Why Do Horses Face the Wall

Cracking the Code of Why Horses Prefer Facing Walls

Jack here with a head-scratcher for all you horse folks – why do some horses like to stand facing the wall in their stall?

I’ve seen this quirky behavior more than a few times over the years, and it never fails to make me curious.

As a fellow horse lover, I’m sure you’ve noticed your equine buddy parked like a car in reverse, rump pointed out while they snuggle up to the solid surface.

What’s up with horses and their wall-facing ways? Grab a fresh bale of hay and let’s chat about this peculiar pastime!

The main reasons horses face the wall are feeling insecure, avoiding external stimuli, pain response, habit, and temperature regulation.

Alright, want to hear a funny story about how I first discovered horses’ affinity for wall-facing?

When I was a kid, I used to lease a bay Quarter Horse gelding named Rusty from a barn called Pine Hollow Farm.

He was my trusty trail companion and we had all sorts of adventures together. One sunny Saturday, I headed out to the barn excited for a day of riding.

When I got to Rusty’s stall, I couldn’t see his head at all! Now, Rusty was a big boy at 16 hands high with a stout frame.

So I was mighty confused about where he disappeared to.

I peeked around the corner, and there he was, pressed up nice and cozy with his head in the back left corner of the stall.

Such an odd sight – 1,200 pounds of horseflesh snug as a bug against the wall! His eyes were half-shut, as content as could be in his spot.

Later when I tacked him up, Rusty pinned his ears at me for interrupting his wall time.

That’s when I realized this wasn’t some weird one-off event, but something Rusty actually enjoyed on the regular. Leave it to horses to keep life entertaining!

Security Seeking

One key reason horses face the wall is to feel more secure. As prey animals, horses are always monitoring for danger.

Covering their back against a barrier gives protection from predators. It also allows them to survey only the exposed space in front rather than being overwhelmed visually by the whole 360 degrees.

Why Do Horses Face the Wall

I’ve noticed timid and anxious horses exhibit this wall-facing behavior more frequently.

My nervous mare Daisy feels much braver with a wall or corner behind her when scary stimuli approaches like loud noises or sudden movements.

She’ll race to wedge herself in a stall corner at the first crack of thunder, but is more likely to spook and flee if caught in the open. Facing the wall helps boost her confidence.

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I also see horses use the wall when they are uneasy about nearby activity in the barn.

One time there was construction being done just outside the barn, with lots of loud banging and clatter.

Many of the horses nervously tucked themselves as close to the back wall as possible, turning only their head to peek out at the chaos.

With their spine protected and vision narrowed, they felt less exposed and frightened by the racket. Offering that backdrop of security helped them cope with the stressful situation.

Overstimulation Avoidance

Along the same lines, some horses face the wall to minimize external stimuli.

Why Do Horses Face the Wall

Horses have excellent panoramic vision and can even see behind themselves without turning their head! So imagine how overwhelming the busy barn environment must feel with all that visual input coming at them.

Facing the wall blocks sights and sounds from the aisle or neighboring stalls.

This reduces sensory overload, especially for sensitive horses who get overstimulated easily. My busybody gelding Mickey hates missing any barn action.

But even he will park it against the wall during loud chaotic times like turnout or feeding to avoid becoming overtaxed by all the commotion. The solid barrier is like horse blinders providing a quieter world.

Riding arena stimuli can also drive horses to the wall for relief.

One mare I rode would always rush to the arena perimeter after jumping courses or doing intense schooling.

All those jumps, poles, cones, and equipment in the ring overstimulated her sensitive nature.

She just needed a mental break from the input by facing the simplicity of the wall. Providing that opportunity for sensory relief helped her maintain a more relaxed state and kept her from becoming neurotic.

Pain Response

If a horse is experiencing body pain, they may stand facing the wall for relief. The comfortable pressure and stability from the solid surface can support sore areas.

Why Do Horses Face the Wall

I had an older mare with chronic back pain who clung to the corner whenever her arthritis flared up. She would gently lean and arch her back into it like a massage.

I always knew her discomfort level was high when she parked in that spot for long periods. Some horses also adopt this position if their abdominal region is painful.

The slight squeeze can ease discomfort from digestive upset, gas, or other sources of belly tension. My gelding faced the wall when he had a bout of colic, perhaps finding soothing pressure for his irritated gut. So while wall-facing might look silly, it can be an important pain management tactic.

