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Staving Off Boredom in Stall-Bound HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · August 23, 2013

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 stall-bound 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 haynet 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 haynet 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 roundpen 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.