It’s winter in most parts of the country and horse owners may find their equine friends locked in the barn more frequently and for more hours at a time. The stalled horse, besides being bored, can turn destructive, irritable and may develop health problems. But there are ways to keep the confined horse more comfortable.
In the wild, horses move in a herd from ten to 20 miles a day, foraging along the way. The equine digestive tract relies on constant eating combined with movement to remain healthy. When they’re locked in a stall, the digestive tract slows down and dangerous stomach acids build up, increasing the risk of colic or gastric ulcers. Given what we know about horses in the wild, we can make stall time safer and healthier by following these few simple steps:
- Provide toys. Stall toys, such as plastic apples, a milk jug on a rope, or any other commercially available, safe equine toy can take the edge off of boredom and prevent horses from chewing
- Similarly, provide as much good quality forage as possible as often as possible, fed on the ground to encourage grazing-like activity.
- Open the windows or arrange your barn so your horses can see each other-they’ll be even happier if they can touch noses with a pal or share a run with a compatible friend.
- Minimize the amount of processed grains a horse gets in the winter, especially if his work load decreases substantially. Research shows that grains can cause a build up of volatile fatty acids, one cause of equine gastric ulcers.