Muddy paddocks and bored horses are right around the corner as the snow melts and rain begins in Northeastern Ohio. We all try to physically and mentally prepare for what this means – horses who start feeling those Spring weather vibes and turn simple turnout into a game of “which part of the pasture/stall/companion shall I chew on and destroy today”?
Of course we would love to turn them out in lush fields of summer grass, but right now is the waiting game for warmer weather. With that, means more time in sacrifice lots, arenas and stalls. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to try to re-direct that energy and encourage playfulness and mental stimulation in a safe way.
Shires Ball Feeder
I recently discovered the Shires Ball Feeder for my six month old Saddlebred colt. He was getting bored with his paddock twigs and started removing the water trough heater and other important farm essentials from their appropriate places. So I bought him this this ball to hopefully curb the mouthiness – and he loved it! I toss this out into his paddock filled with just a little bit of his Buckeye Growth feed and he’ll play off and on all day. When I turned my senior gelding out with the colt, he also played with this treat ball and was far more successful with getting the grain out, but still enjoyed nuzzling it around.
A tried and true classic, the Jolly Ball was a great addition to my colt’s paddock. In fact, I have a Jolly Ball in every pasture so all of my horses have a fun, sturdy toy to maim in their spare time. I still have several that were bought years ago, and while some may have been deflated, they still can handle the energy of a playful horse. My colt has figured out how to grab the handle and parade it around for his pasture mates to watch.
While this may not fit in a traditional boredom buster checklist, I have found the single Horse Quencher packets (apple, peppermint, root beer and butterscotch) to be perfect for a once a week snack at night for my horses. Not only does it encourage them to drink a little extra while the weather fluctuates, it also gives them something new and fun to try out. So far I have established that my colt and grey gelding have a more refined palette for traditional flavors, while my chestnut gelding feasts on anything that resembles food. Overall, it’s a fun way to spend a few extra minutes at the barn.
I keep my horses turned out during the day and put them up at night. This serves many purposes including safety, paddock maintenance and it helps give each horse separate personal space to eat, sleep and relax. It is a lot easier to keep senior horses occupied, whereas my colt needed extra enrichment while stalled.
My mother shared some useful knowledge when I got my colt – use dog toys for the “teething phase”. This phase is the time frame when a young horse wants to put just about everything it can in its mouth and chomp – sticks, muck buckets, feed buckets, human hands, you name it. She figured out that certain dog toys could cater to the biting and curiosity these young horses have, without risking injury to the handler. Of course, only appropriate and safe toys should be used and they should be checked daily. Her filly really liked squeaker toys. My colt prefers the Jolly Pets Romp N Roll Ball and Jolly Pets Treader Red. I tied them to his gate with bailing twine to give him a fun “enrichment” area in his stall.
I have a Redmond Rock on a Rope in every horse stall. This not only encourages more water intake, but also allows each horse to regulate their own body for minerals. They usually last several months, so they are a great investment long term!
Hay Bags and Nets
I keep hay bags in my older horse’s stalls in addition to hay on the ground. This helps regulate how quickly they eat, and ensures they have hay well into the evening and early morning. I will be adding the Burlingham Hay Ball Feeder to each stall soon, to get a little more play and movement in the stalls!
I have more exciting plans with my colt in the future (including the Jolly Mega Ball), but for now, he and his older buddies are happy with the toys and treats provided during the “mud season” we are about to have.
Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie