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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 14, 1999
    Location
    Just Enough Farm, GA
    Posts
    2,226

    Default Horse Anxious in Stall

    Okay, here's my problem. Just brought my 4 year old mare home for the trainer for a little break (mostly for my wallet ). She has been in the training barn for 8 months and has done super. She was stalled during the day and they did note that she became anxious when they shut the window in the back of her stall. Prior to moving to our farm, she was at a boarding barn and was stalled nightly, ditto on becoming anxious if the stall window was closed up. Based on that I'd suspect mild claustrophobia.

    Soooo, this weekend I bring her home. While she was gone, we built a shed row barn and I intentionally made the back wall airy at the top due to her anxiety when not being able to see out. When I first walked her into the barn, she freaked and tried to rush out of the stall. I shut the door and the top grill and she threatened to climb over (at least 8 feet high to the top of the grill, but she was going up). She eventually got calmer but was still anxious. So I moved her to the largest stall (14x16) to give her a little more room. (Regular stall is 12x14.) She's still extremely anxious -- lots of circling and clearly agitated.

    I don't get it. The stall is very open -- big grill areas on the front and on the shared wall with the next stall. The back wall is solid up to 6 feet, but open at her eye level. This mare was perfectly content in a much smaller stall at competitions and very happy at the training barn, but she's a wreck at home.

    Any ideas on what her problem might be or how to help her settle?

    Here's a link to a picture of the barn http://www.flickr.com/photos/27308093@N05/2555340403/ you can see the back wall and how open in general the stalls are.
    Last edited by Debbie; Dec. 9, 2008 at 07:46 PM. Reason: to add photo link
    If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb




  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
    Location
    NorthEast
    Posts
    24,478

    Default

    Since it's a shedrow...can she see out the front of the stall to the outside?
    My mare had the opposite problem...she got antsy if she could see outside but seeing the inside barn aisle and neighbors were fine. She'd worry constantly if there was a window in the back of her stall that something would sneak up on her so she'd spend all her time staring out the window and jumping at every little movement or sound. She was backwards...most horses seem to feel more at ease the more/farther they can see. She felt more jumpy if she had a back stall window.
    Except for my backwards mare...most horses I know that get fidgety in a stall do better/calm down if they have a 4' high open area they can see out of easily. Some find it more relaxing to be able to see the world go by, keeps them from being bored. Others feel safer if they aren't closed in from behind, like they think it hides possible predators and blocks off the flight/escape route.
    Can you open up a lower/larger window area in the back of one of the stalls? I'd bet she calms down more, although making a newer/bigger window is a pita. Maybe also try a stall mirror? Some stall pacers seem to like having those.
    Nice size stalls for a shedrow BTW! Any barn photos?
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 14, 1999
    Location
    Just Enough Farm, GA
    Posts
    2,226

    Default

    Thanks Mistyblue, you may be on to something. She can see out both the front and rear of her stall. Both the boarding barn and the training barn are center aisle barns, but she would get anxious if she couldn't see out the back of her stall there. She never settled at our new farm. We moved last December and she was here until April out 24/7. She was fairly wired the whole time. She also thought the run in that we built was haunted and it was solid to 14 feet on three sides. There's no pleasing her! What's the quote? She's an enigma wrapped up in a riddle? Oy vey...

    At the training barn they marvel at what a calm and brave 4 year old she is. We can't move to accommodate baby girl's neurosis about our farm! It's due to rain tonight, so she's going to have to spend the night in since the other two feel strongly that rain drops shouldn't touch their delicate hides and I won't make them suffer for her issue.
    If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb




  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep. 14, 1999
    Location
    Just Enough Farm, GA
    Posts
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    Default

    Well she did fine overnight. Her stall was fairly trashed from being walked but her eye is calm and she's starting to settle. She's in again all day as we have T-Storms coming in and when they are out they stand right under our huge lightening rod oaks and tempt the fates.

    I love riding this mare -- she was exceptionally well started and tons of fun -- but the other 23 hours a day she's a PITA at my house. Makes me crazy; I'd love to keep her, but this has to get worked out.

    My other two mares could care less about whatever it is that keeps her in a tizzy, but 2 other horses I've had at the farm have reacted equally as odd. I think it's the tranisition from a larger facility with more horses and activity to a quieter place that unnerves them. We have horses on two sides of our property so they see others, but it's the only thing I can figure.
    If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb




  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 16, 2005
    Posts
    538

    Default

    Hey Debbie - I don't have any great advice for you other than to just give her time, and have you tried any gastrogard, and/or any calming supplements?

