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Horse Behavior and Training

Wood chewing.

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I have a rising two year old gelding who has the fustrating and distructive habit of chewing any wood he can find when on the yard or in his stable.
I have tried everything with him, including almost all of the products on the market for making things taste bad and he actually seems to like the taste of all of them. :-S I know this is normally a boredom thing but he has more toys than your average three year old child, all of which he destroys within days of getting them, even the so called indestructable toys.
Today I brought him in from the field and tied him up while I did my jobs and again he started to chew. It was almost like he was doing it for attention as everytime I told him no he would stop till I turned my back again and he would start chewing again. I then turned him back out in the field for a time out and brought him in, within 30 seconds of being tied up he started to chew again, this continued for about half hour of me repeatedly turning him away when he chewed but he just didnt seem to get the message. I cant just ignore him when he does this as last time he stripped a whole panel off the wall and I cant continue with this habit as its not only costing me a fortune in repairs but the yard manager is starting to get annoyed with him.
Can someone please help and suggest something I can do to stop this habit?

MaggieF, Melbourne - Australia
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Dani, this sounds frustrating, damaging and dangerous for your horse if the wood is treated with chemicals e.g. treated pine. Young horses do tend to chew wood from boredom as you have pointed out Although he obviously has plenty of "toy"s to play with is he getting enough exercise? He may also be fretting and bored because of lonliness - does he have any other horsey companions? You may consider the purchase of a mineral block - your vet maybe able to help out here as he maybe lacking in something which he thinks he can get from the wood. My warm blood was a bad chewer when she was younger particularly so when she was shut away by herself. Painting your wood with sump oil(used car oil) which most car mechanics will give you free of charge seems to work as most horses really don't like the taste of this oil. Good luck with it!

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Buffalo Wing Sauce.... I hate to waste it, but it works, at least on my horses and the wood solar tank cover!

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Maggie has a good take on the horses problem. My first thought is that he is not getting enough exercise and to relieve the boredom he is chewing. My second through is that boredom is just part of the problem. He get s your attention when he chews so he may be playing a game with you as well. If he is destroying all his toys in a short time that is a perfect sign of too much energy. Don't know what you are feeding him but you might want to put him on some lower grade hay but give him more so he has food in front of him. Also make sure that he is fed at the same time each day once in the morning once at night and if he does not gain too much weight a midday feed.
One other thing that I have been recommending for horse that are bored is to get them a companion, either a rabbit or a goat works well. If you get a rabbit mount the cage in his stall at eye level so the horse is looking at it when in a relaxed state. The movement of the rabbit is like TV for them. IF the manager will tolerate it a miniature goat in the horse paddock and stall works really well as well. These two tricks are used on racetracks because the race horse spends most of its time in a stall.


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Hi Dani
I was told by a vet that sometimes horses chew treated wood if they are lacking salts and minerals (as Maggie says). One of my geldings seems to like newly installed fence posts (very bad as they are treated with a poisonous substance), so I got a salt lick and seems to have stopped. Have you tried Stockholm tar? It is revolting, sticky, black and smelly I've seen it used on fence posts and the top edge of stable doors and horses generally dislike it and won't go near it - but be careful as it gets everywhere and is hard to get off. Do you feed hay? If so, you could also try a haynet with really tiny holes - my chubby mare had one of those and it used to occupy her for hours as only a few strands of hay can be pulled out at a time - a good distraction, especially if the behavious is caused by boredom whilst standing tied up. Either way, it's not just annoying but bad for the horse to be doing this - hope you manage to sort it out.

Miriam (Holland&Germany)
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Hi Dani,
There a two types of vices in horses, one is a from a lack of movement and social contact, these horses tend to weave and walk their fences. The other one is from a lack of chewing, theses horses tend to bite wood or whatever is on hand.
Imagine a horse in the wild, always on the move to find enough food, eating sometimes 16 hours a day to meet it's needs of calories etc. What we can do to give our horses a surrounding that is as natural as possible, is to provide hay ( in a net, as described by emlaw), so the horse has an occupation and it keeps his teeth from overgrowing.
Teeth might also be a reason for biting wood. Natural wear is not always given if we feed our horses concentrates and lower quantities of hay. So you might have your horse's teeth checked by a equinedentist or a vet that is qualified.

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Well guys I don't know what this horses' problem is but my horse chews all the time, has good quality hay available at all times and has toys which are not destroyed.
And gets lots of attention.
Has no mineral problems and still chews anything that is wood, including her stall and the outside of her barn !!!!!
Her teeth were just done and you can here her chewing her hay so there is no alignment problem.
Go figure !!!! Maybe a muzzel???? If I tell her to stop she does but the next day is back at it.
It is icy here and she is used to running and cannot, so the "extra activity" is amusing "her" I guess.
Good thing this is not her new barn, which will be sided with tin!!!!!!
Hope you solve your problem, I haven't been able to solve hers.

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Hi all,
Some great suggestions thanks. He gets plenty of exercise as he is worked twice a week and is turned out nearly 12h a day in the winter and 24h in the summer. He has always been around other horses and the only time he is not is when he get a time out, thought he would realise there would be a consequence to his actions but he didn't :-( He is on a really low energy feed twice a day and won't eat hay while tied up, he things there is much more interesting things to do like chew anything he can get his teeth round lol. I think I will try the salt & mineral lick an if that doesn't work then get his teeth checked thanks for the suggestions and if anyone has any more they are welcome :-)

vicci - UK (North Wales)
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Hi Dani

I won't rabbit on as there are some lovely ideas here but I would like to make a couple of points/observations
1. Turning him away into the field when he is chewing will not be seen as a 'punishment'/something that has consequences, on the contrary, he might actually see that as a good thing! Just a thought :-)
2. Can you break everything down and see EXACTLY what triggers his chewing when he is tied up? One of mine is fine until we bring the saddle out...he had girthing problems at one time so he gets a little anxious and seems to use the chewing as a soothing process (research increasingly shows that 'vices' can be self soothing processes and to interrupt them may aggravate the anxiety)e.g is he doing it more in the winter when stabled more, is it when you want to groom, take the rug off etc etc, look for trigger points.
3. Teach him how to be 'ground tied' so that at least you can have short periods of respite from his chewing if you need to do things with him but of course safety is of the utmost importance and this has only limited use but if may help give a little respite

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Viccihh1 he chews all the time no real trigger that I can tell it seems more like an attention thing but I cant ignore him as he just carries on till he's destroyed whatever he's chewing or someone tells him no. I would love to teach him to ground tie but he wont stand still at the best of times being a baby he has the attention span of a goldfish and as soon as something takes his attention he's off to go investigate it.

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Maybe time for a Dually Halter? Standing still is one of the six imperatives that horses need to learn. Cribbing for any of our horses when I was a kid was destructive and dangerous for the horse. We lost a 2 year old when he had a choke on a piece of fencing. I always have had a fear of it happening again.