Benefits of horse toys in a stall and paddock
Horses are herd animals, and as long as they’re in groups of two or more they do a good job of amusing each other. But if left alone your horse can develop unhealthy habits when he gets bored. Cribbing, chewing, weaving, pawing, and other vices are often impossible to stop once started. So what can you do to prevent them?
Exercise, turnout and plenty of grass all day is the best solution. But, for a young or active horse, or a horse on stall rest that may not be enough. Most horses, especially young horses want to play.
Bored horses sometimes find their own toys. Some horses will play halter tag with a horse in the paddock next to them, where they grab each other’s halter until they tear it off the other horse, destroy it or they get tired of the game. Other horses will carry the barn cat around in its teeth, if it will let him. As long as the horse carries it gently and doesn’t toss it across the stable yard, the game works for both of them.
Tips for finding the right toy for your horse:
- Make sure the toy is safe and durable
- It needs to appeal to your horse; if your horse isn’t into toys and would rather chase the ponies around, a rubber ball and other toys won’t work.
- If your horse is on stall rest due to an injury or illness, he’s bound to be really bored. A treat dispenser that rolls in the stall may keep him entertained. Or a tough rubber ball hanging in his stall might work.
- If you buy your horse a big, tough rubber ball make sure the handle isn’t big enough for him to step through and get his head, leg or foot stuck in.
- Plastic barrels and cones in his paddock may also amuse him
- Make sure whatever toy you offer your horse won’t injure him. Check to see there aren’t any little pieces to break off or be chewed off or swallowed.
- If the toy is hung over his head, make sure he can’t get his head or another body part stuck in his stall or paddock.
Many horses have a knack for getting themselves in trouble, so imagine the worse case scenario before providing any kind of toy. If toys don’t work and you can’t get another horse for company, consider getting a goat or miniature horse. Your horse will have a friend to play with, he’ll be less destructive and probably more fun to ride.