Three Tips For Keeping Horses From Chewing Holes In Their Stalls

When a horse gets bored, frustrated, or has dietary needs that aren't being met is locked in a stall, it's not unusual for the animal to start chewing on the door, windows, and walls. As you can imagine, this can result in a lot of damage to your barn as well as harming your horse's health. If you notice your horse has been gnawing on its stall, here are three tips for managing this problem.

Increase the Horse's Outdoor Time

Horses are social animals who prefer to graze rather than chew on grass alone in a stall. Thus, your horse's chewing habit may be a sign that the animal is lonely and/or not satisfying its natural instinct to chew. Fixing the underlying problem causing the wood chewing will work much better at stopping the behavior than installing other stopgap measures.

If you have other horses in your barn, you should let them all outside to socialize and graze together at least once per day. Make sure the area where you let your horses roam is large enough for them to freely run around and play and that there's plenty of pasture for them to chew on. You may even want to extend the amount of time they're outside.

If you don't own other horses, then seek out opportunities for your horse to have interactions with others. For instance, take your horse to a riding arena as much as possible. Giving your horse a companion—such as dog or cat friend—can also help as much as having other horses around. As long as the animal has regular contact with people and animals, it should be enough to reduce boredom and stress.

It's a good idea to consult with a veterinarian and/or behavioral specialist about your horse's chewing habit. The professional can evaluate the animal's behavior and make suggestions about new schedules, routines, and other activities that may eliminate the problem. Sometimes even letting the horse out earlier in the day is enough of change to stimulate your horse enough to get it to stop chewing on the wood.

Install Chew Guards

Sometimes nothing is wrong and your horse simply chews on the wood out of habit. Most often it's a behavior the animal participated in during an earlier stage of life and never grew out of doing. In this case, the best option may be to install chew guards on the door and window sill.

Chew guards are essential strips of galvanized steel that cap the edges of the door and window frame. Since the steel is inedible and impenetrable, the horse may try to nibble on the covered wood a few times, but then give up when it finds it can't get break off chunks of wood like it use to, or even taste it for that matter. Some chew guards are also coated with a bitter agent that's safe for horse to lick but leaves such a nasty taste in their mouths that they think twice about trying to chew on the guard again.

Although this should naturally cause the horse to stop chewing on the wood, it's important to monitor your horse to ensure this occurs. A particularly stubborn, upset, or disturbed horse may continue to chew on the metal guard, which can result in damage to teeth and an expensive vet bill to fix.

Use Sprays and Washes

Chew guards work great at protecting stall doors and windows, but a determined horse may still try to nibble on wood walls and floors. You can deter this behavior by spraying a bittering agent on these surfaces that will make them undesirable to chew on.

Be aware that these products tend to get washed away whenever the stall gets cleaned out, so you'll need to reapply them on a regular basis.

For more tips on stopping chewing behavior or suggestions on the best types of horse stalls to buy that may help reduce or prevent this problem, contact a local horse product retailer.