A period of box rest provides owners with an opportunity to really get to know your horse. Just talking to him or grooming him will increase the bond between you. Show him you don’t always appear with a saddle in your hand!
Use your time together to learn more about his habits – when he eats, when he sleeps, whether or not he is drinking his usual amount of water and so on. All this will build up your knowledge of him and you should be able to pick up any tell-tale signs of stress more quickly.
Keep an eye on your horse’s weight to ensure he is maintaining condition with the change of circumstances. Adjust his feed accordingly if necessary.
Preventing boredom and stress
If possible, provide a stimulating view. Many horses enjoy watching people and animals coming and going. If your stable is in a quiet corner of the yard, investigate the possibility of swapping him over to a different stable temporarily. But make sure that this will suit your horse’s character. More nervy animals may get wound up in a busy atmosphere.
Play a radio at low volume close to his stable to give the impression of company when you are not there. Ensure it is a safe distance away and not so loud that it adds to your horse’s stress rather than easing it.
Invest in or borrow some horse toys. There are ‘boredom breakers’ onto which you can thread a variety of licks, apples, carrots or swedes for your horse to chew at his leisure and trickle feeding devices which increase the time it takes your horse to eat his feed. If your budget is limited, a swede threaded onto a strong piece of string and hung in the stable will prove just as entertaining to your horse.
Hide apples and carrots around his box. Tuck them into clean bedding to give your horse something else to forage for.
Split up piles of hay. Make your horse walk a couple of steps from one to the other, rather than stand and munch in one spot. Small things like this are simple to do but still make his life a bit more interesting.
Cut him some fresh grass. He’ll enjoy the variety and it will prevent a sudden change in his feeding if he was previouslyturned out, or when he goes back out again.
Look into the possibility of changing the frequency of your visits. For example, instead of going to the yard for an hour twice a day, see if you can visit him four times a day for half an hour each time. This will help break up your horse’s day and give him more to look forward to.
For more advice, including practical exercises to help keep your horse supple during a period of box rest, see the August issue of HORSE