As we say goodbye to those lovely warm evenings and light nights and begrudgingly welcome the winter coats and New Zealand rugs our horses have to change from being free to roam pastures new to being stabled most of the day. For some horses being stabled over winter can be quite depressing. They want to go out in the field but then stand at the gate wanting to come in! Standing in all day can bring boredom for your pet and with boredom can escalate vices or make a generally unhappy horse. So how do you beat the boredom? Here are a few tips to keep your horse entertained in the stable.
A stable mirror is a great investment; they can be costly so shop around or see if you can get a second hand one on an online auction site or horse sale. Make sure its specific for horses as glass can be dangerous. Stable mirrors are made of safe materials to prevent accident. Using a stable mirror adds extra light to the stable and gives the horse something to look at. My experience with these has only been positive. Some down falls of a stable mirror are that it attaches direct to the stable which makes moving it a hassle if your horse occasionally resides in a different stable this may not be the product for you. Stable mirrors are great for horses that get lonely as their reflection gives the appearance of another horse being there.
Some horses are highly stimulated by edible toys hanging from the stable roof. If your horse is stimulated by food then these treats can keep them entertained for hours. Put a hole in a carrot, apple or turnip thread through some bale twine and hang from the beams in your horses stable. This is a cost effective way to provide entertainment for a bored horse. If your horse is greedy though they may not last too long! When hanging the vegetables from the beams make sure that the stable is vacant as you don’t want to scare the horse or put yourself in danger. Take care the first time you do this as you don’t want the horse to be spooked by the sudden hanging decoration! There are other hanging treats available on the market that the horse can lick. These treats can sometimes last longer however they can be messy and get on the horses face and mane so remember to remove before a horse show!A great homemade hanging treat can be an old empty plastic drinks bottle filled will molasses and hung from the roof of the stable. This can give the horse hours of entertainment trying to get all the molasses out and is also a tasty treat. Molasses are messy though so avoid putting your horse in their best rug and definitely avoid the night before a horse show! If the molasses come out too quick you can replace the top on the bottle and put a smaller hole in the cap to reduce the flow. The first time you use this type of treat its best to watch your horse and ensure he is going to use the treat. If he isn’t interested the molasses will just trickle onto the floor and this can encourage rats or mice! Start by putting a smaller amount of molasses in the bottle so as not to waste it if your horse isn’t interested in it.
Although there is controversy over feeding a horse from hay net as appose to the floor, if your horse tends to eat the hay too fast then hay nets can be a good way to reduced this and also it gives the horse something to do. I small holed hay net can take even more time for the horse to eat and it can keep them entertained for longer. Hiding treats and pieces of carrot in the hay net can also be entertaining for the horse.
Treat balls are an entertaining toy for most horses. The ball goes on the floor of the stable and has a small hole in one side. Your horse will roll the ball around after you have filled it with chopped carrots, apples or your horse’s favourite treat. As the horse is rolling the ball around treats will drop out. This can be really fun and exciting for a horse and is a great way to relieve boredom.
Getting your horse out of the stable as much as possible will relieve the boredom for when they do have to stay in. This can be simply walking them in hand for a few minutes or turning them into a riding school to stretch their legs. If your horse tends to get stressed in the stable when people aren’t around then leaving a radio on can make them feel more relaxed. If possible try not to leave a horse in a stable without other horses nearby. Horses are herd animals and they rely on each other for protection in the wild and therefore it can be quite daunting for a horse to be on its own in a stable. Using a salt lick in the stable can be fun as well as a great benefit for the horse. Salt licks often take hours to reduce in size so that means lots of time for them to lick them throughout the day. There are also molasses type licks and other fruity licks on the market that can go in the stable which are quite stimulating for some horses. It’s inevitable that horses have to spend some time in a stable and excessive amounts of time can become quite boring. This is sometimes out of our control maybe due to the weather or an injury. Using a variety of different equine toys can help relieve the boredom as well as getting the horse out of the stable as much as possible.