If your horse is kicking, chewing on his door, looking listless, or even banging his head on walls repeatedly, then the odds are good that he is suffering from a bad case of stall boredom. Let’s face it: Stalls keep horses clean, dry, and physically comfortable in winter, but too much time indoors is not conducive to your horse’s good mental health. Whether your horse is bored in his stall because inclement weather is preventing adequate turnout, or because he is recovering from an injury, or due to any of the other circumstances that can occur, the following tips for reducing stall boredom may help.
Why is it so important to take steps to reduce stall boredom? There are a couple of reasons, the first being that your horse can become physically or mentally ill when confined for too long with no stimulation. Movement is necessary for good digestion, and lack of exercise can lead to colic. Second, the lack of stimulation can take a terrible psychological toll, causing your horse to become a danger to you or others, or making it difficult for him to perform when asked. Finally, there’s property damage to consider. A bored horse can be terribly destructive. Not only can he damage his stall, he may also cause injury to himself in the process.
Understand the Root Cause of the Problem
The first key to solving any problem – stall boredom included – is to identify the cause or causes. Here are five of the most common:
- Stall is too small, which prevents the horse from comfortably walking, turning, lying down, and eating in an area away from food and water.
- Horse is spending too much time in the stall; frequent, long turnout sessions that allow for grazing, walking, running, playing, and just looking off into the distance are necessary for good mental health.
- Horse has inadequate contact with other horses; equines are herd animals with complicated social lives. Being able to see, smell, sniff, and even touch other horses is important to well-being.
- Inadequate forage: Horses need to eat almost constantly, especially during the winter. Provide low-calorie grass hay around the clock, serving it up in a net to prevent overeating.
- Not enough exercise: You may be familiar with the pent-up, crampy feeling you get when you don’t move enough. Your horse needs to get plenty of exercise each day, too. When inclement weather prevents outdoor exercise, take your horse out of his stall and exercise him by walking up and down the aisle in the barn.
Easy Ways to Reduce Stall Boredom
If your horse gets plenty of exercise each day, along with frequent turnout sessions, he’s going to be much less likely to become dangerously bored. This is the number one way to put a stop to boredom, and it contributes to your horse’s overall well-being, too.
If you can’t provide more turnout or exercise time, consider having someone else do it for you. If your horse isn’t getting adequate movement because you are too busy for him at the moment, you may want to consider putting him up for half lease. The more time he spends out of the stall, the better.
Ensure that there’s enough food and water, and a friendly stablemate or two to keep your horse company. If your horse lives alone and you can’t bring another equine in, consider a goat or even a barn cat to provide a little companionship.
Additionally, give your horse a few toys to play with. There are many types to choose from, and your horse will appreciate having something to fill his many long, empty hours with.
Finally, consider stall size. Just moving to a stall that’s a few feet larger can make a big difference in your horse’s well-being. See our quick guide to choosing stalls if you’re in the process of considering a move.
With just a little effort on your part, your horse’s life can be more fulfilling – and you’ll be rewarded with a happier, healthier mount as a result.