If you’ve been riding long enough, sooner or later you will have to deal with a horse who is on stall rest. Maybe just for a few days for an abscess. In my case, my silly beast played a great game of ‘does my foot fit here’ and lost miserably. We are currently about two months in to an eight month stall rest sentence. I refer to it as a pony jail and remind him often about how he came to be locked up in the box with brief daily intervals of hand grazing.
Being a thoroughbred whom I’ve raised since birth, my philosophy for stable management is that he is a horse first and foremost. That said, he has lived most of his life outside, and only inside when it’s either very cold or there is a threat of severe weather. Being locked in the box has not been his idea of a good time, leaving me to constantly create new ways to keep him from chewing the barn down. I thought I might share some of my more useful ideas in case someone else might find them helpful. Luckily, I keep my horses at home, since it is summer and the weather is nice, I have the luxury of my first suggestion.
If you have the space I highly recommend this. Every 12 hours after his hand graze, I give him a change of scenery by putting him in a different stall. Some of the stalls have a dutch door for him to look outside, others face a paddock with friends, or even the street. Providing him with some visual activity through out the day. Each stall has different ‘toy’ for him to entertain himself with.
Slow Feed Hay Net Surprise
Always be sure if you are using a hay net that it does not fall below middle of your horses shoulder when empty. Otherwise you run the risk of your horse getting his foot stuck – not quite the entertainment that was intended. I have a smaller one that holds about 3 flakes of hay, inside the hay in the net I hide carrot and apple pieces. I also throw him his meal hay on the floor. Once he finishes his meal hay he has the net to keep him entertained for a few hours as he has a scavenger hunt for the treats.
I have not had much luck with these toys just laying on the floor of the stall. However once I hang them up the horses seem to enjoy them much more. I generally use bailing twine around the handle, and am careful to not double loop anything. Double looping worries me in the respect that if he manages to get the twine separated and his head inside the loop he might get stuck in it. I use three pieces of double length twine. Set the handle of the ball in the middle of the twine, fold the twine in half over the handle, then braid the twine to the end and tie it off with a knot at the end. You can normally work a double end snap through the braid just under the knot. Alternatively, you can use an old lead rope, but I have found the twine to last longer. When hanging them up, I usually hang it slightly lower than where the tail meets the top of the hind quarters. They love to pin it against the wall, chew it, squash it, swing it around and generally make it sound like there is a small war taking place in the stall.
Stall Snack Toys
I have tried several brands of these in the past, and though they like the Uncle Jimmys Licky Things the best, they are also the stickiest and make a big sticky mess on their face. Not so fun in the summer time when it draws the flies and the bugs to annoy them. I have had the most luck with the Lickit brand of stall snacks, they don’t melt or get too sticky. I have a 3′ long 2×4 angled at a corner of the stall. This enables me to hang the snack, far enough away from the wall so that he can’t pin it to the wall and scarf it down. I also have the jolly apple hanging from the bottom of the stall snack as a further deterrent from getting it cornered. The only pitfall with these is my critter has figured out that if he can’t pin it on the wall to eat it all at once, he will just grab the bottom of it and slam it against the wall until it shatters. – Face Palm – So I limit him to ONE Lickit per week. His favorite is peppermint, his second favorite would be the apple.
Icee Frozen Stall Snack
These are easy to make but can be a bit messy in the stall. I saved a few of the molds my Likits came in. Fill half way with water, then mix in a few tablespoons of sugar free jello until dissolved for flavor. You can also use diluted apple juice, Gatorade, Powerade or regular full sugar Jello. Mix in some small pieces of apples, carrots, peppermints etc. Make sure you leave enough room for the Icee to expand as it freezes. I freeze overnight and hang the next day. If you don’t have a Lickit container, or a Lickit holder, no worries! Simply take an empty mid-size plastic container – yogurt, sour cream etc and follow the instructions above. But before you freeze it, tuck a generous piece of baling twine into the mixture, once it is frozen you will have something to hang the Icee with on a screw eye in the stall. Again, watch twine length, make sure it’s not too long that a bored mischievous horse could get into trouble with. These can be messy since they can easily be pinned to the wall and slobbered on, which is why I avoid using sugary liquids.
