Stall Walking and Circling in Horses

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If you’re an avid horse lover, pet parent, or hostler, then you’re probably familiar with the often misunderstood habit of stall walking and circling in horses. 

While it may appear on the outside that your horse is just bored and lazy, this behavior usually signals distress in your horse – something is making him uneasy about his environment or circumstances. 

Through an analysis of risk factors related to stall walking and circling behaviors, we’ll discuss why these movements occur so that you can better understand their possible causes and how to correct them. So if you’ve ever wondered why your horse won’t stay put in his stable without pacing in circles, keep reading as we explore this fascinating topic!

What does stall walking mean?

Stall walking is a unique type of exercise that is gaining momentum. Not only does it have therapeutic benefits for horses, but humans can reap incredible rewards from practice too! 

Stall walking is simply an activity where the horse and the rider (or just the horse) walk in circles in their confined area – either in a stall or paddock. Initially, it can be both tiring and difficult as there isn’t much space, and turns need to be taken slowly and carefully. 

With regular practice, however, you and your horse become more adept at navigating turns efficiently while strengthening muscle coordination. The benefits of this kind of exercise are numerous; it promotes relaxation, builds muscle along with improving both balance and agility. 

It’s no wonder stall walking has become so popular – both among those who own horses and those who don’t!

What does it mean when a horse stalls?

When it comes to horses, the phrase “stalling” is quite literal. It refers to when a horse refuses — or stalls — to do something that their owner or trainer requests. This can involve refusing to move from one spot, resisting commands such as ‘whoa’ and ‘halt,’ or fighting against the bit in its mouth. 

While stallions typically display these behaviors due to their strong will and independent behavior, other factors can cause a horse to stall. 

From medical issues, poor management practices, incorrect training, and even rider reliance on too much force – there’s a lot of art and science involved in overcoming a horse stalling issue, with the ultimate aim being trust-building between horse and rider. In either case, it pays to remember: every horse is an individual with unique needs.

What are bad stall habits in horses?

One of the worst habits a horse can have in the stall is not respecting the handler’s personal space. Everyone needs their bubble, and horses should be no different. 

Unfortunately, some horses will stretch out their neck to grab items from your hands or pockets, find their way into any food you might have on you, and even paw at you for attention. Another bad stall habit is natural as it’s a trait horse are born with–chewing and cribbing on stall walls. 

Horses that do this tend to damage their teeth as well as wooden stalls over time. Lastly, a common issue when stabled is refusing to stand still or get into the cross-ties for grooming or hoof cleaning. 

Horses need to learn boundaries and respect if they’re going to be good stall mates! Better behavior in the stable means better relationships with people for a horse’s entire lifetime.

What causes stall walking in horses?

Stall walking often causes some concern among horse owners due to the long periods that their horses can spend facing the walls of their stall. The underlying reasons for this behavior range from boredom to anxiety, and even underlying physical ailments. 

Owners need to consider any changes in the horse’s diet or excessive mental stimulation before assuming there is an issue that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. 

Stall walking can also be associated with social isolation if the horse does not have regular companionship and pasture turnout, both of which offer important mental and physical stimulation appropriate for horses. Ultimately, understanding why your horse is acting out this behavior will help you decide how best to address it.

How do I stop my horse from stall walking?

If your horse has developed the habit of stall walking, you might be feeling a bit frustrated. This can be a tricky issue to address, as it requires finding a balance between providing enough stimulation to keep your horse content while also not overexciting them. 

The first step is examining their environment and looking for any possible triggers that could be causing the behavior; sometimes horses start with healthy activities like pawing or gnawing on something, but the behavior quickly spirals into more destructive habits. 

As far as solutions go, many people recommend boredom-reducing activities such as providing puzzle feeders and trying out different scratching posts or toys for them to occupy themselves within the stable. In addition, spending time riding and exercising your horse regularly can help curb challenges associated with stall walking. 

With some trial and error, it is possible to find just the right combination of methods that will keep your horse content in its stall.

What does it mean when horses walk in circles?

Watching a horse walk in circles can be both mesmerizing and confusing. After all, why would a horse want to just keep walking around in circles? 

The truth is that the circular movement of horses is often an instinctual response to feeling uncomfortable or anxious. Such behavior is known as “circling” and it almost inevitably signals a lack of confidence or even fear. 

This type of circling or pacing may occur when the horse feels confined, such as in its stable, or when they are presented with a new environment or task that they don’t understand. It’s not uncommon for horses to try to circle away from a frustrating challenge if they become overwhelmed and confused. 

Long story short: whenever you see a horse walking in circles, be mindful about what’s going on for them – it’s an old-school way for them to tell us something isn’t quite right!

What causes circling in horses?

Circling in horses is an instinctive behavior, typically seen in stall confinement with no other horse present. It’s believed to echo their herd behavior when they would all come together to graze or rest, and circle together to keep watch and stay safe. 

Left on their own without the protection of their herd, a horse can enter a state of distress that results in circling. It can also be triggered by various distractions such as unfamiliar fidgeting noises or people passing by the stall window. 

This stress-induced behavior can be addressed through learning new behaviors such as returning to a rest area whenever the horse begins to circle and providing positive reinforcement for halting this behavior. Additionally, introducing another horse into the situation can alleviate some of the outward signs of distress. 

Owners and professionals alike need to monitor these behaviors closely so that it doesn’t continue past normal activity in a confined space and progress into anti-grazing circles which cause more lost nutrition and health issues with the animal.

How do I stop my horse from circling in the stall?

One of the most common issues horse owners have is a horse that won’t stop pacing or circling in the stall. As annoying and difficult to deal with as this can be, there are several tactics you can use to help keep your horse calm and content. 

Providing routine exercise outside of the stall each day is key, as well as making sure your horse has plenty of hay throughout the day. If your horse becomes stressed, try distracting him with toys or using a soothing herbal remedy like lavender oil on his mane. 

Additionally, giving him ample space to move around in the stall can make a huge difference by allowing your horse to feel secure without restriction. Taking these steps can help you rid yourself of the problem of constant circling!

To Sum it up

All in all, stall walking and/or circling can be concerning behaviors in your horse. However, with patience and perseverance, you can often address the root cause of this problem – oftentimes being an underlying physical or emotional discomfort. You may have to take a step back to assess all possible reasons why the behavior is occurring. 

Once the source has been determined, you can use some of the experienced management techniques discussed in this blog post, such as redistributing hay to raise the horse’s head, creating a distraction in his space with objects that he can interact with, or trying a different type of feed for digestive problems. 

In addition, try to keep your horse’s environment stress-free to prevent further escalation of the problem. By understanding how to stall walking and circling occurs and having compassion for your equine friend throughout the journey then you should likely come out on top. 

Just remember that every horse is an individual and it is best to work with a professional when managing these kinds of behaviors – both for safety & success!


Matthew Flor

Matthew Flor

Hi, y’all! My name is Matthew Flor, and I’m from Ocala, Florida.
I’m a horse enthusiast, and one of my favorite breeds is the Shire horse.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing information about these amazing animals – everything from their history to their unique characteristics.

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