How to Help Your Horse During Stall Rest
Whether it’s injury, illness, or weather, we may need to stall rest our horses for days, weeks, even months. Horses, however, evolved on the plains and are meant to wander and graze throughout the day. Confining them to a 10x10 box stall is not only boring for horses, but also very stressful causing them to develop “stall vices,” such as weaving, pawing, and cribbing. Such vices can negatively impact their health, not to mention cause owners stress. To help your horse cope with the long, boring days of confinement we’ve compiled the following list of awesome strategies for you to try.
- The Buddy System: It helped us through grade school, it will help your horse through confinement. Horses are herd animals. Being alone causes anxiety and stress, which is exhibited by pacing or whinnying repeatedly. Having a friend nearby will help. When stalling another horse is not possible, hanging a mirror in the confined horse’s space has proven to be a helpful substitute.
- Slow feeder nets and devices: Horse’s on stall rest will often go through their allotted hay or grain very quickly. Using a slow feeder net with small openings will prolong foraging time and decrease boredom.
- Toys: Many treat dispending devices are available to help horses with boredom. From balls to sliding trap doors and other puzzle feeders, these devices can entertain your horse and occupy their time. Check out technician Diana’s horse enjoying a treat device here:
- Happy Environment: There are many things you can do to ensure your horse’s stall environment is pleasant. A clean stall makes a huge difference and is good for your horse’s health. Remove waste material often and replace with clean, dry bedding. Provide adequate bedding so your horse can lay down if needed. Play music in the barn when no one is present; studies have shown calming classical music will decrease horses’ stress levels when they are stalled. Finally, lavender oil scent has been suggested as an aromatherapy agent to promote calmness.
- Supplements: A few different calming supplements are available. Zylkene, for example, has shown effectiveness in calming stressed horses. If you have questions about a particular supplement please let us know.
- Medications: For some horses, prescriptions medications are necessary to help with the anxiety and stress produced from prolonged periods of stall rest. Please discuss the addition of a medication with your veterinarian if your horse is struggling to remain quiet and content.