Who knew these were so easy to get a hold of? I found a large one for $16 at Lowe’s Home Improvement at the very back of the plumbing section against the perimeter of the building. My horse has always been a bit mouthy, perhaps you noticed a trend in his stall toys? Nonetheless, he locked eyes on that bright orange cone as I walked down the aisle and his eyes lit up with anticipation. Within seconds he picked it up and was dragging it, swinging it around and throwing it around his stall like it was new best friend.. It very much reminded me of when Tom Hanks adopted the volleyball Wilson in the movie Castaway. By far the best $16 I have ever spent to keep a horse happy on stall rest!
When he started reaching for things off his stall door I knew we were in trouble, when he started with halter hoola hoop, I had to redirect him to something a bit safer, then clobbering himself with the hardware on his halter.
Thrift Store Baby Doll
— Disclaimer — I trust my horse enough to not eat this thing, but still don’t let him play with it unless I’m at the barn to supervise. If you aren’t sure how your horse will respond, I highly suggest supervision until you know how your horse will behave. My horse likes to grab his halter off his door, work the halter in his mouth until he finds the throat snap and swing it around in circles until he makes himself dizzy or he lets go, whichever comes first. The last thing I want is for him to get his foot stuck in his halter after he drags it into his stall, so we compromised with the great, big, plastic, once-piece baby doll. He can pick it up by the hair and swing it around in circles as long as he wants and if it ends up in his stall I know he’s not going to hogtie himself with it and earn himself more stall rest. It’s rather amusing to watch. 😀 I’m sure he’s clobbered himself in the head on more than one occasion, but that doesn’t stop him from playing with it. He takes this very seriously and has pretty much mastered this game.
Bobbing For Hay Cubes
He has been playing this game since his first sleepover horse show as a five year old where he didn’t like the taste of the water and was reluctant to drink. After dropping some hay cubes in his water bucket it became the best game ever for him. It’s cute to watch him go eyeball deep in his water bucket to grab one. Because he’s a bit of a piglet, I break the cubes up into small pieces, sometimes this requires pre soaking the cubes a bit so you can break them down a little before offering them to him. This also works well with Apples and Carrots.
I always keep one of the critters in the paddock by the barn so he doesn’t feel by himself. Typically it’s the pudgy pony. These two have never been besties, he despises how pushy she is out in the field. But since putting her in the ‘Jenny Craig’ paddock by the barn, they are much more tolerant of each other in general. Once a week I let her out in the big field for an afternoon to get in a good gallop and play around. I will often bring up someone else to take her place. I always keep another critter up by the barn to ‘take one for the team.’
A few times a week I will give him HALF a flake of alfalfa. He never knows what day or what stall he’s going to find his beloved treat of ‘pony crack’ and I usually bury it under his regular meal hay. Just another way I try to break up his boredom.
Mining For Minerals
Not so much in entertainment really, however I noticed about six weeks in to our sentence that my boy began craving dirt. I noticed he was digging through the bedding to rake his teeth on the clay base and eat the dirt. He also started digging when we would be doing a tour of the farm for a hand graze.. He would dig up the grass and eat the dirt. After consulting with my vet and local feed store we decided to offer him a salt free loose mineral when he was in the stall. He ate quite a bit of it at first, but he stopped eating dirt and tearing up his stall to get to the base. He has since tapered off on how much he is at his mineral bucket.
Drilling To China
Thus far he has been pretty good about not stall walking. I hope it stays that way. However, years ago, a friend had a horse with a stall walking/pacing problems at horse shows. She would always bring two old truck tires to horse shows with her and it worked a charm. She would place it right where he would have to walk and after a few laps he grew tired of the obstacle course and would settle down. Sometimes she could take them out after she was sure he had settled. That would be an option depending on the reason for stall rest.
Always supervise your horse when introducing new toys, you may also want to talk to your veterinarian before adding any of these suggestions to make sure they won’t be detrimental to stall rest.