Avoiding Boredom-Based Naughty Behaviors in Stall-Bound Horses

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When we confine horses for any reason, we expect them to become bored and sometimes naughty. Coming up with new and entertaining ideas to help alleviate the boredom of being stall-bound is always a challenge. The staff at the global nutrition consultation company Kentucky Equine Research, which has a division in Australia, shared some information from that country that might give you some fresh ideas for enriching the lives of stall-bound horses.

Horse SA, a not-for-profit community based organization that supports the horse industry in South Australia, has published a booklet entitled “Tips for the Care of Confined Horses.” The booklet, which is available online, suggests ways to make a confined horse’s environment more pleasant, interesting and stimulating. This may be especially important for horses that are used to regular exercise or pasture time, but are temporarily confined to a stall while recovering from illness or injury.

Among the ideas related to feed management are breaking meals into as many small snacks as possible, scattered throughout the day; using a hay net and feeding bowl that allow the horse to ingest only a small mouthful of hay or grain at one time; adding some type of flavor (herbs, fruit juices) to some grain meals; and placing the hay net in a different corner of the stall each time it is filled.

To help the horse avoid boredom during long hours in the stall, the booklet suggests adding unbreakable mirrors and toys to the stall; finding a companion (pony, goat, dog, sheep or other small animal) to share the same or an adjoining stall; arranging doors, windows and partitions so that the horse can see what’s going on around him; and spending lots of time in the stall so you can groom, massage, stretch and otherwise interact with the horse.

Other ideas are included for horses that can be hand-walked or put in a round pen outside the stall, but can’t be allowed the freedom of a paddock or larger turnout area.

By enriching the horse’s environment and introducing novel experiences and stimuli, you can make the period of confinement more pleasant for your horse and possibly avoid the appearance of boredom-based behaviors.