We’ve all been there. When your vet mutters the dreadful words that your prime competition horse is lame and needs time off, a little piece of soul dies. Recently, Raven somehow hurt herself and needed a couple of months off. This wasn’t our first rodeo, so I came up with a couple tips I’ve learned from her multiple injuries.
- Listen to Your Vet. This is obviously a no brainer, but your vet really knows what he’s talking about. Not only did they go through nearly 8 years of school to be able to diagnose ol’ Buddy, but they probably have many more years of personal experience with lame horses. If they advise you to only handwalk for a certain period of time or insist on re-evaluating your horse every couple of months, it’s because they want what’s best for your horse. (Although, try to avoid crazy ass call fees as much as possible — it can really do a number on your wallet.)
- With that said, you know your horse better than anyone. When Raven was 6 years old and she fractured her coffin bone, I knew there was no way that she could survive 6 months off without drugs or some type of stimulation. I pointed this out to my vet and we were able to come up with a plan so that she wouldn’t try to kill herself in her stall from boredom. Talking to your vet to work out a plan that fits both you and your horse will only make things better. If your vet recommends that your horse should be handwalked, make sure you and your horse can do that while being as safe as you can. The purpose of stall rest is for them to heal. You don’t want them making silly decisions that only cost you more time and money.
- Sometimes drugs are the answer. The first time Raven was off, Ace was my life-saver. I administered it in a cookie before I groomed or walked her and it really helped. If I didn’t use drugs, I would have a horse for a kite every time I had to do something with her. The second time around, I tried to go without Ace (she was about 5 years older), and it worked beautifully! I simply used a rope halter for more control (see this post on how rope halters can help with ground manners) while walking on the flat. Before you make any decisions, it’s best to talk it over with the vet, whomever is around, your trainer, or the knowledgeable gal at the barn.
- Alter their feeding regimen. Because your horse will no longer be able to work or go to turnout, they will have to spend a lot of their day doing nothing. I can’t speak for everyone’s horses, but mine gets fat…and gets fat quickly! By changing their grain to a low starch formula, nixing grain completely, or cutting their feed down, you can delay the side effects of stall rest. Also coinciding with my next point, switching your horse to a slow feeder can help ease the stress of staying in a stall while also preventing them from over eating.
- Mental stimulation is just as good as physical stimulation. Even if Raven isn’t on stall rest, I still like to play games with her to exercise her mind. Sometimes I will set up a walking obstacle course where she has to go over poles or weave cones while I’m walking her on the ground. This is good to do on stall rest too! You can also hide cookies and make your horse find them. For this exercise, I usually end up placing treats in certain areas and make Raven sniff them out. Since she’s not a dog, it’s hilarious to watch her try and find these!
- Stretch! Since your horse can’t work, they can lose a lot of muscle. Many studies have shown that a horse won’t start to lose their fitness for up to 3 weeks, but that doesn’t really help if your horse is off for 6 months. However, stretching their muscles can help them from getting stiff. Aside from walking, performing neck stretches, leg stretches, hip stretches, and overall massaging them will really help.
- Groom. Everyday. Grooming helps for a world full of reasons. Not only will it help maintain the bond with horse and rider, but it will provide some mental stimulation for your horse. They will also appreciate it to be groomed as much as possible. And even though they will be stuck in a stall, they can still get hooves full of crap that need to be picked everyday. Plus, doting on a horse is ridiculously fun!!
- Lastly, make sure to stay up with your health, too. This last go round, I became so bored from not riding that I took up running (idk why tho, running sucks, lol). Maintaining your physical fitness and nutrition is important so that you will be able to handle your horse at all times. Not only that, but it’s healthy for you to maintain some form of exercise as often as possible. So, make sure to take care of your body while taking care of your horse.
Having a horse on stall rest can provide some benefits, too. You can always put yourself out there to ride other barn mate’s horses during the free time that you allocated to riding yours. You also have more time to do other fun things and pursue other interests, like hiking or reading or vegging out and watching Netflix! Just remember to take stall rest one stride at a time and that it can be a good experience!!
What other tips do you have for stall rest?