"My horse is polite in the stable but as soon as the door is open he barges out. Why does he do this? How can I stop him?
Although bargy horses are often considered to be ‘bad mannered’ this is an unfair description as they are simply using their behaviour to express how they are feeling – after all, they are unable to speak in our language. Horses are social herd animals but when stabled they are usually unable to make physical contact with their companions and they may not even be able to see them. This can be extremely stressful and is likely to be a contributing factor to your horse’s behaviour.
Barging is usually associated with a high level of arousal, and this could be caused by stress, anxiety, frustration and/or excitement. The most important thing to consider is what may be causing your horse to rush out of his stable. Is he is bored, lonely or frustrated because of a lack of equine company, forage or entertainment? Are other horses turned out before him, causing an increase in his frustration and anxiety levels? Is it because he is afraid of walking through narrow spaces? It is important to remember that being confined to a very small space is extremely unnatural for a horse.
Consider how you could alter your horse’s management to help with this problem. Try to make his stable a more positive environment for him and ensure that he always has access to forage in his stable so that he does not spend any time without food. Horses are trickle feeders, designed to eat small amounts of low quality forage throughout day and night. A lack of forage will result in increased stress and frustration for your horse and also an increased urgency for him to want to get to the field. Stable enrichment should also be provided to make the stable a more positive environment for him. These can include things like branches to chew on, vegetables hanging on string, treat balls, etc. You’re imagination is the limit in terms of what you can provide to make his stable more appealing to him.
If you think he may be afraid of walking through narrow spaces ask your vet to check him over for any physical pain before starting a training programme to rebuild his confidence with narrow spaces. This should be done with the help of an equine behaviourist as it is essential to undertake any training at a pace suitable for your horse as an individual and this varies considerably from one horse to another.
- If your horse has to be stabled provide plenty of forage and as much enrichment as possible and change the enrichment items daily so that they don’t just become ‘part of the furniture’.
- Always look for the underlying motivation for a behaviour so that you can work out the most appropriate way to solve the problem.