Stalling/Caging Your Horse

First a few more references concerning caging/stalling a horse:

I have never heard of horses that are not stalled developing stereotypic behavior such as box walking,
weaving, pawing/digging, cribbing, head bobbing, box/wall kicking, wind sucking and self mutilation.

“The various common stereotypic and CD-related equine behavior problems are not
observed in feral horses or in horses that spend their entire lives living in social groups on
large pastures—this species’ natural living condition.”

“Without treatment or management, stereotypies in horses can lead to health problems, damage to the
stable area and a great deal of distress for the horse’s guardian. Most equine stereotypies develop when
horses are stabled.”

“The horse is a herd animal; he functions best when living with a group, with plenty of room to roam.
Emotional stress of confinement and/or isolation from other horses can lead to behavioral problems like
cribbing, weaving, head bobbing, stall walking, stall kicking, self-biting and other repetitive actions
called stereotypies. These rhythmic actions by a confined or frustrated animal develop in response to
stress (physical or psychological) with the physical stress leading to psychological stress.”

Then there is the need for social play behavior, (which is impossible in a stall). In Sue McDonnell’s
book the Equid Ethogram, she writes that, “play is believed to serve a wide variety of adaptive
functions, including enhancing general musculoskeletal and cardiovascular fitness, practicing and
honing specific survival skills, gaining familiarity with the particular environment, or building social
relationships and communication skills.”

Horses are designed to have a complex social structure in which a number of different levels of
relationship are possible.

Horses are designed to undertake a number of roles in service of herd safety and management. Co-
operative social function is supported and developed by such activity.

Horses are designed to spend a considerable portion of their day (up to 18 hours) in social grazing.
Throughout this time period a process of social bonding and reinforcement of group cohesion is in play
via continual social interaction.

Horses experience REM sleep in the prone position. Social groups provide a sense of safety and one or
more ‘guards’ to stand watch for predators. This facilitates REM sleep and its consequential brain

Inadequate social environments produce a number of psychological conditions which tend to disrupt
ability to function in social settings and may also be detrimental in respect to social bonding and sexual

The anatomical design of the horse is millions year adaptation to a free-ranging lifestyle.
‘Training’ is more often than not made more difficult when a horse is ‘stalled.’

“Horses kept in stalls are deprived of opportunities for social interactions, and the performance of
natural behaviors is limited. Inadequate environmental conditions may compromise behavioral
development. Initial training is a complex process and it is likely that the responses of horses may be
affected by housing conditions.”

Physiological damage occurs when horses are stalled.

“Joints become stiff when a horse is kept in a stall for any length of time, and it is twice as painful to
start moving again when turned out. Do not confine the horse to a stall unless absolutely necessary for
medical reasons.”

Life span is decreased when a horse is stalled.

“In recent years, new research has shown that wild/feral horses not only live longer and healthier than
our domesticated horses, but also that they are not plagued by the deadly illnesses and diseases that
destroy our domestic horses, especially lameness and colic (the top 2 reasons for death or euthanasia).”
And other health problems as well.

“Stall confinement alone can lead to the development of gastric ulcers.”

“Stalling horses is also a contributing factor to ulcer formation. In one study, horses brought in from
pasture and stalled developed lesions in the squamous mucosa within 7 days of being stalled (Murray
and Eichorn, 1996). Potentially, isolation from other horses or the disruption of continuous feeding may
trigger ulcer formation.”

This is an article by Elaine Pascoe featuring Dr. McDonnell’s “How Horses Sleep.”

The ‘key’ here, is not sleep, it’s the need for REM sleep, (which is only active in the prone position)..

“Even though they’re able to snooze standing, horses apparently need to lie down for rest and sleep at
least some of the time. In fact, scientists think horses must lie down to go into deep stages of sleep.
Like humans and many other animals, horses experience both slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid-eye-
movement (REM) deep sleep. (SWS is characterized by slow, synchronized waves of electrical activity
in the brain as recorded by electroencephalography. REM sleep is characterized by jerky eye
movements and rapid, disorganized brain waves.) REM sleep seems to occur mostly when the horse is
stretched out flat on his side, rather than resting on his chest.

You’re probably not surprised to hear that horses sleep best when they feel safe from danger. But the
factors that help them feel safe may not be what you think. When you put your horse in his stall and
close the door, you know he’s protected. But he likely feels isolated and confined-and for a horse,
isolation and confinement can be dangerous.”

From: Society for Neuroscience
It’ll Move You: New Research Shows That Sensory Experience Alters The Development Of Brain
Areas That Control Movement
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 3 — New animal research shows that sensory deprivation not only
influences the sensory brain areas, but surprisingly also stifles the development and organization of
areas involved in the control of voluntary movement.

“Both circulation and digestion are improved by exercise. Horses that are left in stalls tend to become
constipated, also referred to as “impacted,” and may develop mild circulation problems. Boredom
accompanies lack of exercise, and stable vices and other psychological problems may arise: weaving,
cribbing, wind sucking, and stall walking may all occur following long periods of confinement.”

“Stalling horses is also a contributing factor to ulcer formation. In one study, horses brought in from
pasture and stalled developed lesions in the squamous mucosa within 7 days of being stalled (Murray
and Eichorn, 1996). Potentially, isolation from other horses or the disruption of continuous feeding may
trigger ulcer formation.”

*Given the above and previous references, I do not see how anyone could possibly think of
considering, (much less attempt to justify) caging a horse in a ‘stall.’