Unfortunately, as a horse owner, sometimes you can’t avoid it: with some injuries or illnesses of your animal, an isolated standing in the box is unavoidable. As a result, your horse can get quite bored. But how strict should you be about stall rest? Can you allow your horse to move around from time to time? And if not, how can you keep him busy?
In our guide, you will learn interesting facts about stall rest for horses.
When is box rest necessary for the horse?
There are some illnesses or injuries when a box rest for your horse is unfortunately necessary. Reasons for box rest are for example:
- hoof dermatitis, laminitis hoof ulcer
- Joint inflammation
- Plaster bandages
- High fever Tendon injuries
- Phlegmon (tarnished legs, thick legs)
- Time after surgery Quarantine due to infectious disease
If your horse is only weakly lame, you can continue to move it carefully, if necessary, after consulting with the veterinarian. In any case, you should check how badly it is lame without painkillers, since the injury will eventually continue to exist.
Box rest may also be necessary because of quarantine – for example, in the case of the highly contagious infectious disease druse. Here, you can also set up a quarantine paddock so your horse has more freedom of movement.
Is stall rest compatible with the horse’s social behavior?
The actual box rest usually lasts only a few days. It is prescribed by the veterinarian, for example, after surgery or in the case of a serious injury. Of course, box rest is not optimal for the horse as a social herd animal, which is why you should isolate it only in an emergency. Horses in the wild travel many kilometers every day and rarely stand completely still, even in the pasture. Therefore, a longer stay in the box is not very compatible with the natural behavior.
Your horse will quickly suffer from boredom because it cannot use up its energy. It can come to so-called skip actions such as pawing, kicking and weaving. Or the quadruped maltreats feed buckets and everything that is not nailed down in a box. To avoid exactly such problems, box rest should not mean a complete standstill for your horse.
Is light exercise possible during box rest?
At first glance, exercise seems to contradict the purpose of box rest. However, for many conditions, it is possible or even preferable for your horse to move around a bit. In this way you promote blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. In this way, you also prevent the muscles from weakening constantly.
Your veterinarian will discuss with you in detail when and how much you can move your horse lightly again. The exercise plan depends on the diagnosis.
However, “light exercise” does not mean grazing for hours in the herd. There is too high a risk that your horse’s condition will worsen. However, the exercise plan could include the following:
- Slow walking at a walk
- Walking on the treadmill or in the horse walker
- Exercising at an equine aquatic training facility
- Training at an equine rehab center
IMPORTANT => All of this is only allowed with the consent of the attending veterinarian!
It is also crucial that you observe your horse and its body language and always adapt the training to the respective situation.
Before going out to pasture for the first time, the horse should be able to release energy in a controlled manner. In this way, you can prevent it from injuring itself again through excessive exuberance.
How do you keep your horse busy during the rest period?
It is not unusual that boredom soon arises during “stall rest”. However, to prevent your four-legged friend from going crazy, you need to keep him busy and distract him from standing still. For example, mental tasks that allow the horse to do some mental work are suitable for this. But you can also distract your horse with other measures.
Variety: Tips for keeping your horse busy while he is resting in the stall
Hang up a close-meshed hay net for horses! With the hay net, your horse can distract himself from his boring daily routine with species-appropriate “snacking” for a longer period of time.
Place a branch in the stall for your horse to nibble on! Fruit tree branches are especially good for this.
Scrub brushes on the wall
You can mount brushes on the walls where your horse can scrub and massage himself. Some horses have a lot of fun doing this.
Your horse will also enjoy an extended grooming program – such as long grooming sessions that get the energy flow going. Be sure to leave out any injured areas. The pronounced physical contact from grooming also enhances your relationship. Take your time and stroke and massage the animal in its favorite places.
Massage and acupressure
Massage and acupressure will also distract your pet from its dull situation. You can perform gentle and caressing hand movements yourself. A real massage or acupressure can be done by a professional or you can be guided.
With balance pads you activate the deep muscles and address the proprioceptive system of the four-legged friend. The pad will always throw the horse off balance a bit, so he has to rebalance himself. If your horse has a musculoskeletal problem, be sure to check with your veterinarian about using balance pads.
Apple fishing is another fun activity for your horse. To do this, put apples in a bucket filled with water. Your horse has to fish them out before he can eat them. This is probably very entertaining for you as well.
Lickstones for horses also relieve boredom during stall rest. If you use lickstones, make sure they don’t contain sugar or sugar substitutes.
Target training in the stall also offers your sick four-legged friend a welcome change. For this, you teach him to touch or follow an object (e.g. a softball on a stick). Reward small successes immediately with extensive praise.
When you hide treats under one of two or three buckets, your horse must pay attention and understand which bucket to tip over. This is the only way he can get the treat. To make it work, you should introduce the animal to the game slowly and encourage it with praise.
Watch your horse closely for any actions designed to keep him busy and distracted. If you notice which ones he likes, entertain him with them frequently.
What do you feed your horse during stall rest?
To prevent your horse from gaining weight during stall rest, you should adjust the feed to your horse’s reduced energy needs. For a 600 kilogram horse, maintenance requirements are roughly equivalent to feeding three kilograms of straw and eight kilograms of hay.
Refrain from feeding grain and concentrates during stall rest! This will make the animal fatter and nervous.
How can you support the healing process by feeding the right food?
Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, form anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Since feeding only hay and straw can lead to a deficit, it is recommended to add linseed oil and oilseeds. Zinc should be fed especially after operations and severe injuries, as it stimulates cell regeneration and supports wound healing. In case of bone fractures you can supplement copper and manganese. You should also pay attention to a balanced zinc, phosphorus and calcium balance.
The magnesium requirement is usually sufficiently covered by the hay. In the case of tendon damage, however, it can help if you give additional magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E. Since your horse moves so little, his digestion is not sufficiently stimulated. This increases the risk of colic. To promote digestion, give your horse additional flaxseed and wheat bran every other day.
=> Feeding during stall rest should be low in energy and at the same time rich in nutrients that promote regeneration. Talk to your veterinarian about giving supplemental horse feeds!
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