Caring for a horse on stall rest
Radio interview source: Sue Loly, Large Animal Technical Supervisor, University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center
There are many reasons why a veterinarian would prescribe stall rest for a horse. You understand why, but the horse doesn't. Being cooped up for days at a time in that tiny space can make it restless and unhappy.
Sue Loly is the large animal technical supervisor at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Medical Center. She says to make your horse as comfortable as possible with deep bedding, a window, and good air circulation. She also recommends maintaining the horse's routine as much as possible.
"Just because they can't necessarily do the physical activities that they're used to doing doesn't mean that we can't still interact with them for that same amount of time," says Loly. "It can be more stressful to have a big pattern change for them. So spending time with them, still doing a lot of brushing, I've used the opportunity to teach my horse different stretches, there's lots of tricks you can teach them, adding a variety of toys and other things like that can be really beneficial for maintaining their mental status."
Horses also appreciate the company of other animals. Seeing a horse, a goat, even chickens, nearby will be relaxing for them.
A sedentary horse doesn't need as many calories, so you may need to tweak its diet.
"I actually like to go with a ration balancer, so we're not getting necessarily calories, it gives them something to eat when all their friends are getting grain," says Loly. "And then the other thing I like to do, if they're not getting much for grain, add some large rocks into their bin so it takes them longer to actually eat the small amount that they maybe do have. They have to work a little bit harder to work around the rocks to get the feed out."
Depending on how the horse is managing stress, you may want to consider an ulcer guard medicine to help mitigate any gastric ulcers that could develop.
Here are more tips for keeping a horse happy while confined to its stall
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