Your stalled horse weaving for a short while just before feeding time is probably a minor problem you can put up with. If he weaves back and forth for hours at a time, that's another story. Weaving, like cribbing, is considered a vice, something that a seller should reveal to a potential buyer. There are ways to stop or minimize your horse's weaving.
Weaving horses seem to dance in place -- all day long. The Merck Veterinary Manual describes weaving as "lifting the legs and shifting weight and head position from side to side in the same spot." Your horse appears to be in a trance, "dancing" to a beat only he can hear. Weaving almost always occurs in horses kept in stalls or very small pens. Causes include inadequate exercise, stress and lack of social contact with other equines. Over the long term, weaving's constant movement can harm a horse's joints or cause him to lose weight from the ceaseless activity.
Turnout and Exercise
In nature, horses graze, moving most of the day to eat, rather than stand around in one spot. Turning your horse out as much as possible is the best way to prevent weaving. If 24/7 turnout with a run-in shed for shelter isn't available, arrange to keep your horse outside as much as possible. If you board your horse, that might mean moving to another facility if your current barn can't accommodate your needs. Your horse needs regular exercise. Riding him regularly and keeping him fit can reduce boredom that leads to weaving.
If you have no choice but to keep your horse in a stall for long periods, undertake some efforts to try to alleviate the weaving. Placing a large mirror in the stall in front of your horse can decrease weaving, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, but you must safeguard the mirror so your horse can't break it and harm himself. Dividing his hay and grain into several feedings rather than twice a day can decrease weaving, as can placing hay in "slow feeder" nets that make him work to get his fiber. Avoid stalls that don't allow him to see other horses in the barn.
If nothing else works, your vet might prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. If your vet prescribes one of these antidepressant medications, you won't be able to show your horse in competition while the drug is in your horse's system. Short-term drug use, along with behavioral modification such as changing feeding patterns or additional exercise, might do the trick in eliminating your horse's weaving.
- University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Understanding Equine Behavior Problems - Causes, Treatment and Prevention
- Veterinary Partner: Behavior Problems in Horses #2
- Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Pasturing Guidelines for Horses
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Behavioral Problems of Horses
- Equimed: Weaving
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.