With this wet and windy weather we are experiencing, a lot of horses are confined to their stables. When horses are confined for long periods, they can get bored and restless. A wild or free-roaming horse travels around 25 miles a day and a pastured horse can clock up 8 miles a day. In the stable? Not a lot!
To help make being stabled less tiresome, environmental enrichment involves small changes we can make to take the horse a little nearer to its origins as a free-roaming, herd-living, obligate herbivore.
• Instead of hanging the hay in a net at eye level, feed hay from ground level and divide into several portions in different parts of the stable so the horse can move from one to another, mimicking how horses graze.
• Stabled horses are not employing their incisors to bite off their food, so compressed forage blocks are ideal. MeadowBrix are 1kg blocks of compressed grass and the horse has to gnaw and chew on them mimicking natural grazing. Feed them whole and dry from the ground and they are great boredom busters.
• Horses will also enjoy chewing or gnawing on logs from fruit trees and willow for instance.
• Offer a variety of feeds in 2-3 different feed bowls (perhaps some soaked Lucie Nuts in one, some handfuls of Timothy Chop in another, and a bucket of soaked HayCare in another).
• A stable mirror can, for some horses, make up for not having a close friend.
• Window or top door-type spaces on all the walls of the stable enable the horse to enjoy different views and avoids focus being centred on the stable door.
• Some horses enjoy using a feed ball filled with suitable forage pellets such as Blue Bag Grass Pellets. Hay balls are also available which allow trickle feeding of hay.
• Soak feeds where possible – the natural diet is hydrated (grass is 80% water).
• As a treat, cut up pieces of carrot or apple into batons and hide them in your horse’s hay.
• We should endeavour to provide sufficient forage to last the horse anything up to 18 hours and avoid gaps without eating of more than 2 hours.
This is only a short guide. With imagination, you will be able to think of lots of ways you can make your horse’s environment just a little bit less alien and more rewarding.