At this time of year, many horses are stabled for 18 hours a day or more. For those who are able to get out, grass is lacking.
There are things you can do to ensure that your horse has plenty to do to occupy his time. After all, a busy horse is a happy horse!
Here are seven ways to enrich his environment from certified equine behaviour consultant Justine Harrison:
1. Pack a traffic cone with hay
Leave some hay poking out of the top of the cone and hide treats inside it. Your horse will be kept entertained as he finds a way to get them out and gobble them up.
2. Make root vegetable kebabs
To make a kebab, thread vegetables that are safe for him to eat onto a strong cord or rope. Hang it from the stable ceiling or tree branches in the field — he’ll love it!
3. Let him explore logs and branches
Part of a horse’s diet would naturally be bark and branches, so put horse-safe logs and suitable branches around the stable and field for your horse to browse on. Check that they aren’t poisonous first, though, and make sure he can’t hurt himself.
4. Make treat branches.
Find a suitable branch and smear it with honey or low-sugar jam. You can also stick vegetable treats or Polo mints onto it, then hang it in the stable or field. Add something different every day.
5. Give him a treat toy
Towels and staple-free cardboard boxes with treats hidden inside can make great toys.
6. Add to his foraging options
Suitable shrubs can be cut and placed among your horse’s forage ration. Horses particularly love cow parsley, cleavers, mint and dandelions. Find out what your horse enjoys and cut something different for him every day.
7. Let him forage
Studies have shown that given a choice of bedding, horses prefer a big straw bed to rummage through. Hiding strips of root vegetables or grass nuts in his bed and hay ration will extend foraging time. Be sensible though — if your horse is prone to eating his bedding, this idea may not be the best one for him.
Not all of these ideas will suit every horse — choose the ones that are safest for and best suited to your individual.