Q: My horse has to be stabled pretty consistently for the next few weeks and I wanted to know how I can make it easier for him?
A: Horses are designed to live outside and move all day. They are also trickle feeders so need to be able to pick at food constantly. To recreate this as best you can you can, hang several slow-feeder hay nets around the stable to encourage your horse to keep moving around and trickle feeding. This means that he will still have to ‘forage’ for his feed and that he will also have to keep moving around.
Horses are herd animals, so making sure he has company nearby will also be a big help. A stable located where he can see lots of yard activity will help to keep him mentally stimulated.
You don’t mention why your horse is on box rest for the next few weeks, and if it is due to injury or illness you must ask your vet about what movement and activity is allowed. However, if injury and illness are not an issue you need to make sure that your horse gets out of the stable at least twice a day. One 10 minute hand walk and a ride should be enough, provided he only has to cope like this for a couple of weeks.
This movement is important for keeping his gut moving and working correctly. Colic is a major risk of box rest, and making sure you give him whatever opportunities you can to move more freely will reduce the risk. To further reduce the risk of colic, it is is also advised that you soak your horse’s hay, and wet his feed to make sure he is taking in enough water.
Other things that can help are stable toys, like slow-feeder balls, stable licks and hanging toys. Grooming and spending time with your horse in the stable will also help to alleviate his boredom, and can improve your bond during this difficult time for your horse.