View Full Version : Equine Self-Mutilation

29-03-00, 12:27 AM
We have a young stallion who has started to show this behaviour. He basically has to live in a neck cradle 24 hours a day to prevent him from biting himself to pieces. Other than this he is a lovely boy who throws very pretty foals. We have tried him on MPA (a progestin to reduce serum testosterone) with little success. If anyone knows of any research or treatments which may alleviate the distress of this condition (aside from gelding!) I would be most interested to hear about it.

29-03-00, 12:32 AM
I have heard of a standardbred up our way who has this problem, I will see what I can find out for you.
Just a thought though - is he bored? Could you put him in with a friend?

29-03-00, 01:47 AM
Nope not bored. Has his own half acre paddock in full view of mares. Have tried running a
miniature gelding with him which we will do again come winter. Doesn't alleviate the flank biting but does give him something to chase :). Also are going to try running some dominant mares with him later in the year once we've weaned their foals off. Definitely appears to be a pyschological probem originating from a physiological/hormonal base.

29-03-00, 02:29 AM
Andie there is a comprehensive article at the American site www.thehorse.com on this subject. It is in the features of the March edition or you could find it by going to thehorse interactive and doing a search on equine self mutilation. Hope this helps.

29-03-00, 02:53 AM
This may not help much at all... My stallion did this, I have had him gelded for 5 years now and it has only just stopped over the past couple of years. He had his stifles so sore that he would kick at himself once he had bitten them. I couldn't even touch him there.

I had him gelded for other reasons than this - he was badly abused and got quite aggressive when upset....

I hope that you can fix this problem and could you let us know how you get on?

29-03-00, 04:35 AM
Thanks Janet. The article was really interesting but quite depressing in so much that it really doesn't seem to be ANYTHING that can be done to 100% cure the problem.
He is only 4 too so by the time he is 20 he'll be nothing but scars!
Sharon, that is interesting about your gelding. This is a last ditch thing - we would have his semen tested and stored for our use if it comes to that. Seems
such a shame though. I have contacted the owners of his sire and grandsire who assure me they
do not exhibit the behaviour. Plus we have his dam so we know it does not come from her.
Poor guy. Breaks my heart to see him do this to himself.

29-03-00, 05:07 AM
try vitamin b injection, it is supposed to help them calm down with things like that, and tie a milk bottle inhis stall to play with. It works with mine!!

29-03-00, 05:14 AM
Andy - you mentioned that your stallion was in a half acre paddock with full view of the mares - maybe that's the problem! Not enough to do so he spends his time looking at the girls but can't get near them.... frustration! Perhaps is he was in a larger paddock where he can't see any other horses. Maybe an old mare to keep him company or some 'horse toys' big rubber ball (Horselands)old tyre, whatever!

29-03-00, 07:21 AM
an excerpt from Stephen Budianskys book "the Nature of Horses" on this type of activity

"a number of similar human disorders (hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive behaviour...) have been associated with abnormally high activation of certain pathways used by the brain to send nerve signals to the out to the body. These pathways involve dopamine - a chemical messenger...(sic)
Other experiments have shown that narcotics such as morphine seem to have a similar effect, either by increasing the release of dopamine in the brain or by making the receptors more sensitive to its presence. This led vetrinarian Nicholas Dodman and his colleagues to wonder if perhaps the stereotypic behaviour in tall vices was actually somehow triggered by the natural, opium-like compounds known as enkephalins and endorphins that the body itself produces, especially in response to stressful stimuli. Dodmans results were nothing short of astonishing: seven crib-biting horses were given injections of chemicals known to block the effect of narcotics, in all seven cases the frequency of crib-biting dropped from several times a minute (sic) to zer within minutes. An experimient with a stallion who engaged in extreme self-mutilative behaviour produced similar results: he went from striking at himself 69 times in a four hour period to 4 times in 4 hours after receiving a dose of a narcotic blocker"

sorry this is long (despite my cutting) but it may give you an avenue to investigate ?

