Curb the Destructive Seasonal Boredom
When horses are stuck in their stalls for extended periods of time, either from injury rehab or uncooperative weather – we all know how bored and destructive they can become. Sometimes towards the end of winter, we also experience “winter boredom”. I have dealt with both of these. I rehabbed a leg wound on a horse that spends most of his life outside. And both of my geldings started getting destructive a few weeks ago as the temperatures rose.
One gelding that is used to freedom and turnout for a large portion of the day was restricted to hand-walking twice a day. He soon became unhappy and started chewing on his stall, buckets and anything he could find (and he is not a cribber). I had to come up with some ways to keep him occupied for large periods of time for two weeks and luckily, there’s a lot of options out there!
I also needed to be ready for the winter blues from both of my horses and provide enrichment when training and riding was limited. If not completely halted during waves of frozen, flooded or muddy ground.
Slow Feed Nets
My go-to answer was of course slow feed hay nets. This would not only slow them down and conserve hay, but also keep them from trashing their stalls. I can also set up a second hay bag on the opposite side of the stall for longer days. This not only keeps them moving if they get bored. But also ensures endless hay for both a happy attitude and healthy gut.
Salt and Treats
Another option I have used is attaching either a Himalayan salt rock, Redmond Rock on a Rope or a stall snack like Licky Things. I usually lean towards the salt or mineral blocks on a rope rather than treats. One of my geldings is not exactly gentle with sweet goodies. He hasn’t quite mastered the simple lick on stall treats like his off-track brother has. With a mineral or salt block he can access it at leisure. And he doesn’t feel the need to gobble it down in a day.
One great remedy for pasture boredom (when all that delicious hay just doesn’t strike their fancy) is adding Jolly Balls! I have two in their pasture now, and every day they move from their previous location so I know they play with them! This helps keep them occupied on the right items to chew and toss around, rather than the trees in the pasture or blankets! Bonus, dogs love them too! If my horses stay inside I can also hang one of the smaller Jolly Balls so they can unleash their energy on that and not their nice stalls!
The bottom line is – keep your horse engaged! Sometimes things come up and we can’t keep our horses in a working routine for a little while. Keeping forage in front of them at all times to encourage a healthy mind and gut is essential. Having your horse on a digestive health supplement is also beneficial. For those of use with extra sassy horses, a few extra horse toys are crucial for keeping them happy!