It’s a sentence that strikes fear into the hearts of horse owners everywhere. It’s always uttered by a well-intentioned veterinarian that may or may not be aware of your horse’s ability to transform into a dragon when under-stimulated.
“Your horse needs to be on stall rest.”
Cue the dramatic music and the thought bubble above the poor horse owner’s head that reads, “How is he going to deal being confined? How am I going to deal with him being confined? Is this the end of life as I know it?”
If he’s being rested, exercise isn’t really in the cards, but keeping his mind at ease in other ways is the key. Here are some tips:
- Open the windows, doors, and let the fresh air and natural light in. He’s not in prison for a crime, right? So make his home as clean and open as possible.
- Misery loves company! If there’s a way to rotate your other horses in and out so that he has a buddy next to him at all times, that will help immensely. Wouldn’t you like a friend to sit by your hospital bed if you were laid up?
- Get some grass. Ask your vet about hand grazing your horse if it’s not a severe injury. However, if your horse becomes explosive as soon as you take him out of his stall, you could be putting him and yourself in danger.
- Treat toys. Without adding too much sugar into your horse’s diet (think: toddler in a car seat with candy), there are toys that horses can roll around that will dispense treats on the ground. Pieces of carrot are best to keep the sugar content low. These types of “games” will give him something to do. It’s like a puzzle for your horse!
- Practice games and stretches. Teach your horse to do carrot stretches. Clicker-train him to touch objects with his nose. Stretching him will help release his tight muscles, as long as your vet says it’s OK.
And finally, remember that if your stress level is high, your horse will pick up on that. Stall rest is a necessary evil, and the happier you can keep your horse during the process, the better he will be when he’s ready to work again.