January 19, 2011

Stall Gremlins

Dexter hates stalls, any stall, with or without doors.  Loafing sheds are ok, but stalls, no.  His previous owner  kept him out in the pasture, and so do I, but prior to that I don't know his history.  I don't know if he had some awful experience in a stall or just isn't used to the so feels trapped. 

I don't think he's claustrophobic (although because of his size I wouldn't blame him) because he has no issues with our 2 horse trailer (which is much smaller than a stall).

And really it isn't an issue except for 2 reasons: 1. Its starting to get really really cold and the only shelter Dexter has is a stall left open so he can go in and out. 2. If we ever start showing seriously he may have to stay overnight .... in a stall.

The second issue isn't all that important, since we haven't started showing yet I'm not going to worry about it.  But the 1st I am.  Sure we could move Dexter to a different pen but this is really the pen with the best shelter so I'd rather him use it.  And the weird thing is, in the summer he did.  I used to come to the barn and see his head sticking out of the stall.  Now I come and he's standing in the snow covered in ice and snow. 

When I first got Dexter and put him in a stall and saw him kick the door and pace around I thought, this isn't good.  So I started feeding him in his stall every day.  He'd be out on grass and hay but when it came time for grain he'd come in and eat in a stall.  I'd switch up which stall too so he didn't associate only one with food.  And he'd eat then patiently wait to be let out.  But if he stayed in for more than 30 minutes or so he'd get impatient, still it was progress. 

And when he moved to the pen with the stall as the shelter, we did the same thing, he'd get his grain in the stall.  And like I said, he didn't seem to have a problem with that stall, especially since it didn't have a gate and he knew he could leave whenever he wanted to. 
But now things have changed, he's spooky around both his pasture and the barn stalls.  I first noticed it when I put his feed in his pasture stall and right after I left he came running out behind me.  I figured something may have spooked him, maybe his pen neighbor made a face through the bars, no big deal.  Then I noticed when I fed him in the barn stall, he'd take a bite then come to the door and look around while he chewed, he used to just bury his head in the manger until he was done. 

I had gotten out of the habit of feeding him in his pasture stall and had been just feeding him in the pasture but I know that I need to get back to feeding him in the stall.  The other day I fed him in the stall and it took some convincing just to get him in there.  Then he'd go in, take a mouthful, leave and chew.  He kept this up until it was gone.  I hate to stress him out during meal time but I don't know how else to make the stall positive again.  I also don't know what happened that made him afraid of it.  I looked around and didn't see anything he could have hurt himself on. 

I'm thinking of getting one of those jolly apple/lik-it holders to put in the stall to keep him busy.  But I've read mixed reviews on those. I'd like to think once it gets cold enough, Dexter will force himself into the stall, scary or not.  But if I can do something to ease his stress about it before it comes to that I would like to.


  1. Perhaps if he has another horse in the stall next to him? I don't know what your setup's like, but that's what we always do whenever a horse has to be in a stall. That way, they're still with the herd.

  2. My old guy, AJ, that I recently lost, was the same way until he was boarded at a place with an actual barn to go into with other horses.
    When he was in a pasture with an option of going in a stall or under cover, he would stand out in the snow, pouring rain, blowing wind, etc.
    If he was put in a stall he was fine, though, no kicking the walls.
    I guess being prey animals just tells them they are safer out in the open.