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First Posted: Feb 3, 2010
Aug 15, 2010

Weaving, Stall Walking and Circling in Horses

Weaving

What does it mean when you hear the term "weaving" when it relates to horses? Weaving is a stable vice of horses, in which the horse repetitively sways side to side, shifting weight and moving its head and neck back and forth. It often begins with stall walking or circling. When the area is too confined to stall walk or circle then a horse will resort to weaving in place.

Causes

Horses often perform this vice over a stall door, or near the grill of the stall, possibly because it is the exit from the stall, or because their view changes slightly as they view the barn aisle from the stall and is visually stimulating. Some horses that have developed the habit will also weave while turned out. Although it is commonly thought that weaving is caused by boredom, many experts consider it a stress response, usually due to isolation from other horses, unhappiness in general, or little grazing time.

Many horsemen believe weaving is a learned habit. However, some experts theorize that weaving could be more likely to develop in horses with a genetic predisposition. Thus there is debate over whether weaving is a learned behavior that other horses can pick up by observing another, or if it is an inborn tendency that develops under a certain set of environmental conditions. Therefore, some people claim it is usually safe to allow other horses to see a weaver, unless it is known that they are genetically predisposed (their sire or dam was a weaver). Others feel it is caused by environmental factors, and that other horses in the same setting will pick up the behavior once a single horse starts.

The Negative Effects of Weaving, Stall Walking or Circling

Weaving is generally not a very damaging vice in the short term. However, horses that are constant weavers over time may have abnormal hoof wear, and slowly stress their joints. The stall floor may also come to have uneven wear. However, overall the value of a weaving horse is not necessarily diminished by this condition.

Managing the Problem

Like most vices, weaving is a very difficult habit to break. However, there are several ways to manage a weaver:

  • Allow a weaver to see other horses, even if he is stalled separately.
  • Provide a companion for the horse, if possible. Some trainers often have goats, cats, or chickens for such horses.
  • Provide visual stimulation. In a stall, an open window often helps the situation.
  • Keep the horse occupied when stalled. For example, provide a good supply of hay.
  • More time turned-out will often keep weaving at bay, giving the horse a more natural setting and keeping him happy mentally.
  • Hanging a mirror in a stall often helps weaving, because the horse believes there is a nearby horse. This trick is often very effective, and recent studies in the UK have demonstrated that it can reduce weaving by 97%. However, the mirror should be made from stainless steel, for safety.

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