By Carole Hirschi
There are several reasons horses paw. Pawing is a horse’s way of communicating. They could be frustrated, scared, impatient, or just curious. It can be an early signal the horse wants or needs something. It could be hungry or thirsty. The horse could be in pain, restless with colic. Pastured horses paw to uncover food in the winter, look at an unfamiliar object or soften the soil to roll. Other reasons could be confinement, lack of exercise, over-feeding, they are insecure due to separation from other horses or they simply like the sound of pawing.
Pawing should be discouraged as early as possible. Pawing can be damaging to the horse and area. It gets on the nerves of everyone around. Look at preventing the problem. It may be that the horse needs handling and exercise. Don’t overfeed and do not reward the horse for pawing. You may want to provide toys to decrease the horse’s boredom.
Change the behavior, but do not give negative attention. Be consistent and patient. A training exercise is to tie the horse out of way and observe. Let the horse paw, and when the pawing stops give a reward. Increase the time the horse is asked to stand quietly before treats are given.
Some people use hobbles or ankle bracelets to halt pawing, but patience and consistency are the best training.