Stall rest. Bad manners. Poor weather conditions. Even too small a property.
There are plenty of reasons why some horses can’t get much turn-out time. And while there’s no question that horses benefit from as much free turn-out as possible, there are options to keep your horse healthy and happy even with reduced exercise time.
What’s more important to a horse than hay? Not much. Eating quality roughage round-the-clock is what your horse was born to do — all that jumping and galloping is just a bonus. A horse’s stomach produces acid all the time, which is buffered by saliva. But saliva is only produced when the horse is eating — so if your horse is going without food for extended periods of time; that acid is doing a number on your horse’s stomach lining. That’s why stabled horses have such a high incidence of stomach ulcers. Find a hay that your horse can work at day and night without creating behavior or digestive problems, then feed it in a small-mesh hay-net, grated bin, or hay grazer to slow his eating. If you have not seen a hay grazer before, check out our recent barn renovation, https://equinefacilitydesign.com/project-item/schwalbenhof, which shows an automated grazer integrated into the stall front design.
Provide your horse with some entertainment tools for the stall: think horse balls, rolling pacifiers, and the like. Further information can be read on our blog post, Relieving Horse Boredom at https://equinefacilitydesign.com/facility-planning-design/five-tips-for-relieving-horse-boredom.htm. You might want to steer clear of sugar-based horse amusements, though. Extra levels of energy are not wanted in this scenario! You can also make your horse’s downtime more entertaining through a little cross-training. Go for long walks and seek out confidence-building exercises, like crossing streams.
Horses cooped up in a stall are going to come out stiff — they’ll need extra warm-up time before a work-out. Add flexing exercises before, after, and during your ride to help them be as athletic and comfortable as possible. Carrot stretches before and after ride stretch the spine and lift the topline. Leg-yields during the warm-up and throughout the ride help your horse flex all those muscles and stay more resilient during tough work.
Add a Run
Is your property too small for a good turn-out? Consider adding a run or small paddock attached to your horse’s stall, such as shown here: https://equinefacilitydesign.com/project-item/gilroy-stable. Even just doubling your horse’s space will allow him to walk more, stretch more, and feel freer. This is a great option for horses who can’t go out with the rest of the herd, as well, such as horses on stall rest or stallions. If you add runs to all the stalls, top the fence with hot wire or electric tape to prevent arguments with horses next door.
Keeping a horse indoors is not ideal, but sometimes that’s what life requires. With a little extra care and thought and planning, you can keep your horse happy and healthy, even without the pasture.