Rolling Along

Almost every time I let my horses out of the stalls after feeding them, they roll in the dirt, dust, or mud. Why?
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Almost every time I let my horses out of the stalls after feeding them, they roll in the dirt, dust, or mud. Why?

ARolling associated with turnout after feeding is a slight variation on the more usual question of rolling immediately after a good grooming or a bath. Owners often ask why their horse "hates to be clean," or tries to "ruin his coat," and seems to deliberately roll to "spite you for grooming him."

The short answer to rolling when turned out is that it’s normal horse grooming and social behavior to roll whenever turned out from the stall to an open area. But since rolling is one of the most interesting equine behaviors, I’ll take the opportunity of your question to explain in greater detail how and why rolling is normal.

In horses living outdoors all of the time, especially those living under natural herd conditions, rolling behavior is one of the most conspicuously frequent social and grooming behaviors. While we don’t know precisely what stimulates rolling and what it means in all circumstances, it likely serves several purposes

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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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