As the weather turns and the days get shorter a lot of us have no choice but to bring our horses in for longer periods of time, this can be just over night or they may have to be stabled 24/7.
This can bring its own problems, filled legs, more to manage with the ulcers prone horse, breathing issues, and horses getting stressed The latter two I will cover in more depth in the coming weeks.
Ways we can make the transition from field to stable easier.
Slowly decrease the time the horse spends out whilst increasing the time the horse is in.
Where possible stable the horse in the part of the yard that suits their personality, if they are a stressy horse they may appreciate a quieter part of the yard and not being on the main walkway to the school. Alternatively, some horses may enjoy watching the daily comings and goings.
Stabling next to their field mate can also help.
Introduce feed gradually, to give the digestive system time to adjust.
Have a routine. See my blog on a routine here
Try to split exercise and turn out time to help with boredom and prevent filled legs, for example, turn out am and exercise pm. Where turnout isn't an option try a stretch on a horse walker or turnout in the school can help. Some inhand grazing or 5 minutes walk around the yard. I'm in Jenny Adamson's Strength and Straightness online programme. One of her modules talks about core exercises that take 5 to 15 min per day and can be very beneficial to the horse, something like this can also help prevent boredom for the horse and help to develop the bond between horse and owner. Find out more about Jenny programme here
Use this time to desensitize the horse to things such as flags, and plastic bags.
Feed little and often - Giving small feeds throughout the day helps to mimic the horse's natural way of eating and is more beneficial to the digestive system. I understand this isn't always possible if you care for your horse yourself, if on a yard get together and see if you can develop a rota. This really only applies to horses who are being kept in for long periods of the day.
Offer hay in different ways, some of the floor to mimic eating grass, some from nets, use different size holes so they get the hay at different rates. You can also now get Hay balls.
Hide carrots in the nets or string them up. Parsnips and swede are also good boredom breakers, you can find lots of ideas online.
Mirrors in the stable can help and there are a variety of boredom-breaking tools out there.
Supplements that can help
Clivers & Marigolds - prevent filled legs
Hedge mix - add variety to the feed
Healthy gut - pro-biotic to help the gut
Everyday balancer - ensure the horse is getting all the nutrients they need without overfeeding.
Marshmallow root - helps line the stomach if worried about ulcers. See my blog on gut health.