It seems extraordinary to me that at one point in time perhaps not that long ago so-called experts in horse behaviour did not have the common sense to understand that when a horse behaves in a stereotypical way as seen in the video that they are bored and stressed (ruling out health issues). To me, it seems a logical reaction to the stress of being confined to stables with nothing to do. It is not rocket science. I think this ignorance was borne out of human arrogance. A ghastly human quality which results in animal abuses. And in my view the horse in the video is being abused.
Note: the video will stop playing one day because its presence is not under my control.
@ben.the.vet #duet with @dailymail horses can’t scroll through TikTok when they are bored out of their brain – they do this sort of thing #learnontiktok #edutok #animalwelfare #benthevet #horse ♬ original sound – Daily Mail
But back in the day, the experts simply stopped the horse carrying out these behaviours and/or isolated the horse which made the problem worse. It would obviously make the problem worse so what they were thinking about is beyond my comprehension.
Ben the Vet on his TikTok page briefly explains what I’ve just said. The British Horse Society states that essentially the way the horse evolved with behaviours which are embedded in their DNA often cannot be expressed in the modern human world. This creates stress.
As is the case with other domestic animals such as cats and dogs, they need the opportunity to express their natural behaviours. This is at the root of good husbandry or to put it another way good domestic animal caregiving. Human fail massively when they don’t provide the opportunity to express natural behaviours.
In the world of cats, Jackson Galaxy, the American cat behaviourist, refers to “total cat mojo” the word mojo means to be energised and to express oneself. And cats can achieve that state if their environment is suitable to them.
Clearly, humans have created an environment for horses in stables which is often unsuited and which can end up creating stereotypical behaviour patterns in the stabled horses.
At one time ‘they’ (experts) even thought that stereotypical horse behaviours could be copied. In other words, they thought that if one horse was engaging in stereotypical behaviours another horse might observe it and copy it. This may have led to horses being isolated which made their behaviour worse due to increased stress. Ignorance comes to mind.
The British Horse Society state on their website that the way to prevent horse stereotypical behaviour is to encourage natural behaviours and reduce stress levels, anxiety and frustration. They’re saying it as if it is some sort of magical wisdom when in truth it is pure common sense.
It seems that on occasions the senior people in the horse world don’t know what they’re doing whereas the people below, the stable lads and girls who own horses know exactly what is going on.
There are one or two interesting comments on Ben’s TikTok page on this topic. Jeanne, for example, says that “everyone finding that funny really breaks my heart, animal behaviours are so misunderstood”.
Katiana said: “My sister’s horse was a chronic cribber when she got him. The habit stuck with him for a while, but pasture-mates and enrichment have broken it!” Common sense resulted in the problem being fixed. The horse’s environment was enriched.
You may have heard about providing an enriched environment for cats and dogs. It means providing an environment which is mentally stimulating for the animal and which fosters natural behaviours. It is not complex. It is simple stuff and obvious.
One commenter says that horses need to be box rested from time to time. I’m sure that is correct but if box resting results in stereotypical behaviours, then it is not good for the horse in my view. They need to be rested in some other way.
Any form of stereotypical behaviour is indicative of a stress problem in the animal. You might see it in pacing of big cats in zoos for example.
Animal advocates hate to see it because it is distressing to see these videos. There seems to be a degree of ignorance in general by humans about looking after domestic animals. That, too, is distressing.
One commenter on the video kind was sympathetic to the horse’s owner. Their comment was that you can’t judge what is going on with this horse because we don’t know the full story. They admit that it is not funny but also that it is necessary for horses to rest in stables. Well, I disagree with that. You can judge what is going on through the horse’s distressing behaviour and the problem can be fixed.
The horse’s owner got this wrong. They’ve created an environment which has distressed their horse. Let’s not shilly-shally around the point.
Below are some more articles on horses.