Outside the box – coping with stabled horses in winter

There’s a lovely feeling about leaving the yard on a winter evening, knowing your horse is tucked up, warm and cosy, in his stable. Many of us stable our horses in the winter because of the inhospitable weather or because previously green fields have turned into quagmires. However, being continuously stabled can be stressful for your horse, especially if he’s used to living out during the summer months.

Missing his herd

In the field, horses spend all their time with their friends, mutual grooming, grazing and taking it in turns to watch for potential threats. When your horse is stabled, he’s alone and can easily become stressed. A good solution is to stable him somewhere where he can see his friends. Stable mirrors can also replicate the comfort of being around other horses.

Appropriate feeding

Out in a field, your horse will graze for most of the day. Horses have small stomachs, which means they must eat little and often throughout the day. When he’s stabled, you can mimic his natural diet by regularly feeding him ad-lib forage, such as hay or haylage. This keeps his digestive system functioning naturally, reducing the risk of colic or gastric ulcers. If he needs to watch his weight, try small-holed nets or double netting his forage. Hanging several small nets around the stable will encourage him to move around, improving blood circulation. Adding a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement to your horse’s bucket feed will ensure that he’s receiving a balanced diet, including any nutrients that he may be missing from not being able to eat fresh grass.

Keep his mind busy

Stabling for long periods of time can be boring for your horse. You can help by providing stable toys to keep him occupied. Hanging licks are a popular solution, as they can keep your horse busy for long periods of time. Monitor your horse’s consumption rate to avoid weight gain, particularly with the lick is first introduced. Rolling balls filled with fibre treats will encourage him to move around in the stable.

Build your bond

Another great way to fight boredom in the stable is to spend more time with your horse. You may want to take him out for a long hack on some days, instead of spending a shorter amount of time schooling. Tying him up on the yard for a groom not only gives him a change of scenery, but is also helps to strengthen your bond. Grazing your horse in-hand for short periods of time, which again is a great bonding experience for you both, is also good because he’ll be outside and having access to some fresh grass.

Whatever gear you need to keep your horse happy this winter, visit http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com