Is your horse stable-bound? Take a look at 7 ways to beat the boredom

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  • If your horse has recently been confined to his stable more than you’d hoped, then you both may be feeling pretty fed up – boredom busters for horses will become your new best friend. While bored horses are at a higher risk of developing stereotypies, most settle to restricted turnout if their mates are also stabled – obviously assuming they’ve got access to food and water. Still, you might want to try some of the following to keep your trusty steed (and yourself) entertained.

    1. Playtime

    There is such a wide range of stable toys available. Horses are pretty easily pleased, though, so if funds are tight you could make your own – try drilling a hole in a swede, threading it onto a string and hanging it up in your horse’s stable, or fill an old plastic jug with carrots and hang it securely in his stall. Even tying a knotted rope in one corner might be enough to entertain him.

    2. Hide ‘n’ seek

    Horses are typically food-orientated so get his attention by hiding carrots in haynets and hanging them up round the stable. You can also put pieces of apple into his water bucket, so he has to ‘bob’ for them.

    3. Treats galore

    Treats can be a good way of entertaining your equine (as long as he’s not on a diet…). It’s a good idea to get him to work for the treats – for example, by putting them into a treat ball that he has to swing/kick to extract the treat, such as the Likit Snak-a-Ball.

    4. Carrot stretches

    Stabled horses can get stiff, so why not maximise this time by practising your carrot stretches? If you’re unsure of how to do them, or want to brush up you skills, here is a video from YouTube to help. Handheld licks, such as this Horslyx Mini, are a great substitute for a carrot and can encourage your horse to hold the stretch for longer, too.

    5. Multiple sources of forage

    The Equine Behaviour and Training Association (EBTA) recommends providing different types of forage to stabled horses, to replicate as closely as possible the ‘patch foraging’ that is normal behaviour when grazing. For example, instead of mixing your horse’s feed, you could place the components in separate buckets. Or offer one haynet filled with hay, another with haylage plus a large bucket of dried grass and place them around the stable. Smaller-holed haynets, such as the Shires Greedy Feeder, may also keep him busier for longer, although they’re not the best for hiding carrots in.

    6. Pamper time

    With little opportunity to indulge in a lovely long itch-busting roll, your horse will probably appreciate a good grooming session. A thorough groom can also help stimulate his circulatory system in a similar way to a massage. You could even try using a specially designed massaging grooming tool, such as this massaging grooming glove, or mitt, such as the Equilibrium massage mitt.

    7. Mirror, mirror

    Horses are herd animals, and if for any reason he has to be stabled away from his mates, or can’t easily see them from his stable, then the Equine Behaviour and Training Association (ETBA) suggests using a mirror. Make it a small one, so he can avoid his ‘stable buddy’ if need be, and try him with it on the yard first, to ensure it doesn’t freak him out. If he’s an aggressive type, he’s likely to be aggressive with his ‘mate’ so a mirror may not be a good idea. And of course, make sure it’s safely attached and non-breakable — glass mirror shards in a horse’s stable are not advisable! Here’s a self-adhesive vinyl mirror to try.

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