29-03-00, 08:57 AM
I would definately try a homeopath-one who specialises in animals. Homeopathy doesn't just treat the symptoms but also the cause. It is not that expensive and anything has got to be worth a try.

29-03-00, 10:30 AM
Judith - yes that is certainly worth a try. He can't see the mares all the time though where he is but we are definitely going to try an older more dominant mare - two actually - (tried one before and that just sent him troppo -.....

Sue - He gets B-Quiet in his feed now which I truly believe has "quietened" him down somewhat but not enough to effect this obsessive behaviour unfortunately.

Nerri - a homeopathic approach is worth considering though (born skeptic :) I doubt it would
be enough to block whatever it is in his brain that is driving him to this behaviour.

Summer - INTERESTING!!!! I have emailled my vet with your quote for his comments!

By the way - he somehow got his neck cradle off today - has at least 6 new bites on him :(

29-03-00, 01:08 PM
This condition must be very distressing to the stallion - and you the owner, of course.
Have you considered to consult an equine behaviour specialist? e.g. Andrew McLean?
Can you recall when this behaviour started? Before or after he was used for breeding?
Please let us know if you find help anywhere.
Otherwise I would probably gelder him, for his own sake. Good luck.

Black Beauty
29-03-00, 01:35 PM
Try contacting Victoria Ferguson:equine herbalist
her phone number is:(02)4930 0128
fax:(02)4930 0888 or email:victoria.ferguson@herbalhorse.com
she is really good and if anyone can help she can, it would be kinder on the horse to go to natural medicine rather than sythetic, natural medicine works on the nervous/immune systems so it could well help him.
I agree that part of the prob could be not "enough work"and seeing "his" mares is driving him bonkers.
The poor horse, I hope you can help him!!!


29-03-00, 02:12 PM
See Carola, you've done it again!! I was going to suggest Andrew McLean too!!! He did a school up here recently and spoke about this in his lecture...can't remember what he said tho' :-(
Give him a go tho' I reckon he would be able to help you.

01-04-00, 12:12 AM
Yesterday we replaced his neck cradle with a grazing muzzle as we were concerned his neck flexion would be compromised by 24/day hours of no movement. As soon as it was on he started attacking himself (albeit unsuccessfully thanks to the muzzle....) I put some Vicks inside his nostrils and on his sides which seemed to have a positive effect in reducing the frequency of the attacks.

He does respond to being yelled at when he goes to bite himself but we obviously cannot be around him every minute of the day.

Our vet is coming out today and two of the things we are going to discuss are
1: the narcotic blockers mentioned earlier in these posts (although he tells me this treatment is very very expensive, only available by injection and short lasting so has to be done frequently) and
2: animal "prozac"

Wish us luck.

05-04-00, 03:07 PM
I have a mare which when stressed, upset or in a "hormonal state" will attack herself, that is rip at her chest. She is a beautiful mare which I have owned for almost 4 years and went through much trauma before I owned her. She is extremely hormonal and during a high period of "cycling" will injure herself and has no regard for her own safety. She races every where like a crazy idiot, working herself into a frenzy and bashes her legs (boots only cover so much). She rips at her rugs :-( It is frightening and heartbreaking. I have tried most herbal preparations which are successful to a point, but expensive if the results are only so so. Under veterinary guidance we eliminated any mental problem via trial and error with various medications and concluded that it was purely hormonal. She is on Regumate which is progesterone and will be on it for the rest of her life. Don't give up.

05-04-00, 03:12 PM
Oops after reading my post it sounded a bit anti herbal! No way - I believe that they are a central key to horse health and I use them every day. I can strongly recommend Victoria Ferguson - she is a wonderfully caring woman from whom we have a lot to learn!! It is just for my horse - I really did not want to have to use any articial type of drug - the preparations we tried weren't as effective as the regumate!! Good luck.