Stallionlike Communication

Q:My husband and I trail ride frequently, and we both ride geldings. When my horse defecates his horse will walk over to the spot and paw the feces. What do you make of it? He doesn't do it when they are out in the pasture, only when we're out riding.

Tamara Wilson, Colorado

A:This type of interest and response to feces of other horses is for the most part a stallionlike behavior. Under natural conditions, when horses are trekking from one place to another, the stallions defecate at various junctures along the way. As each stallion approaches the defecation pile of another, he paws, sniffs, and adds to it. This is likely a form of communication, letting those animals following know who has passed before and maybe providing some indicators of the stressfulness of the situation. This might be what your gelding is doing. When stallions are not present, geldings often perform behaviors that stallions would.

About the Author

Sue McDonnell, PhD, Certified AAB

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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