Radio interview source: Carey Williams, Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Equine Science Center
Horses that are bored or nervous can't be still. They consistently walk circles or pace back and forth to expend energy and calm themselves. This is called stall walking, and it's a hard habit to break.
Carey Williams is the equine extension specialist with Rutgers Equine Science Center in New Jersey, and says constant stall walking is hard on the horse's legs. The hooves may wear unevenly, and it can develop joint and tendon problems from walking very small circles and tight turns. The constant action can also be detrimental to the stall.
"If you don’t have a concrete floor with mats they can run ruts in the base of the stall. It doesn't matter how hard the ground is tamped, but if it's not a concrete base they could destroy the bottoms of the stalls," says Williams. "You could go through an awful lot of bedding that way because typically with these sorts of horses you have to strip the stall daily just to put in clean fresh bedding, and they just destroy it every day."
Once stall walking starts, it's hard to stop. Williams says there are some things you can try to decrease the behavior, such as giving horses toys.
"Hang things like milk jugs, or there are scented apples and things you can hang from the ceiling," says Williams. "Any of those little jolly balls with the handles, things like that. Something that they're not going to hurt themselves on obviously, but something that they can play with. That'll give them something to do. Also providing more hay, something they can eat instead of chewing on the walls they will probably stop walking if they actually have something to eat.
If you can, turn the horse out more often so it can exercise and work off pent-up energy. Williams says if all else fails, give it a buddy. Perhaps a goat or miniature horse will calm the animal's nerves and give it somebody to play with.
Learn more about stall walking and what to do about it
The University of Minnesota has some recommendations to keep a horse on stall rest happy
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