“That will be six weeks box rest”, says your vet. You groan inwardly as you imagine your normally well-mannered horse turning into a door-kicking, box-walking nightmare.
Keeping a horse stabled for a period of time to allow an injury to heal is a necessary evil that most horses and owners will have to endure at some point. However, most horses do acclimatise fairly well to a period of enforced rest and there is much that owners can do to help.
Top tips for box rest
It’s important that you choose a bedding that’s suitable for your horse’s injury or illness. Speak to your vet about what’s most appropriate and whether the bedding should come right up to the doorway or not. It might be that rubber mats near the door will provide suitable cushioning so you don’t have to increase the bed size.
Keeping the horse’s gut moving is vital during a period of box rest to avoid colic. The horse’s gut is stimulate naturally by the horses walking around, so make sure the horse has ad lib forage with plenty of fresh water. Hard feed should be appropriate to the horse’s needs and should be fed in small wet feeds. Monitor your horse’s water intake. Some horses find lukewarm water more tempting so consider offering this, particularly in winter.
Time spent grooming and massaging the horse will help keep him occupied and good foot hygiene is important to avoid the risk of thrush. Stable toys and mirrors can also be useful and a radio can be a welcome distraction.
On a big yard, consider which stable you keep your horse in during box rest. Some like to see plenty going on, while others prefer peace and quiet. Try to cater for their preferences as a settled horse is vital if the injury or illness is going to heal successfully. If a horse does refuses to settle in its stable, sedation may be necessary. Speak to your vet about this.
Some horses like to have company, in the form of a goat, sheep or tiny pony, but make sure both the patient and his ‘friend’ get their fair share of food and are not annoyed or bossed around by each other.