Beating Boredom with Dr Becky Lees
Short daylight hours and plummeting temperatures mean that many horse owners are now feeling the winter blues. Our horses aren’t immune from this either, as muddy fields with limited grazing provide challenging conditions and mean that many horses spend much of their time in the stable. Unfortunately this isn’t a natural environment for our horses and can cause stress and boredom.
Try these ten top tips to make your stabled horse’s environment more pleasant, interesting, and stimulating:
Feed lots of forage
With grass in short supply your horse will need plenty of good quality forage (hay or haylage) to keep him occupied and keep his gut working as it would if he were grazing outside. If he’s comfortable and has a good working digestive system, he’ll be more relaxed.
To make life more interesting and hay last longer, try double netting his hay or haylage with small-holed haynets. Hanging 2 or 3 small double-netted haynets around the stable will prolong the time he spends eating and keep him moving. You could even hide tasty treats like carrots and apples in the haynets for added interest.
Provide a vitamin & mineral lick
Vitamin and mineral licks, such as Nettex Supalyx provide entertainment, a source of natural ‘trickle feeding’ and nutrients that may be lacking in the horse’s diet. All Nettex Supalyx are molasses based and contain vitamins, minerals, trace elements and protein to support your horse. They also contain Diamond V XPLS Yeast Culture which will help maintain a healthy digestive system. Nettex Supalyx are available in four flavours: Horse & Pony Original, Easy Breather to help maintain a healthy respiratory system, Nimble to help maintain healthy joints and Garlic for its many health benefits. Nettex Supalyx are also ideal to be used in the field during winter to provide another source of feeding when there are limited nutrients in the grass.
Maintain a settled & healthy digestive system
Feeding a combined pre and probiotic supplement can help calm irritable horses and maintain good digestive health. Maintaining good digestive health will help reduce the likelihood of weight loss, loose droppings, windsucking, biting, box walking & discomfort when girthed up. Nettex Gut Balancer contains high levels of probiotic and five different prebiotics for maximum effect.
Divide up feeds
Horses are trickle feeders and are not designed to eat big meals. If possible divide his hard feed into 3 or 4 meals. This will provide a more natural approach to feeding and keep him interested.
Everyone loves to be treated and so does your horse! Nettex TastyLyx are delicious mouth-watering, natural flavoured hanging treats that can be used to alleviate boredom and help prevent the onset of stable vices. They are available in yummy apple, mint and carrot flavours and fit any standard holder. So you can break boredom while rewarding your horse.
Horses are herd animals and many find it very stressful being out of sight of other horses. If possible try to arrange doors, windows and partitions so that the horse can see what’s going on around him. If this is not possible unbreakable mirrors can be a great solution. Or finding a companion (pony, goat, sheep, or other animal) to share the same or an adjoining stable can work wonders for some horses.
Overfeeding can cause excitability and stress, so make sure that what you are feeding your horse is appropriate for his current level of work, especially as he will be using up less energy if turnout is restricted. If you are feeding correctly, but your horse is still highly strung consider using a calmer, such as Nettex Calmer Maintenance Powder or Liquid.
Pay Attention & Pamper
Make sure you give your horse plenty of attention when he’s calm and resting in his stable. Spending time with him will provide him with some much needed company and build a strong bond between you. Plenty of grooming and simple massage techniques should do the trick. Nettex Tasty Treats are ideal to use for stretching exercises with your horse and come in three delicious flavours; Mellow Mint, Apple Blush and Carrot Cake.
Turn on the radio
Some stabled horses are more relaxed if a radio is left on while you are away. Although you will have to find out whether your horse prefers Radio 1 to Classic FM!