I have a new horse who was field raised and was able to come and go into an open barn that was big enough to allow the entire herd to have shelter. She has just had her foal weaned and has come to live with me where she is stalled at night and out in the day. She is not terribly impressed with stall living in that she paws at the stall door and puts her chest to the door on occassion in what I assume is an attempt to push the door open. This is just her third night locked in so I think its early in the adjustment phase but has anyone got tips on how to manage the adjustment? I am a little afraid she may learn to paw at the door as a regular behavior issue.....she is otherwise a quiet horse. She is a little off her hay too and is only getting a cup of grain until her udder dries. I wonder if the discomfort of the udder may also be adding to her thinking that she doesn't like staying in. Do you think this is adjustment or do you think she is forming habits that I ought to address with her? I am very unfamiliar with dealing with a horse that has been raised this way so any suggestions, advise and thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
This is very common with 3 year olds who are being stalled for the first time (yes, you can still find some of those).
Ignore her, don't go around trying to calm her down and in a week or two this will be over. But remember to exercise her so the extra energy doesn't add up to the stress. The ulcer meds are also a good idea.
Just wonder if this horse knows how to tie WELL? You might work on her being tied for periods of time to a secure place, while she practices patience. This can mean being tied up in longer sessions, once she has shown she knows how. Sorry, I don't feed during the tie-up sessions, horse has already been fed. I offer water every hour.
I expect that being a pasture horse, running her own life, she has forgotten any tie lessons or never was taught, how to stand quietly, wait for the people. Once she has shown she CAN tie well, you might tie her in her stall to practice these lessons in there. It will keep her off the stall gate, learns that tie-up can be done in various places! This learning should take time, maybe a month or more, being tied part of ever day.
I would put a rubber mat where she paws, save her shoes or hoof walls during lessons. See what you have in a month or so, to figure on more time or another approach.
In the meantime, I WOULD put a stall screen above what sound like a half door type gate. You DON'T want her going over the gate or leaning on it. She may get a lot more bold in pushing or even jumping out this minimal gate, when you don't respond to her desire to be out of the barn. Better safe with a full door blockade, than getting her hurt trying to get outside.
My mare spent the majority of her first 17 years outside with the exception of some stall rest after a major injury at 3. She HATED being in the stall then so I was worried when I had to move her to a boarding situation where she was stalled overnight.
At first, she exhibited much of the same behavior you're describing. Keeping her busy with hay wasn't so much of an option and she too ignored toys.
One thing that really did seem to help was using a stall guard or having double doors so that the horses could poke their heads out and see each other. She does pretty well now in any situation (she's 23 now), but she is definitely more agitated at first if she can't see the other horses. Not sure how your stalls are set up, but if they're floor to ceiling solid, maybe trying a stall guard would help.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
She is settling but still not eating much. Is eating hay in her stall but won't touch it outside. Outside she stands around quietly observing the world.... just a small bit of pawing indoors now. Lucky for us we have wall to wall rubber matting so her pawing efforts were not rewarded with landscaping. She seems to be very quiet but is a bit disturbed by this new way of living. I have ordered some ulcer guard as I like the idea of caring for her tummy while she is stressed. Thanks so much for the thoughts and ideas.
My best helper in helping horses learn to like stalls is the weather. When it is rain/snowing sideways, and the horse is starting to look unhappy, bring them in to a dry, wind free barn, give best hay available, and a buddy not too far that they can see. If they stay in overnight - serve a warmish mush of grain/pellets and grab the halter to turn out after the first few bites. They LOVE their stalls - it is the most luxurious spot in their mind
If you can't wait to let weather help you, then you just have to make it as comfy as you can and let them settle in their own way.
Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.
I do that too. My horses come in when the bugs are bad in summer and the weather is most horrible in winter. We started in the summer with the two I have had who did not load in barns. I have a small paddock attached to a box stall with a dutch door to the outside. I shut the gates so they are confined to the small paddock and put the hay and water in the stall(both would enter the stall). The other horses are in their stalls and if the horse with outside access would leave they usually call and they come back in the stall. Eventually they eat and drink in the stall and finally they stand out of the bugs in the stall. After that I shut the door after everyone has settled down after they come in. And then finally I can bring them in and shut the door right away. Often I still can't lead them in but they come in on their own and after time they will lead in and I can use the other stalls for them. Actually then they are often happier inside if the DONT have the dutch door and relax better if next to a favorite friend. PatO
Update....only pawing in the morning waiting for breakfast which she is now cleaning up and looking for more. I think she is looking forward to the stall now and when the temp dropped today she was more than happy to be in her own warm space. She is also making friends so I think she has decided this isn't too bad now.