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Can Muzzle Butter Help Horses Who Stall-Walk? And How Do You Stop a Horse From Cribbing?


Lavender, the flower behind the essential oil

Stall-walking and other stereotypic behaviors, such as weaving, pawing, cribbing, and others, can be very distressing for horse owners to witness. Naturally, as with anything, when we see these behaviors in our beloved horses, we want to do our very best to diminish them in any way we can for the comfort and happiness of our horses. So how do you stop a horse from cribbing or stall-walking?


What is a Stereotypic Behavior?

Previously referred to as "stable vices," the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a stereotypic behavior, or stereotypy, as an "abnormal, repetitive behavior." As horse owners, we likely see plenty of these at the barn every day without thinking about it. Cribbing, stall-walking, pacing, weaving, pawing, and even self-mutilation, are all examples of stereotypic behaviors commonly seen in horses. In essence, it is a repetitive behavior that lacks a purpose. There is no real "reason" for a horse to do any of these things, but they do...a lot.


Why Do Horses have "Stable Vices"?


Horse in a stable

So why do we see these behaviors? And why are they so common? If you're asking yourself those questions, research would say that you likely are around horses who are stalled for a large portion of the day, as around 40% of stalled horses exhibit at least one stereotypy. Horses who are aggressive to their stall neighbors also have a higher likelihood of exhibiting one or more stereotypies.


But, if you're thinking to yourself, "Well, maybe I can think of one or two horses who I've seen cribbing once if I really think hard, but it's not something I typically see," then you're likely around a large portion of horses who live outside for the majority of the time. Studies have shown stereotypies to be very rare in horses who live a "wild-type" lifestyle and are able to exhibit species-appropriate movement.


Studies indicate that the typical stable environment is set up in a way that prohibits species-appropriate behaviors in horses, such as interacting with others, mutual grooming, movement, and a trickle-fed diet that is high in fiber. In such an environment, stereotypies are the horse's uncontrollable response to cope with these stressors.


How Do You Stop a Horse From Cribbing, Weaving, or Stall-Walking?


Horse in a stall with weaving grates on the stall door to prevent weaving

How do you stop a horse from doing these vices? A better question is "should you stop them?" There are multiple studies that show that vice-prevention devices, such as crib collars, weaving grates, and medications actually result in an increase in heart-rate in the horse. This makes sense because the horse is no-longer able to utilize his coping mechanism and must face his stressors. It is instead recommended to allow the horse more time away from the stable environment.


Of course, not every horse owner has access to 20-acres of rolling pastures to turn their horse out in. However, as most horse owners would agree, it is important that horses are allowed time each day--as much time as possible--to "just be horses." This means giving them the ability to fulfill the aforementioned prohibitions of the stable, such as grazing, space for movement (about 1 acre per horse is recommended), and fulfilling interactions with friends of the same species. The more time outside that you can give your horse, the better!


My Horse Spends So Much Time Outside & Still Cribs. What Can I Do?

So you're doing everything listed above. Your horse is inside for as little time as you can manage, you're making sure he has access to good clean hay all day to munch on, he has a stall neighbor that he likes, and he gets to have time for social interactions and movement. But your horse is still exhibiting a stereotypy!


Stereotypies can become habits if the horse is used to performing them. This means that, even out in the pasture, the horse can sometimes still exhibit these behaviors. Or maybe your horse lives outside, only coming in for an hour every day to eat his grain, and he cribs or weaves the whole time. The horse has learned that this behavior is the best way to deal with his anxieties, so when one presents itself, the horse thinks that the only way to calm himself down is through this behavior. What can you do in these situations to help your horse without medicating him or restricting him with a device?


Can Muzzle Butter At-Ease Stop My Horse from Stall-Walking?

Lavender is Muzzle Butter At-Ease formula's main aromatherapy ingredient and is a powerful aid in creating relaxation in horses and easing anxieties. But can it help with stable vices?


Racehorse galloping on the track


Racehorses on the track have extremely high rates of stereotypies due to unnatural track living. This makes it the perfect environment for studying lavender's effectiveness at combatting stall-walking and other behaviors. A group of researchers thought so as well. They studied 10 racing thoroughbreds in their stalls for 10 days. The first two days, they observed them as normal, and found that they stall-walked for an average of over 30 minutes each day. After that, in days 3-10, they applied lavender topically to the horses and the results were astounding.


On the very first day of treatment, this time was cut nearly in half to an average of 17 minutes in the day. By day 10, the horses were down to only 5 minutes of stall walking! And there were no negative side-effects noted from the use of lavender topically! The conclusion of the experiment was that lavender is incredibly effective at reducing and even eliminating stall-walking.


Conclusion


Lavender reduces anxieties and creates a relaxing, comfortable living environment for horses. However, pure essential oils can be difficult to use as they must be diluted to the appropriate amount before use topically. Muzzle Butter At-Ease formula is the solution! Pre-diluted to an appropriate amount for horses and mixed with two other proven oils in calming, Vetiver and Patchouli, all in one easy-to-apply, sensitive-skin-safe, moisturizing package!




References
  • Cooper, J., McGreevy, P. (2007). Stereotypic Behaviour in the Stabled Horse: Causes, Effects and Prevention without Compromising Horse Welfare. In: Waran, N. (eds) The Welfare of Horses. Animal Welfare, vol 1. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-306-48215-1_5 (link)

  • Georgia J. Mason (1991). Stereotypies: a critical review. Animal Behaviour, Volume 41, Issue 6, Pages 1015-1037, ISSN 0003-3472, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80640-2 (link)

  • Krisztina Nagy, Anikó Schrott, Péter Kabai (2008). Possible influence of neighbours on stereotypic behaviour in horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 111, Issues 3–4, Pages 321-328, ISSN 0168-1591, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2007.06.006 (link)

  • Muñoz, Lisandro & Rodríguez, R & Cordero, M & Cruces, J & Briones, Mario. (2018). TOPICAL AROMATHERAPY WITH LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL IN STALL-WALKING HORSES: PRELIMINAR STUDY. Compendio de Ciencias Veterinarias. 8. 26-30. 10.18004/compend.cienc.vet.2018.08.02.26-30 (link)


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