    If it helps any, I have agree with you that some horses just cope better in larger active barns. I have three horses at home. Both of my TB geldings have been living at home with me since I bought them last year - one came off the track, so he was use to routine and obviously the track is super busy. The other I bought as my main competition horse, he was living at his previous owners place, but she had 10 horses there and they were all out 24x7.

    So going from busy barns to my quiet place was hard on both of them. They both were anxious and alert for a long time. The one thing I try to do, which some times is not good, is give them a routine. I think when they know what to expect they find it calming.

    They are definitely more relaxed now - but it took my OTTB several months. Both horses still have moments of anxiety and I have no idea what sets them off.

    I haul to my trainers often to use her indoor and take lessons, and they are much calmer at her place - but she has 20+ horses and lots of activity. And when I am at her place I can go hack in the fields or around the track, and they are happy and calm...but I try to hack them in my neighbors fields here at home, and they get tense and worry.

    It's a PITA and frustrating...but much like you, I love riding both of these horses...I feel horse rich when I think about how fabulous they are for me. So selling isn't an option for me, so I try to do what I can to help them cope. And as I said, they have adjusted...it just took a long tim.


    Good Luck.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun. 6, 2000
    Location
    Amherst, MA
    Posts
    5,314

    Default

    If you have your own barn, can you just leave the stall door open 24/7 and let her come and go as she wants?

    She may be super anxious because she's just come to the barn and is missing her old routine, and that's just made her baseline anxiety worse.

    If you can't turn her out all the time, can you put a radio set to either classical music or low-level talk in the barn aisle at night? The radio and music can be soothing and can also screen out sounds that might be making her jumpy.

    Good luck.
    "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun. 17, 2001
    Location
    down the road from bar.ka
    Posts
    31,167

    Default

    She may miss the hustle and bustle of the bigger barn, most of mine have always done better in the bigger, busier barns. I guess it's genetic, they like numbers and routine.

    Can she see other horses all the time? Alot of them like to see their neighbor and seem to get comfort from that.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov. 8, 2000
    Location
    Upper Bucks County, PA
    Posts
    2,996

    Default

    I say give it time...lots of time.

    I have a high maintenance gelding--very herd bound and absolutely cannot be left in the barn or turned out alone. I'm typically the type to say, "Just get over it!" when a horse is this way, but he's 19 and never changing. I've had him for 13 years.

    He also does best in a busy, "lots of things going on" type of barn. The more horses around, the happier he is. Needless to say, when he moved to our new farm in the summer of 2007 (with only our pony and a miniature donkey), it took him a long time (a good 6 months) to settle in and completely relax.

    But, if things change (for example, a pony we were leasing out came back for 6 months, and then we got a pony colt in July), it's back to the drawing board. Hardest thing is turnout because I often have to shuffle everyone around to accomodate a new guy and that really throws Rocky for a loop--he's pacing, screaming, and generally drives me crazy.

    It took me a long time to realize this, mainly because he always seemed like low man on the totem pole at previous barns, but he definitely feels that he is the herd guardian. At this point time, he is the alpha over the 2 ponies and the donkey and he definitely views it as his little herd. He'll tolerate being out with just one other friend (right now he and the baby go out together), but he is very vigilant.

    Once I started to understand how he was wired (why I love having the boys at home!), it helped me not be so frustrated. He still gives me gray hair at times, but I come to realize that patience is a virtue when dealing with his idiosyncrasies.
    Kelly Soldavin Harvest Moon Farm
    www.harvestmoonfarmpa.com



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
    Location
    NorthEast
    Posts
    24,478

    Default

    Definitely could be the quieter home farm transition too as well as the missing back window. When we brought my spooky mare home she came from a boarding barn that was large and busy and a stall with no windows in it execpt for into the aisle.
    She went from relatively calm to jumpy for the first 4-6 weeks until she got used to the peace and quiet and lack of activity. I'd bet over time she calms down a bit more. And hopefully she doesn't use up a few thousand dollars worth of bedding before then.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep. 14, 1999
    Location
    Just Enough Farm, GA
    Posts
    2,226

    Default

    Thanks for the ideas! She can see her barn mates and I left a radio playing this morning for them. I wish I could let her come and go, but the barn is not in a fenced area (my one HUGE regret about our little farm).

