Admit it, we all experience boredom at one time or another. Our horses are no different. Every year, at this time, our ability to turn our horses out in a field becomes limited or even restricted completely. I always struggle to keep them entertained and 'fresh', so this year I've delved into the world of social media and asked everyone I know for some handy hints and tips to rid our neddies of the winter blues. A massive thankyou to everyone who has offered advice; I'm very grateful! Hopefully plenty of horses will be too!
Although it is natural to turn a horse out at grass, it is not always practical. We may need to stable them to help keep them in good condition; to maintain their level of fitness; to rest them after injury/illness; to limit injury/illness; for convenience or for a variety of other reasons. However, horses stabled for too long can develop stables vices ranging in severity. So to help this winter, Lofthouse Equestrian has put together a list of tips and tricks you can try to help keep your horse happy this winter! We are trying them out too, as our horses often become irritable at this time of year.
- Try to ensure your horse is in plenty of work, if possible. A stabled horse that is just being occasionally hacked out for 10 minutes is not going to be happy. Horses are intelligent animals and they need to be taxed in various ways to help keep their hearts and minds healthy.
- Mimic their natural feeding habit! Horses are constant grazers, which helps to keep their digestive system healthy. Feeding small amounts often, with plenty of hay will substitute this- to a point.
- Being separated from the herd can distress your horse and lead to vices. 'Barn' type stabling where horses can see and smell each other are beneficial so they can continue to feel like part of the herd. Socialising with them when possible i.e. in a turnout pen gives them that essential interaction.
- Keeping to a good routine helps, especially when dealing with a very 'fractious' horse. Calm manners when handling them and routinely performing activities in the same way keeps stress levels to a minimum.
- Variety in their exercise helps to keep them entertained. Maybe hack out one day, school on the flat another, try jumping another day (or trotting poles for those of us who are not as brave)!
- Boredom breakers in the stable are a great way to keep them entertained and also challenge them mentally!
Ideas such as;
- Smaller haynets placed strategically around the stable.
- Treat balls.
- Stable licks placed both on the floor and tied up around the stable.
- Haynets filled with fibre blocks or carrots.
- Apple bobbing (placing an apple in the water bucket to see if he/she can retrieve it!)
- Horse balls (my horse tends to want to throw his feed bucket around- at least this is designed for it!)
- Stable mirrors are currently being tested and so far are helping to eliminate loneliness. Some horses have shown identifiable signs of unhappiness at the lack of company whilst stabled. There are special stable mirrors currently on the market which are a lot safer than the average mirror!
Your horse’s mental health is so important, especially when it comes to his or her training. A bad mental attitude means you are more likely to encounter problems when schooling, such as napping and bucking. After all, you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.
Please note: All boredom breakers are used at your own risk. Lofthouse Equestrian will not be held responsible from any accidents or injuries resulting from the use of them.