Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Circling, Pacing or Weaving in Stall

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If you notice signs of colic, along with this sign.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

In this observation, I am referring to rapid circling in a stall, which is often a short-term reaction to anxiety caused by recent separation and confinement.

Pacing or weaving is often short-lived, a reaction to anxiety associated with change in management or a new stimulus, but it can also be a stereotypical (or habitual) behavior common in horses that spend much of their lives in stalls. A horse will also circle and may pace in a stall when it is in abdominal pain (colic) and rarely when it is affected by certain brain disorders.

WHAT TO DO

Try to differentiate between this behavior as a stall vice and as a sign of an underlying physical problem. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and always look for signs of abdominal pain. Assess appetite by offering a small amount of feed.

If you believe this is a stall vice, you can try to solve this problem with improvements or changes in management. Provide long-stem grass hay in larger quantities. Provide consistent exercise, and maximize turnout or contact with other horses. Your vet can advise you. If you are concerned that circling behavior is a sign of underlying abdominal pain or other disease, the best course is to contact your vet immediately.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Calming medications and herbs (without an understanding of the cause) are a poor substitute for veterinary assessment and management changes. If used, they should be used under veterinary guidance. Your vet will assess the behavior in the context of overall health and management and help you come up with a plan of action.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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