Horses can get bored standing in a stall all day. Boredom and restlessness can lead to any number of bad vices, like chewing down the barn, digging holes in the stall or kicking the walls. Giving your horse a toy gives them something to do with their ever-busy mouths while keeping their minds occupied with a distraction.
Safety is important when considering toys for your horse. They should have rounded and smooth edges and not contain any small parts, other than pieces of intentionally placed food, that might be detached, eaten and swallowed.
Make-It-Yourself Stall Toys
A quick and inexpensive horse toy can be made by placing a few rocks, hay cubes or carrot pieces into a plastic gallon water, juice, or milk jug and hanging it from the rafters. The sturdier the plastic bottle, the longer it will last. An inquisitive horse will beat on this with his mouth. The rocks or treats rolling around inside and the noise they make often keep a horse occupied for a time.
Another way to relieve a horse’s boredom is with a food popsicle. Fill a plastic container with water (or juice) and add fruits (and veggies) cut to an edible size that won’t cause choke. Then, place the container in the freezer. Once frozen solid, remove the frozen “popsicle” from the plastic and put it into your horse’s feeder. He’ll spend a bit of time licking and gnawing at it to get at the treats while the ice melts.
Commercial Stall Toys
One favorite commercial toy is called Amazing Grace. It is a sturdy plastic cylinder with wheel-shaped ends that causes it to roll in circles so it doesn’t just roll away in a straight line. You can put treats—cubed apple or carrot pieces, hay cubes, horse biscuits—inside the hollow tube and as the horse rolls it around with his mouth, occasionally a treat falls out of a 4” hole to reward him for his persistence.
Another favorite horse toy is the Nose-It, which is an octahedron-type shape of sturdy plastic in which you can put horse treats. Like Amazing Grace, the horse will worry it around the stall in an effort to release the goody inside. Empty, the toy weighs three pounds, but it can hold twice that amount. The hole is only 1¾ – 2” in diameter, so it takes a concerted effort to get the treat out of the toy. Since it has some flattened sides, it isn’t likely to roll under a paddock fence when used outside.
Jolly Ball is another popular horse toy. It is a durable large ball with a handle that fits perfectly in a horse’s mouth so he can carry it, bat it around or throw it. This provides amusement for many playful individuals.
By Nancy S. Loving, DVM