    Funny you say that KellyS, because my thought about her "issues" on my farm are that she is the alpha, but I think she's too insecure to be comfortable as the alpha so it makes her hyper vigilant. My other two girls are waaaay too laid back to challenge her dominance. When she's in a larger herd, I think she gets knocked out of the top spot (literally judging by the nicks) and can relax.

    I think I'll just enforce a routine and not cater to her and see if she settles. She's been for sale all summer, but I was kind of hopeful I could make it work with her. Fingers crossed she gets with the program!
    If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb




  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec. 2, 2004
    Location
    Eastern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,469

    Default

    What about her feed? Would it help to reduce the concentrates and up the hay?



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep. 14, 1999
    Location
    Just Enough Farm, GA
    Posts
    2,226

    Default

    Thanks draftdriver; I'm a believer in all the hay they will eat (or twirl into their bedding in this case) and next to nothing on the concentrates. She gets .75 pounds of pellets each a.m. and p.m. -- basically something to get her excited about showing up and that's all. BTW, she's a BIG girl 17 hand 3/4 TB, 1/4 Shire cross. So far she's holding her weight despite the tizzies.
    If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb




  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov. 3, 2004
    Location
    Midwest
    Posts
    2,088

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Debbie View Post
    Okay, here's my problem. Just brought my 4 year old mare home for the trainer for a little break (mostly for my wallet ). She has been in the training barn for 8 months and has done super. She was stalled during the day and they did note that she became anxious when they shut the window in the back of her stall. Prior to moving to our farm, she was at a boarding barn and was stalled nightly, ditto on becoming anxious if the stall window was closed up. Based on that I'd suspect mild claustrophobia.

    Soooo, this weekend I bring her home. While she was gone, we built a shed row barn and I intentionally made the back wall airy at the top due to her anxiety when not being able to see out. When I first walked her into the barn, she freaked and tried to rush out of the stall. I shut the door and the top grill and she threatened to climb over (at least 8 feet high to the top of the grill, but she was going up). She eventually got calmer but was still anxious. So I moved her to the largest stall (14x16) to give her a little more room. (Regular stall is 12x14.) She's still extremely anxious -- lots of circling and clearly agitated.

    I don't get it. The stall is very open -- big grill areas on the front and on the shared wall with the next stall. The back wall is solid up to 6 feet, but open at her eye level. This mare was perfectly content in a much smaller stall at competitions and very happy at the training barn, but she's a wreck at home.

    Any ideas on what her problem might be or how to help her settle?

    Here's a link to a picture of the barn http://www.flickr.com/photos/27308093@N05/2555340403/ you can see the back wall and how open in general the stalls are.
    My horse is happier in a 12X12. I had him in a large 12 X 16 stall with bars on three sides where he could see quite a bit and he never relaxed. I moved him to a small stall with less view and he is happier.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2008
    Posts
    4,266

    Default

    I've moved one horse 2x and the other horse 1x - they definitely take a couple weeks to settle in, and it seems more the case when they are stalled. They have to figure out the new routine and what's "normal" in the new space. Mine have tended to be easily startled and very alert for a while. All those new smells, sights, sounds, and horses to get used to!

    My older mare (18 yo) loathes being in a stall. She's been boarded at many places all her life where she is in for most of the day, half the day, etc. but she just hates it. She's grumpy, she gnashes her teeth at everyone who walks by, she throws tantrums, rattles her buckets, she bangs on the door and calls if she hears someone come in the barn who might be kind enough to let her out, and when you open the door she shoves her head in the halter as if to say "get that thing on me NOW and take me outside!!"

    I've never seen her lay down and sleep in the stall (but often find her laying down in the pasture). She's really thrived since being changed over to 24/7 turnout a few years ago, though sometimes she needs to be in for vet care, etc. If that's the case I put her in the stall with windows, and usually put my other mare in the next stall (there's a window between the stalls, too!) so she doesn't feel like she's in prison.

    My other mare, however, could stand in a stall all day - she really doesn't seem to care where she is.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun. 17, 2007
    Location
    stevensville ont canada
    Posts
    126

    Default

    i didn't read all the posts so don't know if someone else mentioned it. but for real anxious horses sometime putting a plexyglass mirror in the stall helps a lot.



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