There’s a variety of reasons your pony might need to be on box rest and for some ponies, being stabled for longer than they’re used to can be a bit stressful. Here’s our top tips on how to keep him happy
What is box rest?
Box rest is the term used when a pony needs to be kept in his stable for a long period of time. The length of time a pony’s on box rest for can range from a few days to a few months. It would usually be recommended by your vet following an injury or illness your pony has had, which means that it could be unsafe for him to be turned out.
Some reasons why being turned out might be unsafe for a poorly or injured pony include…
- when ponies are turned out, they’ve got space to gallop about, and could over-exert themselves and make their condition worse if they’ve recently been unwell or had an injury
- ponies are exposed to a variety of weather conditions when they’re turned out, and a poorly pony might need clean, dry conditions to recover properly, or to not be exposed to direct sunlight
- your pony may have a contagious illness that he could pass on to other ponies, so if there’s nowhere he can be turned out by himself, box rest may be the only option
One of the main problems with keeping a pony on box rest is preventing him from becoming bored. Ponies who suffer from boredom are more likely to develop unwanted habits, such as box-walking or wind-sucking, or just get up to mischief! Here are some ideas on how to keep him interested…
- Put multiple haynets in his stable so he’s not just standing in one place. You could also put a pile of hay on the floor, too. It’s more natural for ponies to eat from different places and it’s similar to the way he’d eat in the field. You could even hide a few treats in his haynet.
- Give him a stable lick. These are not only a great way to bust boredom, but some licks are full of vitamins and minerals so they can help boost his wellbeing, too. Licks come in different forms – some can be fed from a tub on the ground, others can be fixed to the stable wall or hang in the stable, so they’re a bit more of a challenge for your pony to get at!
- Get him a stable toy. Treat balls are great as you can fill them with your pony’s fave snack and it’ll provide him with endless entertainment trying to get to it. They’re also brilliant for trickle-feeding his daily feed, as it’s more natural for him to eat little and often, rather than having one big feed.
- Stretch it out! Add some interest to your pony’s daily routine and stop his muscles becoming stiff by encouraging him to stretch each day. Using a hand-held lick or pieces of carrot, hold your hand at various points around his body that he’ll need to stretch to get to – for example, at his shoulder or between his front legs.
- Create a hanging turnip for him to snack on. Make a hole from one side of the turnip to the other, then pass a piece of string through the hole and hang it up!
- Putting an apple in your pony’s water can encourage him to drink, and will provide him with a game of apple-bobbing, too!
Box rest watchpoints
1. Make sure your pony can see other ponies. Being on box rest will mean he won’t be able to interact with his pony pals like he normally would. If there’s another pony in sight, he won’t feel lonely or think his friends have abandoned him!
2. Put down suitable bedding. If your pony suffers from dust allergies or respiratory problems, it’s best to use a dust-free bedding rather than shavings or straw, which can be dusty.
3. Make sure your pony has access to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times.
4. Check him over every day for signs of injury or changes in the way he looks and behaves.
5. Depending on the time of year, you might need to put a rug on your pony while he’s stabled. Because he won’t be able to move around very much, unlike when he’s turned out, he’ll become chilly more easily in cold weather. Check the weather forecast each day and make sure your pony is rugged accordingly.