The words “stall rest,” when uttered by your veterinarian, are among the most dreaded in the equine industry. When prescribed, its positive goals are to prevent re-injury following an accident or illness while also promoting continued healing and the prevention of new injury. Horses on stall rest can develop such negative behaviors as cribbing, weaving, and stall walking as they seek to adapt to their temporary new lifestyle. With this in mind, our goals as our horses heal are to keep them happy and our facilities intact by diverting them away from such negative behaviors. Here are a few suggestions to help you to achieve both:
Slow Feeder Hay Nets. In addition to allowing your horse to snack for long periods of time these have the added benefit of helping to prevent ulcers, another potential negative outcome of your horse’s new living arrangements.
Stall Toys. Providing him with a stall toy can also help to occupy his attention. These can also be useful the first few times your horse is allowed turnout.
Social Interaction. Mount unbreakable mirrors in his stall or stable other horses nearby for continued social interaction. If this isn’t possible, consider adding a stall guard so that he can interact with you and others as you go about your barn chores.
Games. With your veterinarian’s permission that they won’t bring further harm, consider adding games to your time spent together. Carrot stretches, for example, can be beneficial even after you return to the saddle.
Hand Walking or Small Paddock Turnout. When your horse progresses to the point that your veterinarian will allow it, your horse will no doubt enjoy a bit of hand walking or turn out in a controlled area.
Once your veterinarian has given the go ahead for some initial small paddock turnout try these tips for allowing the added freedom to go smoothly:
Feed his meal outside. Offering his food outdoors may help to draw his attention away from his new found freedom.
Limit interaction with other horses. If there is a chance your horse may overdo it, limit your still healing horse’s contact with others that may promote him to do so.
Calming medications, whether prescription or over the counter, should only be considered as a last resort and only after consulting with your veterinarian. These can have harmful side effects in addition to being cost prohibitive.