Horses can find being stabled difficult, which is understandable. They have evolved to travel anything up to 100 miles a day, grazing as they go. So, standing still in an enclosed space goes against their natural instinct to keep moving. Always be careful, as some horses can become reactive and dangerous to handle if they are confined for long periods. To help your horse, consider the following:-
1. Exercise: As long as he has no physical problems, he will need as much exercise as possible. Plan ahead to ensure you have access to the arena or can hack out in daylight.
2. Other turnout options: Can he be turned out in the arena or in a yard area, with some hay and a friendly equine companion?
3. Create a turnout area: Can you create a fenced area outside your horse's stable, so he has the choice to wander in and out? He will have more opportunity to move around and will feel less restricted.
4. Take him for walks: Lead him out in-hand, although be prepared for him to be bouncy - wear a hard hat, sturdy footwear and gloves. Ideally attach a lunge-line to his headcollar and let someone know where you were going. Maybe someone else would like to take their horse along, too.
Break up the day by walking your horse out in-hand
5. Change his environment: Is there a spare loose-box on the yard he can be put into for some of the day, to give him a change of scene? Or, could he swap stables with another horse for a while? If it's safe to do so, you could tie him up at different places around the yard, although only where it's safe to do so and only when someone is around.
6. Ensure his social needs are met: If your horse is stabled for long periods, he should be housed next to a friendly horse. Ideally, they should be able to touch and mutually groom each other. If your horse has a friend who can't be stabled nearby, take yours over for a visit. Perhaps you could tie your horse up outside the other horse's stable, with a haynet, so they can hang out together?
7. Entertain him: Horses love to play and toys that make them think can break up the day. There are many toys to buy, or be creative and make your own. Towels and staple-free cardboard boxes filled with treats can make great toys. If you try this, supervise your horse at all times and remove the items if the game becomes too difficult or he gets frustrated. Change the items you give provide each day, so he doesn't get bored with the same thing.
Justine Harrison uses the science of behaviour to help owners understand and solve problems with their horses. Visit: http://www.equinebehaviourist.co.uk
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