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This week I read a really interesting article on Horse & Hound looking into the different reasons why horses roll. Scottie is a massive roller! In the wet he loves nothing more than to throw himself on the floor and have a good roll. But this article got me thinking about why do horses roll and why might Scottie be rolling.
Why do horses roll?
There are lots of reasons why horses roll, but they all fall under these categories:
- helps shed coat
- control body temperature
- stop itchiness
- scent marking
What can we learn about our horse by them rolling?
Their position in the herd
What I thought was really interesting is that when and where a horse rolls could determine where the horse is in the herds hierarchy. More dominant horses with choose the best places to roll, such as the nice muddy patch by the gate! More dominant horses may also roll last in order to leave their scent over the other horses.
If they are relaxed/where they are relaxed
If a horse is rolling out of enjoyment (or possibly even from discomfort) they have to be comfortable in the area. Your horse regularly having a roll could be a sign that they are happy and feel safe in their environment. But also, you could potentially find that they are more relaxed in some places than others. For example, Scottie loves a roll in the field, but while he does lay down in the stable, I am not sure he ever rolls in the stable. This could be because he doesn’t feel there is enough space to have a good roll so doesn’t feel safe to roll.
If they are too hot in their rugs
When horses get too hot and/or sweaty, rolling in the mud and dust can help them bring their temperature back down. With over rugging being a bit of a hot topic in our industry at the moment, if your horse regularly rolls with a rug on, this could potentially be a sign that they are too warm and are trying to cool themselves down.
If they are uncomfortable
Finally rolling could be a sign of stomach ache or colic. If your horse is rolling and looks distressed, they are probably uncomfortable and in some pain. You may need to keep an eye on them and consider calling a vet out. You do not need to stop the rolling, unless they are really thrashing about.
Why do I think Scottie rolls?
I think Scottie largely rolls for enjoyment. He typically rolls when he first goes out in the field and often has a good buck and run around afterwards. Being a chestnut, he doesn’t have the best coat and does seem to nearly always be in a stage of shedding his coat. So it could also linked to itchiness or wanting to clear his coat. But I do think he mainly rolls for enjoyment.
Do your horses roll? Why do you think they do it?