Question: I recently weaned my filly, and she did well. She’s been moved from a pasture with other young horses into a stall in the barn, and she’s started doing something that concerns me. Whenever the horse stalled next to her is taken out of his stall, she paws the ground and paces around in her stall. As soon as he comes back, she relaxes and stops pawing and pacing. I don’t want these vices to become habits that she does all the time for no reason. How do I break her of doing this? – jaceyreese
Clinton’s Answer: What your filly is doing is normal behavior. Horses are herd animals, and when they’re left alone, they become anxious. I wouldn’t be worried about this developing into a habit. In fact, I suspect the more the gelding beside her comes and goes, the less she’ll react to him being gone. She’ll learn that it’s just a normal part of the day.
The best tip I’d give you is to make sure your filly is getting plenty of turnout and exercise. When you lock horses up in stalls and don’t give them an outlet for their energy, that’s when stall vices crop up. That’s not true across the board for all vices, of course, but a lot of times it is the case. The more turnout you can give your horse, the better off she’ll be.
Another thing you can do is when the gelding leaves and she gets upset: do some groundwork with her. Get her mind busy and focused on what you’re asking her to do rather than on her anxiety about the other horse leaving. Take her negative energy and do something constructive with it. The more times the gelding leaves and you work with her to get her to use the thinking side of her brain, the less she’ll care about him leaving in the first place.