As winter starts to take hold our horses and ponies will be spending more time in the stable. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to turn their horses out during the winter months or the time they do get out in the field is limited.
Even if you are lucky enough to have acres of paddock land, if the Great British winter does its worst there could be periods when turnout is not ideal due to frozen ground, heavy snow or fields that resemble more of a lake.
In the wild, horses spend many hours leisurely grazing in the safety and company of their herd. When a horse is stabled for long periods he is often denied the chance to exhibit natural behaviour such as foraging and trickle feeding and is isolated, away from companions.
This isolation can be the cause of significant stress in some horses so it is vital that we do all we can to prevent both stress and boredom when our horses are forced to spend long periods of time stabled.
Some horses find it comforting to be able to see other horses nearby when they are stabled but there are exceptions to the rule, with some preferring a quiet yard, every horse is different. For horses that can’t see another, stable mirrors may provide a solution to help them settle.
Many horse owners find that leaving the radio on in the vicinity of the stables during the day helps to keep them calm.
Horses evolved to eat for up to 16 hours a day so it is incredibly important to offer your horse ad lib hay to ensure they can satisfy their natural desire to chew.
If your horse is over-weight or a good doer and needs to be on a restricted diet invest in a special type of hay net that encourages trickle feeding or double up your haynets, placing one inside another, in an effort to slow down the rate they eat their forage.
Split the forage rations between more than one haynet and hang them in different places around the stable so your horse has to move between the two nets.
There are a whole host of stable toys on the market to help keep your horse entertained from feed balls to flavoured licks. Remember to include any feed used as a treat in your horse’s daily hard feed rations as it is important to feed according to workload. That said, you don’t need to spend money on expensive toys as your horse will be just as happy with a swede hung from the ceiling on a piece of baler twine!
Spending time with your horse is a great way to keep them occupied and if you are unable to get out for a ride give your horse a good groom, this is also a fantastic way to improve your bond, especially if this is a new partnership.
Try a few simple stretching exercises with your horse in the stable. Stand at the side of your horse holding a treat such as a carrot and encourage your horse to bend round and retrieve the treat. You can repeat this exercise by holding the carrot between his front legs and asking him to stretch down.
Any type of interaction is going to help your horse from becoming bored and none of us mind an excuse to spend more time with our horses!
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