Keeping your horse happy on box rest

With the competition season in full swing, how many of you out there are facing box rest with your horse?
It should be that breeches, show jackets and show shirts are making an appearance and the local shows are taking up space on our calendars for the months ahead. There are plenty of opportunities to compete right now. However, as we all know, along with competing can come injury and then rehabilitation time for our horses. We all dread the vet telling us “box rest for this one” but at some point as a horse owner, it is something we all have to face. So what happens if you find yourself with an injured horse on box rest this early on in the year?

What is ‘box rest’?

Horses can be on box rest to help an injury heal, or if they are recovering from surgery. Box rest is just as it sounds, a period of rest to allow the horse to heal and recuperate as effectively as possible, without being overly mobile. There are plenty of ways you can help to keep your horse happy in his rest period and Selwood Equine have compiled a helpful ‘go to’ list for tips and advice.

What to do?

One of the most important things to remember is that your horses gut needs to keep moving whilst on box rest, so fresh water and ad lib forage is essential. Normally when out grazing in the paddock horses are moving around and if on box rest this is of course not the case. Hard feed should be reduced as the work load is not the same – if you still feed hard feed to your horse make sure you have the reduced ratios in hand and keep the feeds a little wetter than normal, to aid digestion.

Helpful Hints

1. Good neighbours – Horses are herd animals and therefore like company so if possible allow others to be stabled near to your horse. As long as they are quiet neighbours and are not going to cause your horse distress then make sure there is company nearby.
2. Time to reflect – put some safety mirrors up in your horses stable. Looking at himself can keep him entertained and be comforting.
3. Hay there – haynets are great ways to keep your horse trickle feeding over long periods of time. Select one with small holes so it takes your horse longer to eat.

Top Tips

4. Lickity split – tubs or blocks of licks are a great way to alleviate boredom and get some minerals into your horse too. They can be on the ground, fixed to the wall or suspended from a rope.
5. Veg out – vegetable peelings (carrots,parsnips, brocolli, cauliflower, apples, pears, cabbage etc) are great little treats to boost your horses spirits. You can also try putting a swede on a rope and hanging it from the ceiling or wall for them to nibble at and play with.
6.Radio Gaga – leave a radio on so your horse has constant back ground noise. Sometimes even the music can be relaxing for them!
7. Get hands on – regular grooming and massage sessions are a must. Keeping the contact with your horse is vital and grooming and massaging are ideal for this. A good grooming session will not only remove dust and dirt but also help to promote blood circulation and healthy skin and coat. Make sure you pay good attention to your horses feet to avoid thrush from setting in.

And don’t forget…

8. Give him the green stuff – pick grass for your horse and feed it to him; from a bucket or just off the floor. He will appreciate this especially if you cannot hand graze or turnout.
9. You’ve made your bed – make sure the bedding is suitable and plentiful. Shavings are great if you have a greedy horse who may eat all their bed, they are also great for horses with respiratory issues too. Check with the vet as to whether the bedding should come up to the door or not and bed down accordingly. Banks need to be built in to help prevent the horse getting cast and rubber matting is also great for cushioning.
10. Leg work – depending on the injury your vet may have advised bandaging the horse. Or you may decide to bandage the horse to prevent the legs swelling. Check bandages regularly and change as required. Do keep a close eye on the legs filling and make sure your bandages are not too tight.

Last but not least…

Do remember to regularly skip and muck your horse out and refresh bedding and forage as required. Horses can go to the toilet around eight times per day so keep an eye on droppings littering up the stable. If your horse is wearing rugs then remember to take these off regularly. Make sure to check underneath and to re position. Keep an eye on the amount of rugs and your horses temperature. It is better to use layers rather than one heavy rug. You can remove or top up as required. Above all keep a good routine and work with your vet and their advice and recommendations.

Comments 1

  1. Although your horse’s movement is obviously restricted on box rest, controlled exercise can be an important part of the rehabilitation phase. However, do be prepared for your horse to be more exuberant than usual. Use a bridle and, if you have a sand school, consider walking him there rather than risk taking him on the roads. Similarly, if you have a horse walker and your horse is calm enough to use it, make the most of it.

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