Stall Comfort Counts for Happy Horses

If your horse is spending time in a stall for any reason, keep him comfortable with these helpful guidelines.

This article is part of our Comfort Awareness Campaign brought to you by Bute-Less.

 For various reasons, such as injury recovery, rest or travel periods, or adverse weather conditions, your horse may find himself spending time confined to his stall. As responsible and caring horse owners, it becomes paramount to prioritize his comfort and well-being during these periods of confinement. Whatever the reason may be, keeping your horse comfortable in his stall will help him recover, relax, or avoid potential future problems. Let’s take a look beyond the stall door at some ways to provide comfort during his stall staycation.

If your horse has to be stalled for any amount of time, keep his comfort in mind. Bilal/adobe.stock.com

Stall Bedding That’s Just Right

Providing adequate stall bedding plays a pivotal role in maintaining your horse’s comfort and well-being during his time in confinement. A soft and supportive bedding material, such as straw, shavings, or specialized stall mats, provides a comfortable surface for him to rest and lie down. A horse lies down 2-3 hours a day to get the deep, restful sleep he needs.

The cushioning effect of proper bedding helps alleviate pressure on his joints and muscles, reducing the risk of discomfort and potential injuries. If your horse is on stall rest recovering from an injury, this is particularly important. Be sure to provide enough bedding to create a cushioned surface. Opinions vary on how much is enough, but a general guideline is anywhere from 8”-12” of bedding.

Additionally, bedding serves as an absorbent layer, keeping the stall dry and clean, which contributes to better hygiene and a healthier living environment for your equine friend. A well-bedded stall also helps regulate temperature, providing insulation during colder months and preventing excessive heat retention in warmer weather. By paying careful attention to stall bedding, you can ensure that your equine companion has a cozy and inviting space. This helps to promote relaxation and contentment throughout his time in confinement.

Give Him Space

Sure, a stall isn’t going to give your horse room to romp and play. But provide plenty of space to move around comfortably, stretch, and not feel crowded. A standard stall is usually 12×12.  
Adequate space allows your horse to move freely, stretch, and change positions comfortably. Horses are naturally active animals, and restricting his movement in a cramped stall can lead to physical and mental stress.

A spacious stall reduces the risk of injuries that may occur when a horse feels confined or restricted. With more room to maneuver, the chances of accidents, such as getting cast in the stall, are significantly reduced. Additionally, a larger stall enables your horse to lie down and rest comfortably. This is essential for his overall well-being and proper rest.

It also encourages natural behaviors, like rolling and grooming, which contributes to his mental stimulation and contentment. Ample space also provides better air circulation, which helps maintain a healthier stall environment. This reduces the risk of respiratory issues and other health problems.

Mental Stimulation Matters

When confined to a stall for extended periods, your horse may become bored, frustrated, or stressed due to the lack of mental and physical activity. Enrichment activities, such as hanging treat balls, using slow feeders, or providing toys, can help keep him mentally engaged and occupied. Your horse engaging in these activities can help reduce stress. Providing activities can prevent behaviors like cribbing or weaving and promote a more content and relaxed disposition.

Toys or slow feeders also mimic the natural behaviors horses exhibit in the wild, such as foraging and exploring their surroundings. Providing an outlet for your horse to be mentally stimulated can keep him comfortable if you confine him to a stall for any reason. This can also prevent the development of vices or stereotypies that may arise from long periods of confinement with little to do.

Providing a stall toy can help your horse fight off boredom. Terri Cage/adobe.stock.com

Interaction and Engagement

If your horse has been on stall rest recovering from an injury, hard exercise might be out of the question. However, he still needs your engagement and interaction. If his recovery allows for it, hand-walking and hand-grazing are a great way to get him out of his stall and moving. When he’s stalled for adverse weather, try a relaxing grooming session in the barn aisle. If you are traveling and he’s stalled for competition reasons, make sure to get him out and moving every day to prevent stiffness or boredom.

This is especially important for a horse that is not used to being stalled. He might become anxious and restless if he’s used to a bigger area. Help him feel secure and less lonely by providing your presence. If possible, stall him next to other horses, or allow him time to interact with herd mates.

Depending on why your horse is confined to a stall, many other factors come into play. Providing proper pain management under guidance of a vet, physical therapy, and exercise are all important parts of injury recovery. Ensuring turnout time and a consistent exercise program will help your performance horse thrive. Keeping him entertained and providing mental stimulation will help if he’s in due to adverse weather. Take care to maintain your horse’s comfort in his stall and prevent unwanted problems from arising.

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