Box walking, stall circling and weaving are examples of locomotor stereotypic behaviours in horses. They are believed to be caused by a lack of freedom to express natural equine behaviours.

Over time, stall walking and weaving can have negative physical consequences such as hoof problems, joint wear and tear, weight loss, ulcers, and uneven muscle development. [1]

Stereotypic behaviours are repetitive, habitual movement patterns with no obvious function or benefit to the animal. [1] These behaviours are often seen in confined or domesticated horses that do not have access to the same lifestyle as their wild counterparts.

Stall walking, circling and weaving are common and difficult to stop completely. However, changes in management and routine can reduce a horse’s compulsion to perform these actions.

Increasing turnout, feeding a forage-based diet, providing a buddy for your horse, combatting stress and avoiding known triggers can reduce the severity and frequency of the behaviours.

Stereotypic Behaviours in Horses

Weaving, stall walking and circling are undesirable, repetitive behaviours, which horses commonly exhibit when confined, frustrated, bored or stressed.

Stereotypic behaviours are rarely seen in wild horses, but an estimated 10 – 40% of stabled horses exhibit some form of stereotypy. [2]

Other examples of stereotypic behaviours include: [3]

Some horses express one of these behaviours while other horses express multiple stereotypies.

These behaviours can be divided into locomotor stereotypies (i.e. box walking, circling or weaving) and oral stereotypies (i.e. cribbing or wood chewing).

Most stereotypic behaviours develop because of stressful environmental conditions, such as extended periods of confinement or a lack of forage in the diet. [2] Personality, genetics and nervous system dysfunction can also play a role. [4][5]

Horses do not consciously choose to perform stereotypic behaviours. These behaviours are automatic responses or coping mechanisms to help the horse alleviate feelings of distress. [6]

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Stall Walking, Circling and Weaving

Stall walking or stall circling occurs