There are three main types of stable vice:
They generally arise from the horse being kept in an unnatural environment.
Horses are naturally free-range grazing herbivores in large social groups, therefore stabling a horse is unnatural and boring for them. Horses attempt to cope with increased stress, boredom and loneliness by developing these vices because although they are provided with food, warmth, water and shelter, their choice of food, social interactions and movement may be limited.
Crib-biting is where the horse chews at objects such as the stable door, fence etc. It can occur in both stable-kept horses as well as those at pasture. There are numerous ways to prevent or distract horses and your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you of the most appropriate for your horse.
Windsucking is where the horse swallows air by arching its back and neck and sucking in. It may place its teeth on something to do this or can do it free standing. Wind sucking is thought to be able to cause complications such as colic, a failure to thrive and stomach ulcers. There are again a number of methods that can help prevent horses developing this vice, including surgery as a last resort. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you of the most appropriate steps to take.
Horses that ‘weave’ move their head from side to side and will even move their forelimbs rhythmically. This is generally a sign of boredom or anxiety and can result in excessive wear of the front shoes. Unfortunately, other horses in the same yard can learn to weave. Your veterinary surgeon will best understand your particular situation and offer the most appropriate advice.
Increased turnout with companions, or even a stable companion such as a goat or pony, as well as stable toys may help to prevent these vices developing. Once a horse has learnt a vice it is notoriously difficult to cure.
Using noxious substances to coat wooden surfaces in the stable may help to prevent crib- biting. There are numerous devices for strapping to the neck to prevent wind sucking, with varying degrees of success. V-shaped grilles placed over the stable aperture will prevent visible weaving, although horses may simply retire within the stable to continue.