Horse Grinds Teeth for Attention
My 9-year-old paint mare grinds her teeth whenever she has to wait for anything, like feeding or saddling. Sometimes she does it just to get my attention when I walk past her stall. Her vet says there are no physical problems. I do not feed, saddle or pet her until she stops doing this. I just wait until she stops, but she still does it every timehowever, she does not do this unless she thinks someone is around. She has a 24’ x 24’ rubber mat stall and free access to 1 acre of pasture.
Grinding of teeth, like pawing, is often an anticipatory behavior conducted when the cue for an item the horse wants appears. Sometimes the cue is the food scoop, sometimes the sound of the food bin opening, and, in some cases it is the presence of an individual person.
First, you’re doing a great job by waiting for her to stop the grinding before she gets attentioncontinue that pattern. It sounds like your horse might have limited enrichment options, making the events of feeding and saddling very exciting parts of her day in that during these times there is variety of stimuli, which she might not have during other parts of the day.
I would suggest providing her with some fun enrichment throughout the day. A plastic barrel with a couple of holes drilled in it and a few treats inside will provide her with access to some “foraging.” Instead of putting her hay in one spot, spread it around: put clumps in a tree, wedge clumps in a fence corner, so she can spend time hunting for her food. Cut up a few pieces of apple and pop them into her water bucketshe can bob for apples. Take a natural-fiber push broom head and attach it to a pole so she can scratch herself throughout the day.