One day, you’re riding happily along without a care in the world and the next, your horse is hopping lame and the vet has uttered those two little words that every horse owner dreads…“box rest!”
Your heart sinks as you visualise your usually mild-mannered horse transforming into a bad-tempered, bored beast that develops every stable vice going from weaving to cribbing, and invents a few new ones as well, for good measure.
Well, try not to worry. That probably won’t happen. Most horses do adjust fairly well to a period of enforced rest and relaxation (as we like to think of it). However, you will discover the following…
1. Nothing is indestructible
Worried about your horse’s happiness and wellbeing over the next few days or weeks, you’ve forked out for a treat ball, a stable mirror, a small-holed haynet, and a new rug (any excuse, right?). The online adverts for all of these items claim that they’re indestructible. This is a challenge that your horse appears only too happy to take on… Suffice to say, very few things are indestructible if repeatedly bashed against a concrete wall, or chewed by teeth that can easily gnaw through solid wood. This includes your sense of calm and wellbeing when you turn up in the morning to find that lovely new rug on his stable floor, shredded like a pair of fishnet tights at an indie disco.
2. Horses do a lot of poo
On average, horses defecate around eight times in 24 hours. Unless they’re on box rest, when you can double that. Or triple it. At least, that’s what it looks like when you come to skip out your horse, who will inevitably be standing with at least one hoof in a mound of poo. Taking pity on you, he may have decided to bury some of it in your carefully-built banks – out of sight, out of mind, right? This means you have to hang out in his stable while you dig it all out, which is nice for you both. Isn’t it? Hello?
From constantly being covered in grey hair, battling with stable stains and spending hours washing and rewashing the same section…
We all dream of opening the field gate, calling our horse’s name and hearing a whicker of delight as he…
Some horses don’t mind windy weather (we wish we had one of these…), but unfortunately some really, really don’t like…
3. Swedes can be lethal
No, not the Scandinavian sort — they’re a lovely, peaceful nation on the whole. We’re talking about the root vegetable, which you’ve pierced and suspended from the ceiling on a piece of string as a ‘toy’ for your frustrated horse. He can whack it around like a game of swingball, and when he gets bored of playing, he can eat it. What a great idea — except when you dash back into his stable to check his water bucket before you leave the yard and get clonked on the side of the head by a 2kg root vegetable. In 2012, swedes were named one of the most dangerous vegetables (honestly!) so this is something we all need to take very seriously. We should probably set up a helpline.
4. Your partner/spouse/parent will wonder if you’re having an affair
Now your horse is out of action, your partner/spouse/parent may start getting some funny ideas about spending more time with you. You, on the other hand, are so concerned about your steed being bored and lonely that you’re practically living in his stable. You’ve installed a radio outside it (another boredom alleviator for box-resting horses) and have both developed a mild addiction to The Archers. This is all perfectly logical to you, as indeed it would be to any equestrian, but your non-horsey partner/spouse/parent may start to get suspicious when you rock up at midnight, muttering about Tony Archer’s organic plums.
5. Singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen does not cheer up a depressed horse
So he’s been on box rest for over a week, and frankly you’re both feeling a bit low. You miss riding him, he misses hooning about in his field. It’s at a time like this that it might occur to you to sing uplifting show tunes to him, to raise both your spirits. Choose wisely. Queen Elsa might know a thing or two about new beginnings and fresh starts, but ‘Let It Go’ is fiendishly difficult to sing. Choose something from Annie or the Sound Of Music instead. Your horse (and fellow liveries) will thank you.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.