What is weaving – and how to help the horse that weaves


Weaving is a “vice” in which horses rock their heads, necks, and/or body back and forth while remaining relatively in the same spot.  Almost as if dancing.  But not happily dancing.   But you do have some options to help the horse that weaves.


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  • Sometimes the legs are spread wider than while standing quietly, and the head, neck, and shoulders transfer weight from one leg to the other. This can result in joint and soft tissue damage over time, as well as problems with hoof growth.


  • While we call weaving a vice, the cause is different than other stable vices. It is generally believed that weaving responds to stress, not boredom. It is most commonly seen in stabled horses, although it can happen outside of the barn in turnouts or pastures, too.


What triggers a horse to weave?


  • The most common stressor that can trigger a weaving “episode,” for lack of a better term here, is separation from buddies.


  • However, weaving can also be seen in the mornings before feeding time, especially if feeding time is a predictable routine at a consistent hour. Weavers typically get into the groove near an exit, like a paddock gate or stall door. You may notice that even brief company from a barn cat, dog, or human quiets the behavior.


  • There is a theory that when horses weave, their field of vision changing brings comfort to their stress.


What may help the horse that weaves?


  • Luckily, there is quite a bit of research on weaving, and the consensus about adjusting the behavior can be summed up into one word: MIRROR.


  • Horses that weave are almost always comforted by a mirror in their stalls and also in the trailer, which of course makes trailering alone much safer.


  • Keeping your horse busy with slow feeders, toys, and hay nets may help, too. 


shatterproof mirror for horses

I found this handy dandy gem of a mirror (note: shatterproof!) at my local tack shop.


When choosing a mirror for your horse, you have some options.


  • Stainless steel polished to a mirror finish can work, be wary of edges, you may want to put a frame around it.


  • You can also use plexiglass-type mirrors, I have seen some in local craft shops. You may have to experiment with size, not too big, not too small. Very Goldilocks.


  • Make sure you keep the mirror clean, and it’s best to place it away from food and water.


  • Studies have also shown that horses like to have “company” to the sides much more than across a barn aisle, so consider this when looking for a hanging spot.


  • Make the mirror a “choice”, so that your horse can stand next to it, or not. Wall-to-wall mirrors can create anxiety.


You can also get a full-time buddy for your horse, such as a goat or mini.


  • However, this is much more expensive than a mirror but can work well for some horses.


  • Of course, the standard lots of exercise and turnout along with slow feeders and interactive toys can also help the horse that weaves.


What has been your experience with weaving?


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