How to keep a stabled horse healthy and happy? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-21-2014, 07:43 AM Thread Starter
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How to keep a stabled horse healthy and happy?

so long story short, I'm moving my 3 y.o. paint gelding to a stable. it's a wonderful facility, but during the winter, it only has limited sand paddock turn-out. So my question is- what can I do to keep him healthy, and happy/sane?

i'm planning on getting some toys for him to play with in his stall- any suggestions for that? i don't want anything too terribly noisy, because i think that would make the other horses in the barn go crazy. so something quietish?
i'm going to turn him out in the arena whenever i can, so hopefully that'll help a little bit as well?
i'll be visiting the barn 5 days/week minimum (i clean stalls there), and will also always be grooming on him and loving on him when I'm there as well, plus working him.

i know it's bad to have horses not be turned out lots, but this was the only option. and i'm not happy that he has to be stabled 24/7, so please don't beat me up about it. in a few months, he'll be on turnout 15 hrs./day, so that'll be good. but until then, advice is greatly appreciated!

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post #2 of 5 Old 06-21-2014, 08:11 AM
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All of the horses in our barn are stabled 24/7 with very limited turnout. We can only use the pastures when it hasn't rained and we have to stay on the property while they are out. Also, with 30 horses and only 4 small pastures sometimes there isn't room or time-very frustrating.
When all else fails we turn them out in the arenas to run or one of the muddy round pens but once again we have to stay there while they are out.
For the most part these horses are quite happy as long as they have an owner that comes in regularly to spend time with them. Their stall becomes their security and the source of all good things especially food!
Some do have a tendency to chew or scrape their teeth on the stall wood out of boredom and several have developed stall vices like cribbing, weaving and tail rubbing.
The barn owners don't really know or care much about horses and get angry about their stalls being chewed up but they just don't seem to put two and two together.
Most horses get bored with stall toys and some don't play at all but the one thing I have seen that usually works is the Jolly Ball that dispenses treats. The horse has to really work at it to get them so it's not like they are gulping down a lot of them. The other one I have seen that horses love is the one that the horse rolls on the floor that also dispenses a few treats a little at a time:
Nose-it! Ball Funnel Slow Feeder & Treat Dispenser for Horses - ShanesTack

Don't worry about noise-in reality it doesn't bother the other horses at all.

There is also a cheap thing you can do for a bored horse that constantly wants to mess around with things. Every other day I take out an empty plastic gallon milk jug (remove the cap and any other pieces) and just leave it in the stall. This only works with one of my horses but he loves to stomp and crush them. They only last a day or so and are smashed flat.
They don't lose any pieces so they are pretty safe.

Slow feed hay bags help too-the horse can work at it all day long and really aren't getting as much to eat as they think they are!

Being kept in a stall may not be a terribly natural thing but it doesn't have to be a disaster. Just try to keep them entertained and remember that this becomes their "safe place"-and that is very important to a prey animal.
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post #3 of 5 Old 06-26-2014, 04:40 PM
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I worked four years at a facility with 200 stalled horses, and two years at a facility with 120 stalled horses - all fared just fine, and none developed vices. These were, however, all training and show horses who were being worked daily and fairly hard.

I can imagine a horse who is only pulled out of his stall a few times a week could have problems, but those problems will most likely be caused by lack of movement, not boredom. Unless the stalls are solid walls, he can see and hear everything going on. Try toys if you wish, but I've seen more horses ignore them than be bothered, lol. Small flakes of hay throughout the day and careful monitoring of grain/energy intake since there are limited options for the horse burning off excess calories are generally better considerations than toys.

Obviously, you want to make sure they DO get out of their stall as much as possible - even if you can only squeeze in a 10 minute quick lunge session, it will help let him expel some energy and get the blood flowing. And keep in mind it make take a few extra minutes of warmup to loosen up those unused muscles.

You're thinking this situation through and obviously care about your horse's wellbeing in less than ideal setup, so chances are good it will be a good experience!
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-26-2014, 04:51 PM
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My horse is stalled most of the day, usually with 2-4 hours of turnout depending on the season/weather. He cribs- a habit he developed as a weanling, not related to being stalled. He has a jolly ball and a mirror, but the best thing I've found for him is a slow feeder net. Because he eats loose hay so quickly, he was easily going 22+ hours per day without eating, even though they feed hay 3x daily at my barn.

Since putting up the slow feeder net he's had more energy when riding (which is good because he's generally pretty lazy!) and the BO says he's been cribbing noticeably less.

“The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” - Buck Brannaman
"Nothing forced can ever be beautiful." - Xenophon
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-26-2014, 06:06 PM
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Getting them out of the stall as much as possible helps too - even if its just handwalking, some lunging plus as much ridden work as you can fit in
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