Tips and Strategies for Surviving Stall Rest

Tips and Strategies for Managing Stall Rest

When your horse is injured, stall rest may be the best – or only choice – to help them recover. Of course, there’s no way to explain to a horse why they are being contained and dealing with a horse that is suddenly confined to a stall can be harrowing. Here are some tips and strategies to help both horse and owner survive the ordeal

If you’ve ever been on bed rest because of an injury or illness, you know how frustrating it can be. I’ve been laid up twice with broken bones over the past four years. It can be incredibly disheartening and cabin fever sets in quickly. It’s easy to see why stall rest can be so tough on horses. That’s why so many pick up destructive behaviors while they’re on stall rest, such as kicking, cribbing, and chewing. If your steed is on bed rest, these tips and strategies for surviving stall restwill help you both get through it.

Keep the Space Ventilated

Zelda wasn’t on stall rest, but if she had to be, this is the kind of stall you’d want. It was huge, light and airy. With bars between the stalls, horses can see each other.

When your horse is stuck inside, the least we can do is make that spot comfortable. That means keeping the space well ventilated to prevent it from becoming stuffy and uncomfortable. This is especially important if your horse is on stall rest for equine influenza or other airborne illnesses.

Keeping the windows open and turning on fans will help keep the air moving while letting in pleasant, bacteria-killing sunshine. Also, try to store extra bedding and hay in a separate building if possible. Straw and hay are notorious mold attractors and keeping them removed from the stall area will keep the air fresher for your horse.  

Use Distraction

Cowgirl Magazine has a great article on DIY boredom busters

One of the biggest enemies your horse will face during stall rest is boredom. While the times you take them out are beneficial, you may need to offer your horse a little extra distraction for when you’re not available. Here are a few stall rest survival tips for beating boredom:  

  • Offer healthy treats like frozen apples
  • Use treat-dispensing toys
  • Put up break-proof mirrors
  • Leave toys in their stall, such as inflatable balls or stuffed animals
  • Hang the feed bag on the other side of an outdoor window

Another key way to keep horses distracted is to put other horses in nearby stalls for company. Horses are social creatures and being alone stresses them out. Just remember to rotate different horses in the adjoining stalls. Otherwise, your horse may become too attached and get upset when their new friend leaves them.

Adjust Your Horse’s Feed

Always adjust your horse’s diet to suit their activity level. If you keep feeding your horse the same ration, his energy levels will make stall rest an even greater trial. Cut grain to a minimum and consider using fat calories if your horse needs to gain weight, as opposed to carbohydrates, which add energy.

Try to make sure your horse has hay in front of him or her all the time. Not only will it you’re your horse entertained, but it will help prevent your horse from developing ulcers. Consider using a slow feed hay net to make the hay last longer. Soaked beet pulp, which is also a long stem forage, is another good choice as it is a source of cool calories.

If you do cut your horse’s rations, you might need to feed a ration balancer or vitamin/mineral supplement to meet your horse’s nutritional needs.

Ask About Handwalking or Hand Grazing

Rope Halter
A rope halter can give you more control than a regular halter and is less likely to hurt your horse than a chain over your horse’s nose.

In some cases, stall rest doesn’t mean zero activity. If your vet approves, try to hand-walk your horse at least once a day for a change of pace. Even if your horse can’t exercise, you might still be able take them out of their stall to hand graze, or to groom them. Just make sure that your horse doesn’t get too worked up when you take them out and consider using a rope halter, which gives you more control. Managing a kite on a string is not relaxing for you and if your horse gets away from you, he could be hurt again. If you are concerned about your horse getting wild, ask your vet about calming supplements. While Ace might he enough to calm your horse enough to hand walk, if your horse isn’t handling confinement well, your vet might recommend a longer-acting sedative like reserpine.

Pro Tip: Try Massage or Stretching

An easy way to work your horse’s muscles without walking them is by giving them a massage. Massage and stretching will also relieve stress for your horse, help you note any changes in their recovery process, and potentially help them bounce back from their injury faster.

What tips do you have for managing stall rest?

One thought on “Tips and Strategies for Surviving Stall Rest

  1. Only thing that I would add is gradually making their space bigger as they heal and according to vet instructions. I would not recommend just turning out from the stall and letting them go. I’m sure everybody knows that!

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