If your horses spend extended periods of time in the confinement of their stables, it’s understandable that they will start to develop habits to kill the boredom and frustration of being kept isolated.
Even if they’re not hungry, chewing and gnawing of surfaces is very common if they become frustrated with their situation and can gradually become a persistent problem. If neglected, continued gnawing and chewing can lead to more serious issues such as cribbing, which may indicate the horse may have digestive issues and is producing excessive saliva.
Signs of gnaw damage to stable doors and frames aren’t just an aesthetic nuisance, they’re indicative of other problems present that need attention, so do not ignore them.
Depending on the severity of the gnawing habit, try some of the following remedies to lessen or even completely remove the possibility of continued gnaw damage.
Most horses gnaw out of sheer boredom, so the best way to prevent this is to distract them with other things.
Toys are a great way to keep them distracted and entertained, rather than tempted to chew on wooden edges. Just a quick search online will discover a whole array of weird and wonderful gizmos to keep your horse happy and less stressed.
There’s an excellent list of 10 boredom-busting toys on the Horse and Hound blog that are all affordable and will help to keep your horses entertained whilst alone in their stables.
2. Surface coating
If your horse is a persistent chewer and toys simply do not seem to be having a positive effect, you may have to think of ways to make the surfaces less desirable.
One effective solution is to make them taste so foul, that your horses will never want to chew them again. Some horse owners believe in creating homemade remedies involving spicy or hot pepper sauces, or even a watered down mixture of their dropping coated on the surface.
We would never recommend that as it can lead to a number of health ailments, not to mention make the stables smell bad and create an unhealthy environment that would attract pests. So do not try this route.
Instead, try a specialist product such as ‘Hydrophane Cribox’, which is very effective at preventing gnawing and is sold in tubs ranging from 225g to 2.5kg.
It comes as a liquid gel that you simply wipe onto the chewed surfaces and is said to work very well. The product has great reviews and even works on other animals with chewing habits such as dogs.
3. Anti-chew bars
You’ve tried toys and foul smelling chemicals, yet the horses are still tempted at having the odd gnaw. If this is you, then you may need to consider fitting anti-chew strips along the timber edges.
Usually made of metal, the plates offer very good protection to the timber doorframes and kickboards, and are safe if your horses decide to have a chew on those instead.
4. Anti-weave grille
In most cases, gnawing takes place on the stable doors, so if you want a failsafe way to prevent any chewing from occurring, then installing these popular v-shaped metal bars to the top of doors is going to be your best option.
Your horses will still be able to poke their heads out of the stables quite comfortably without causing distress, and will be prevented from having access to all those lovely chewable edges they like so much.
They are fairly easy to install and are available to buy from most tack shops. And if you ever need to remove them, they are easy to dismantle.
In most cases, horses are chewing because they lack stimulation, so before you embark on any of the above remedies, observe your horses and identify any behavioural concerns.
You will most likely find that your horse will chew less if you give them routines, clean stables, regular grooming and much needed exercise that will prevent them from developing bad habits and restless tendencies.
Horses thrive on regular interaction, whether with their own kind or people so if you have the means, give your horses plenty of things to keep them occupied and you may just find that the gnawing reduces dramatically or even stops altogether.