Imagine the following scenarios: the meadow has been fertilized and your horse is not allowed to use it for a while, and there is no paddock to let your horse loose in. Or the meadow is too wet, and the stable owner tells you to wait until the weather is dry before turning your horse out there. Or your vet just told you that your horse needs 4 weeks of stall rest to heal from his injury.
Although you know that it is best for your horse to get as much free movement as possible (preferably 24h/day), sometimes this may not possible due to temporary circumstances, and your horse simply has to stay in the stable.
But rest assured — if you play your cards right, your horse won’t turn into a fierce, door-kicking monster ;-).
First of all, make sure that your horse is as comfortable as possible. This includes providing a soft bed, clean water, and sufficient quality roughage. It is also important that his stall is kept very clean so that there is no ammonia in the air. Provide fresh air, natural daylight, contact with other horses (over the wall or on the other side of the bars) and the possibility to look outside over the door or through a window.
Choose a stall from which your horse can see activity (e.g. the street, the arena…) so that he has something to look at and stays in contact with the environment. Make sure it is not too busy though; your horse must feel safe and be able to find peace in his stall.
Do fun and educational things with your horse
It would be a pity to do nothing with your horse as long as he has stall rest. There are a lot of fun activities and training exercises that you can do with your horse in the stable.
To help you on your way, I have listed 39 of them for you.
They will stimulate your horse physically and/or mentally, breaking up the dullness of standing in the stable or strengthening the bond between you and your horse. Of course, ask your vet what is allowed and not allowed if your horse has an injury!
39 Stable Activities
- Bonding Time
- Give a relaxation massage
- Connection exercise 3: Greet & Groom
- Stroking of the body
- Ttouch (see the books of Linda Tellington)
- Intuitive massage
- Shiatsu (give your horse a shiatsu treatment as a gift if you cannot do this yourself)
- Brush your horse
- Food politeness training
- Leg work (touch exercises with hands and rope on and around the legs)
- Head work (touch exercises around the head)
- Mouth work (massage of lips, chin, gums, tongue)
- Tail work (touch exercises on and around the tail, making movements with the tail)
- Play with a ball (let the horse kick the ball, push against it with his nose, bite it)
- Clicker training
- Practice with the horse ball (ball on the back, under the belly, rolling around horse…)
- Teach your horse to touch something on your signal (hand, cone, tennis ball on a stick, bucket…)
- Teach your horse to fetch an object (a bucket, a piece of fabric, a branch…)
- Teach your horse to bow
- Teach your horse to kneel
- Hide treats like carrots or apples and let your horse search for them
- Teach your horse to stand on something with his forelegs (board, pedestal)
- Teach your horse to stand in a hula-hoop with the front legs/rear legs/1 leg
- Practice yielding for physical aids: teaching and/or refining the various exercises
- Backing up with driving aids (teaching it to your horse or refining the exercise)
- Teach your horse to step backward in an arc
- Teach your horse to put his head in the halter/ bridle himself
- Stretching exercises
- Practice overall bend at a halt
- Teach or refine the “center of gravity swing”
- Practising the rein aids at a halt from the ground (flexion, being soft to the bit, forward-down stretching)
- Waiting (the horse stands still as long as you ask)
- Teach your horse to give his hooves easily
- Trim his hooves
- Bring a horse to him every day and let them make contact through the bars (social contact!)
- Let your horse experience new smells. Only use natural / non-chemical smells such as essential oils and herbs. Open the jar, let the horse smell and watch his reaction. Don’t insist that he smells; when your horse looks away or leaves, it means that he doesn’t like the smell.
- Bring your musical instrument and play gentle music (you may be amazed at its effect on your horse!)
- Introduce your horse to new sounds: clapping hands, rustling plastic, spray, an electrical device (e.g. toothbrush or shaver)
- Pick a large bucket of fresh grass and edible herbs for your horse
As you can see, there is plenty to do. Even if your horse is on stall rest, there is no reason to put training and fun on hold!
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