By Heather Smith Thomas
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Extra resources for Care & Management of Horses: A Practical Guide for the Horse Owner
Tion through endorphin release. The endorphin levels in his bloodstream rise when he performs this stereotypic behavior. When the levels become high, he seems satisfied and stops weaving. When the endorphins drop to a low level, he starts again and becomes very intense in his weaving until the endorphin levels rise. A weaver may develop physical problems from this constant action, since he puts stress on leg joints and widens his stance as he shifts from one foot to the other. Extra stress on the inside of the leg can lead to ringbone, knee problems, and extra wear on the feet or shoes.
As the horse’s frustration mounts, his escape attempts (which might at first consist of walking around looking for a way out, pawing at the door, or biting it) become increasingly frantic. Then he discovers his frenzied actions are rewarded by a feeling of calm brought on by release of endorphins that stimulate the brain’s pleasure center. So the horse repeats the action; the behavior becomes a habit, even if his stress is alleviated. Horsemen used to think that air gulping would cause chronic indigestion or flatulent colic due to buildup of gas in the stomach and intestine.
He might develop carpitis (inflammation of the knee joint) if he hits his knee on the stall door, or scrape the skin off his knees and the front of his fetlock joints. He might wear off the toe of his foot or cause damage to joints. Pawing on hard ground also could cause sole bruising. qx 5/21/04 8:23 AM Page 41 P ro b l e m s o f D o m e s t i c a t i o n shift the shoe; there is also risk of a shoe catching on something. If a horse paws so much that he risks damage to his feet, a form of self-punishment may deter him.