Habit Development

Sometimes facing the wall starts as a behavioral habit. Horses are creatures of habit and easily form patterns.

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If they face the wall once or twice out of insecurity or overstimulation, they might learn to repeat the behavior.

Even if the initial cause goes away, the habit remains. It becomes part of their ingrained routine, like circling before lying down.

I knew an old pony who faced the wall every night for 30 years – likely a lifelong ritual stemming from a long forgotten reason! Habitual behaviors can be tough to break, but retraining responses are possible over time.

In the same way people crack their knuckles or bounce their leg when anxious, individual horses can develop signature wall-facing habits.

One fidgety mare I rode would always quickly turn and press her head to the wall while we tacked her up.

She didn’t seem upset or uncomfortable, just channeled her nerves into that brief wall nuzzle before standing patiently again for the saddle.

It was a little ritual that helped her through those excitable moments. Funny what unique habits horses will invent!

Temperature Regulation

Finally, the simple desire to get warm or cool off motivates some horses to glue themselves wall-adjacent.

Horse bodies radiate a lot of heat. Standing butt-to-wall can trap some of that warmth against their body during chilly weather.

It’s like how we shiver to generate heat. I always chuckle when my horses squeeze onto the same side of the shed together on winter days.

Why Do Horses Face the Wall?

Their shared body heat helps them stay toasty! Likewise, backing up against a cool wall on sweltering summer days helps horses release some pent up heat.

The wall acts like a giant ice pack providing sweet relief! I’ve seen overheated horses lean into the wall, eyes blissfully half-shut as they enjoy the cooling sensation.

Temperature-related wall standing also depends on the barn setup. In drafty old barns, horses will face the wall to block wind and retain warmth in their core.

But in poorly ventilated barns during summer, the wall is the hottest spot. You’ll see horses staying as far away from the stuffy wall as possible to prevent overheating. So pay attention to how wall-facing ties into your barn’s climate too!

So next time you see your pony prancing backwards into their stall corner, remember they have some valid reasons for this unorthodox orientation.

As usual, horses continue to delight us with their quirky habits and instincts. Let me know in the comments if your horse likes to face the wall too! Until next time, ride on.

Horses Are Prey Animals

One reason why horses might face the wall is that they are prey animals. In the wild, horses lived in herds and had to be constantly on the lookout for predators.

As a result, they developed a number of behaviors that helped them to stay safe, including the habit of facing outward to watch for danger.

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When a horse is facing the wall, it may be exhibiting this natural prey behavior, even if it is in a safe, domestic setting.

Horses Like to Groom Themselves

Another reason why horses might face the wall is that they like to groom themselves.

Horses are very clean animals, and they spend a lot of time grooming themselves by rubbing and scratching their bodies against trees, fences, and other objects.

When a horse is facing the wall, it may be trying to groom itself by rubbing its head and neck against the wall.

This behavior can also be a sign of boredom or stress, as horses may groom themselves more when they are feeling anxious or confined.

 

FAQs

Is it Normal for Horses to Face the Wall?

It is normal for horses to face the wall from time to time, as it can be a natural part of their behavior.

However, if a horse is consistently facing the wall or if their behavior seems unusual, it may be a sign of a problem. It’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian or a professional trainer if you are concerned about your horse’s behavior.

What Should I Do If My Horse is Facing the Wall?

If your horse is facing the wall and you’re not sure why, it’s a good idea to observe their behavior and look for other clues.

Are they standing quietly, or are they fidgeting and anxious? Are they seeking attention or affection, or are they trying to avoid contact with people or other animals?

Understanding your horse’s motivations and needs can help you to provide the best possible care and support for them.

If you are concerned about your horse’s behavior, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian or a professional trainer for guidance.

Can I Train My Horse Not to Face the Wall?

It may be possible to train your horse not to face the wall, depending on the underlying reason for their behavior.

If your horse is facing the wall as a result of boredom or stress, for example, you may be able to address the issue by providing more stimulation, socialization, or exercise.

On the other hand, if your horse is facing the wall as a result of natural prey behaviors or grooming habits, it may be more difficult to change their behavior.

In this case, it’s important to provide a safe and comfortable environment that meets your horse’s needs, and to work with a professional trainer or veterinarian if you have concerns about your horse’s behavior.


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