we don’t ide­ally want to see th­ese be­hav­iours, but the repet­i­tive ac­tion of an STP helps at least to re­lax the horse. Phys­i­cally pre­vent­ing STPs (such as us­ing crib col­lars or weave grills) can ac­tu­ally cause more stress to the horse. So, if mak­ing changes to his en­vi­ron­ment is im­pos­si­ble, at least you know he may be self-calm­ing by do­ing this.

Foals of­ten snap at each other as they learn to pick up so­cial cues from other horses

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