Winters can be long and ugly, especially if you have limited riding space (no ring) or limited time—and no lights. It’s also quite easy to get disenchanted when you take a look at the long-term weather forecast and see that you MAY get to ride once this week and then …. Well, the weather doesn’t really go that far into the future to know when you can ride again.
By Sarah E. Coleman
If your horse is spending more time in his stall this time of year (or even if he lives out and his riding hours are limited), it can be worthwhile to offer him some things to do to while the weather outside is frightful. Recent studies have shown that enriching your horse’s environment can lead to many positives, among them the reduction in stereotypies like cribbing and weaving, but also allowing them an outlet for their energy.
These studies have also shown that horses who have enriched stall environments also are less fearful of new objects and people and the same horses express less defensive behavior.
Suggestions for Enrichment
Items used to enrich your horse’s environment need not be huge expenditures in money or in time creating them. Some options include:
- A shatterproof mirror
- Music on low
For stall or paddock use:
- Jolly Balls
- Apples placed in water buckets (will also encourage drinking)
- Large, plastic cones
- Soccer balls
- Feed pans
- Clean, empty milk jugs with rocks in them, tied to fence or stall (be aware that these can shatter in very cold temperatures)
- Slow feed hay nets (used appropriately)
- Toys the horses roll to get the treats inside
For paddock use only:
- Large sections of culvert (some horses LOVE to drag these around)
- Plastic barrels