The best place for a horse is undoubtedly in a large paddock in dry, warm weather with trees for shade and lots of lush grass on hand for them to munch on. There is plenty to keep them occupied and they can enjoy a canter around with their mates when they feel like it.
So on those cold, wet winter days when they are confined to a small stable, or they need stall rest for health reasons, it is not surprising they can pick up some concerning habits. Confinement can be boring and stressful for these highly intelligent creatures.
One of the most common issues is cribbing which is caused by extreme boredom and produces unsightly excess saliva. Horses don't start cribbing because they see their stablemates doing it they just do it because they have nothing better to do. Other stress-related vices include weaving, wind sucking, box walking or destructive chewing which can all be detrimental to their mental and physical health and need to be addressed.
The tried and trusted ways of keeping your horse stimulated whilst in a stable include making sure your horse can see some of his mates and, if there are not any around, why not try a horse-safe plastic mirror? Thankfully horses are not self-aware so they really will think they have got a new stable mate - but don’t put the mirror close to feed if he is protective over his food - you wouldn’t want him trying to bite himself.
Just like a dog, giving your horse a toy is a great way to enrich their environment. But like dogs they can get bored with the same toy so it is advisable to have a selection to treat them to.
Some really cute toys can be found in the Kentucky Relax Horse Toy range. Choose from an alpaca, bear, pony or unicorn! They are not only great to look at hanging from the stable door but, more importantly, give your horse something to play with. When the horse puts pressure on the toy’s belly, it produces a cracking plastic sound which intrigues and occupies our equine friend.
Horses also love toys that dispense treats such as a carrot ball or a dip feed ball filled with their favourite nibbles. This can distract them for hours as they work out how to get the food out.
The most important consideration when buying a horse toy is whether it is safe, such as being free of toxic chemicals and not having small parts that can break off easily. It is also important to ensure that it is located in a safe place in the stable to ensure it does not cause any hazards.
Horses, like humans, also enjoy listening to music but, of course, they have their favourite genres. Switch on a radio station with a lot of chat and he will no longer feel alone believing there are people nearby.
So when it is time to stable your horse it is worth considering how you can improve the environment to keep your friend happy.