Occupying the Horse on Stall Rest

Photo by Doug Payne. Photo by Doug Payne.

From time to time, everyone finds themselves in a situation where their horse needs to be confined to a stall. Reasons can be many and varied from simply staying in out of bad weather to more drastic problems like a traumatic injury. Whether it’s one day or three months, a lot of horses aren’t fond of confinement and appreciate an attempt to keep them happy.

First of all, it’s super important to keep their stalls clean, obviously this makes the horse feel more comfortable. Cleaning the stall thoroughly twice a day is the best bet. As labor allows it’s also helpful to pick it out throughout the day.

I love using hay nets to help keep a bored horse occupied. The nets with the smaller holes work best as the horse then has to ‘work’ to get the hay out. It’s more difficult and more entertaining for them to have to pull the hay out rather than eat it directly from the ground. It also feels a bit more natural, like ripping the grass in the field. When using a hay net it should be secured high enough so the horse can’t get tangled up.

There are a multitude of ‘toys’ on the market designed to entertain a horse. I haven’t found huge success with most of them however the balls with a handle on the side can be mildly amusing. I find the dogs enjoy the horse toys more than the horses!

I also have a rule that a horse can not be in a stall for more than 24 hours without going out, working or grazing in hand. If they are injured then follow the vets instructions, but almost any type of injury allows you to at least hand graze. This is vital for their mental and digestive health.

I’m a huge proponent of horses spending as much time outside as possible, so it has to be pretty bad out for them to be in. For injured horses I have a couple of small turnouts they can go out in for short periods of time throughout their recovery.