Q: My 9-year-old mare is free to come and go from her stall at will, except when it’s time to eat her grain. Her three pasturemates all have their own stalls with half doors. When they get grain in the morning the half doors are closed so each horse can eat in peace. They are in for no more than maybe 15 to 20 minutes, but about 85 percent of the time, this mare will urinate as soon as she gets in the stall. What can I do to break this habit? —Debbie Landauer; Albany, New York
A: A lot of horses will urinate in anticipation of eating, so your mare is not abnormal. The easiest answer to your problem is to quit feeding her in the stall. Instead, hang a feeder on the fence (I also keep the salt block in mine) and feed her there. You could also just hang the bucket there with each feeding.
I would suggest shutting her stall door before you get the grain to keep her out. If she is a bossy mare, you might need to catch her and tie her by the feeder. You can feed her first if it doesn’t bother the other horses, or you can feed the others and then her—whichever method won’t disrupt an otherwise calm situation. It will take a little while for all of the horses to learn the new pattern.
Another option is to change the feeding pattern by haltering her and walking her first. Start by leading her in circles in the stall so that she associates the walking with eating, then do the walking just outside the stall. This technique will involve the most work because you will need to walk her before every feeding, and that can make for some long mornings, especially for the 15 percent of the time she wasn’t going to urinate anyway.
Bonnie Beaver, DVM, MS, DACVB
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine
and Biomedical Sciences
College Station, Texas