If the rain and mud have resulted in your horse being stable-bound, then you and your horse may be feeling pretty fed-up. It may be true that bored horses are at a higher risk of developing stable vices, but most settle to restricted turnout if all their mates are also stabled, and they’ve obviously got access to food and water. Still, you might want to try some of the following to keep your trusty steed (and yourself) entertained.
From flavoured licks to horse balls, there’s an ever-growing plethora of ready-made horse toys available. Horses are pretty easily pleased, though, so if funds are tight (and right after Christmas, they usually are), why not make your own? You could try drilling a hole in a swede, threading it onto a string and hanging it up in your horse’s stable. Or filling an old plastic jug with carrots and hanging it securely in his stall. Even tying up a knotted rope in one corner might be enough to entertain him!
2. Hide ‘n’ seek
Horses are typically food-orientated so engage 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.
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 treat, for example by putting them into a treat ball that he has to swing/kick to extract the treat.
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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.
5. Providing multiple 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.
With little opportunity to indulge in a lovely long itch-busting roll, your horse will probably appreciate a good grooming session from his owner. A thorough grooming can also help stimulate the horse’s circulatory system.
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!