Stacy Bromley Cheetham, MPA
“Your horse needs stall rest” – the five words every horse owner dreads hearing. Whether for a few days due to a lost shoe, a week due to a horse show, or an extended rest due to injury, your horse is likely not going to be pleased at his sudden confinement. As his owner, it is your job to make sure that his stall is as comfortable and welcoming as possible, however long he will be staying there. This can mean the difference between a sane horse and one that totally loses his marbles on stall rest. So what can you do to help?
Make sure he has fresh air, good ventilation, and visual stimulation – AKA, a window and a fan for warmer months! Most horses like other horses, and enjoy their company. They are happiest when they can see their pasture mates close by, or watch some of the action in the ring. If a window to the outside is not an option, try for a half door, or Dutch door, in the aisle so he can watch what is happening in the barn. You may want to add a fan in the summer months, which will not only help with air flow, but will also help keep flies from becoming as much of a nuisance.
Comfortable Bedding and Flooring – Whether you choose to bed on hay or straw, make sure that you give your horse adequate cushion during his extended stay. Depending upon the type of injury he has, he may be inclined to lie down more frequently, and in that case, you want to not only provide a soft place for him to sleep, but also prevent hock sores from getting up and down on the hard ground. If you are able to place a mat in the stall, that can provide additional support.
Access to clean water at all times when traveling and stalled – This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is very easy for a horse to get dehydrated, or not want to drink “different tasting” water at a new location, like a show. If your horse has access to turnout in these situations, it will not be as much of an issue, but if he is confined, you will want to monitor his water intake explicitly. In these instances, you can add a flavored product like Horse Quencher to encourage him to drink more. Combined with electrolytes, this is an excellent way to ensure that your horse is getting the amount of hydration he needs.
Mental Stimulation – Don’t let him become bored! Making sure your horse has plenty of access to forage during the day seems like an easy one, of course. But what about providing some interactive toys for him to play with as well? The Jolly Ball is one to try, and there are toys on the market now that require your horse to manipulate it until a treat pops out, similar to a puzzle. Keeping your horse busy in a positive way helps ensure that he doesn’t pick up any bad habits.
One-on-One Time – Don’t forget the value of personal interaction! Hopefully, your horse is able to be placed on the crossties for grooming, or allows you safely into the stall for brushing and some massage. By integrating some more vigorous currying into your grooming routine, you can not only help coat health bloom, but you can also help relieve tension build-up on the skin’s surface and along muscles. There are many great grooming tools, such as the Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomer, to check out to help you with this task!
You might also try teaching him some simple stretches, if he is safely able to do so within the confines of his rehabilitation plan. “Carrot Stretches” engage various muscle groups with the aid of positive reinforcement. Some to try include asking for a stretch to the point of hip, to the opposite front hoof, to the girthline, and back lifts. Make sure that for each side that you stretch, you perfect the same on the opposing side.
Hopefully these few tips will help your horse sail through his stall rest in no time, whether it is for a few days or an extended amount of time. Handled properly, your horse can stay engaged with you and even thrive during his time inside. Once you are back in the saddle, it will be like he never missed a beat!
About the Author:
Stacy Bromley Cheetham, MPA grew up riding horses. She currently resides in Raleigh, NC with her boyfriend, her two rescue Pomeranians, an ornery calico cat, and is working with a promising young OTTB, Indelible (Hanna No Sir) who came from the Track to Tranquility race rehoming program. She is a fundraiser for a local nonprofit and is the Silent Auction Chair for Duke Jump for the Children, an AA 4* rated horse show benefiting Duke Children’s Hospital.