Everything seems to be going fine when suddenly you feel (or see) that your horse has pulled up lame. You call the vet and he or she gives your horse a thorough examination. The prescription is usually the same: Stall rest.
Maintaining the sanity of you and your horse through this time can be tough. Typically, it is the athletic horse that gets injured, and an athletic horse is a fit horse with a lot of energy. Usually, the first few days after his injury your horse may be on pain medication and not feel like doing much anyway. But soon he will be up and looking for something to do. Be sure you check with your veterinarian get a clear meaning of “stall rest”. Much of how much you can do will be based on the nature of the injury (mild to severe) and the age/disposition of the horse. Before doing any activities with your horse, ask your vet:
- Can stall rest include access to a 12×12 attached paddock?
- Can he come out of his stall at all to just eat some nearby grass?
- Can you let him “hang out” in the cross-ties while you groom him?
Keeping your horse’s boredom level down so he doesn’t cause damage to himself or his stall can seem daunting, but there are a lot of options. You can still interact with your horse and even build a stronger bond. Here are some ideas to make stall rest time a bit easier:
- If necessary, you can move your horse to a barn closer to home so you have more of an opportunity to visit him.
- Putting him in a stall designed for him to look out and see things going around are great. Also, stalls with metal grating between stalls so he can see other horses next to him is better than isolating him in a stall with solid planks. Classic Equine has several stalls that meet these needs.
- If the stall doesn’t have European style fronts or Dutch doors, ask if you can keep the stall door open and attached a sturdy stall guard or even a gate so your horse can hang his head out, but keep his body in. Classic Equine Equipment has pasture gates in many shapes and sizes that can also be used as stall doors.
- If it’s OK with you, let people know it’s OK to give pats and carrots to your horse when they pass by.
- See if you can also stable your horse in a stall near medium activity at such as near the grooming area so he can see horses as they are being readied to ride. Another option is to be located near one of the farrier’s shoeing areas as people typically hung out there with their horses while they were being shod. This allows you to keep up with your barn friendships as well.
- Horses are social animals and can be happy just having someone nearby. Take you office work or your lunch and sit outside the stall while he eats. It may sound silly, but you can even read to him. He knows your voice and hearing it will be calming.
- There are also many horse toys on the market that can help eliminate boredom. A simple one to make at home is to get an empty plastic gallon milk jug and cut a hole in the front of it. Put horse cookie in it and hang it at a safe height off the ground. Your horse will soon learn that when he bumps the milk jug the right way, a cookie will fall out. Of course, make sure you take into account these extra cookies into his daily caloric intake so you don’t end up with a sound, but pudgy horse!
- Don’t give up on grooming. Whether done inside his stall or in the cross ties (the benefit is a change of view) currying and brushing can help with circulation and muscle tone. You can read up on massage and “carrot stretches” to also keep him flexible during his convalescence.
- If you do take your horse out for grooming, whether in the aisle or the g rooming stall, it’s best if there is a soft, secure surface for him to stand on. Classic Equine Equipment has a variety of safe stall mats.
- Always wish you could braid manes and tails like the pros or do one of those fancy French braids? Now is a great time to practice. Your horse will love the attention and will be the envy of the other horses in the barn.
- You might even teach your horse a few things stall rest. If your horse needs work on his ground manners, now is a great time to practice things like ground tying. Or you can teach your horse the basics of “clicker training.”
Hopefully your horse’s recuperation will be quick. But in the meantime, I hope these ideas will make it less boring for you and your horse.