9 ways to stay sane if your horse is on box rest

  • Box rest — two words no horse owner wants to hear. Months of hard training gone to waste, dreams of summertime hacking gone out the window and your poor horse confined to prison and you without a ride. You’re doing the best thing for your horse — but try telling them that. Becky Murray finds out how we can keep our horses and ourselves sane at this testing time

    1. Depending on the ‘length of prison sentence’, boredom can be a huge factor for your horse, especially if they are used to all-day or 24 hour turnout. Stable mirrors can prove to be useful in these cases. Your horse can go from staring out of the stable longingly all-day to playing hide and seek with themselves in the mirror for hours of fun. Just ensure to get the unbreakable version designed for equines… you don’t need seven years of bad luck!

    2. If your horse is going to be out of action for some time and you can’t bear to be on the ground for that long what about looking up your local riding school and booking a nice, long Sunday hack round the forest. You’ll get your riding-fix and your stable-bound mate will have a much chirpier owner.

    3. Music is good for the soul! How about investing in a portable, battery-powered radio for your invalid? The music will provide some background noise for them and can also be handy if they can hear their field mates shouting to them all-day.

    4. Stay fit! You’re used to training five days a week and competing all season but now you’re looking at months out of action. Is there another hobby you can take up to keep you fit and supple ready for jumping back in the saddle when the time comes? You will thank yourself for it later down the line when your instructor is telling you to lengthen those legs and tutting at how unfit you’ve become.

    5. Is your horse allowed any massage treatment while on their box rest? There are a variety of massage mitts now available on the market. Check with your vet if you can treat your poorly pony to a lovely massage. Not only will it give you both that close bonding time (other than changing bandages or mucking out), but also help your horse in the process.

    6. You can’t compete but you can still partake! What about writing for a dressage judge at your local competition? You can pick up some handy tips on the way. Or how about stewarding for your local riding club? Perhaps you love the thrill of cross-country and could volunteer as a fence judge? Not only can you learn from others around you, support your friends and local clubs and venues, but this could also come in handy for future events where a ballot for entries may have to take place.

    7. Your horse is used to being in his stable with his neighbours either side of him in the evening, so watching them all be turned out in the morning without him can be a bit distressing. Is there a horse that can perhaps spend the day in with him for company that could do with coming off the grass during the day until the others come back in at night? A win-win situation for both owners.

    8. Let’s face it horse owners can be the biggest hoarders in the world. You still have the rug that fits your 14.2hh pony you sold years ago? Or you’ve accumulated more bits than a riding school? You have six headcollars, eight sets of bandages, three riding crops and don’t start on the haynets and buckets. Use this spare time for a big weekend clear out and look into a horsey car-boot sale. You’ll thank yourself for the space and you know you’d love to treat your four-legged friend to something new once he’s all better and ready for action again.

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    9. And finally what horse doesn’t like food? How about a turnip tied to a rope hanging from the stable? Or a stable toy that dispenses some healthy herbal treats could be a nice way to break-up the afternoon.

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