Keeping your stabled horse amused

by Mollie McGuigan

Do you have to stable your horse due to injury? Here are some top tips to keep the patient occupied.
It is important to keep a stabled horse occupied, not only because you want to keep him happy but also because it helps prevent those dreaded vices such as weaving and wind sucking. Cue the stable toy. From rubber balls to swinging salt licks, there are many ways to keep your horse occupied and out of mischief.

If you're feeling generous, consider a "Jolly Ball" ($74.99 from Stirrups). It's an American invention, which is made from indestructible rubber, and has a handle attached so it can be picked up, chewed and thrown around the stable. It has been so popular there is now a "Jolly Apple" ($49.95 @ Stirrups), which hangs from the roof of the stable and bobs about! Along similar lines is the "Likit" (about $20 @ www.astiequestrian.co.uk), a cylindrical 'lick' containing cereals, molasses and fruit and vegetables, which hangs from the ceiling - guaranteed to keep a horse entertained for an evening at least!

If your horse is unsettled by being away from the herd and confined to a stable, why not install a mirror in the stable? Research has indicated that mirrors are helpful for horses who show anxiety in the stable, particularly if it is due to separation, and for those who box walk or weave. Make sure you seek advice before installing a mirror though, as too big a mirror could make your horse feel threatened and this may make matters worse. (For more information contact Jackson Arenas info@jacksonarenas.com).

The essential function of the stable toy - or boredom breaker as they are also known - is to keep the horses' attention and to stop them getting repetitive habits such as napping or wind sucking that can be easily picked up but not that easy to get rid of. If your horse is stabled for a long time, the best thing is to vary the toys in his stable so there are always new things to challenge and observe. It doesn't have to cost a fortune either - there are plenty of ways to create your own boredom breakers without spending plenty of cash.

Why not tie carrots on bits of string and secure them to the beams in your stable? They are a good way to make your horse work for their treats and can be useful in the treatment of head shy or spooky horses. Another good one is to take a small drinks bottle without a lid and pierce a hole in the bottom. Thread some bailing twine through the hole and fill it with treacle or molasses and hang it from the ceiling. Pretty messy but fun! Another really easy way to keep your horse interested is to hide treats such as carrots and apples in the hay net so he finds treats as he goes along.

Stable toys are a fun way to interact with your horse but care should be taken when using anything new, especially in a stable. Always check that your horse is not spooked too much by the toys and be careful with 'licks' - always use a container as there have been cases where horse have ingested the entire lick in one go which can cause blockages with hard feed. If in doubt, use a brick-like mineral, which hang on stable walls or doors.

So what are you waiting for? Go and get creative and cheer up your horse in the process!