Horses that have been stall-bound for any length of time is bound to have pent-up energy. The first thing they are likely to do in a larger space is run, kick up their heels, screech to a sliding stop, spin and repeat. That’s not exactly what you want for a horse that’s been on rest and rehabilitation. Here’s few tips for helping the stall-bound horse safely transition back to turnout.
Sometimes it is helpful to start the transition early on in the confinement period. Instead of confining the horse to an inside stall with little stimulation, try a small, stall-sized paddock. You can build a portable corral from panel fencing and move it around the property so the horse can stand in a small patch of green grass and graze. Moving it every couple of days provides a fresh patch to graze.
Grazing in the Great Outdoors, offers stimulation from the horse’s surroundings to keep them interested and looking around. By being able to “graze” in proximity to his comrades, even if they are in a larger pasture, the horse will be more content that they is “part” of the herd. By putting them in this type of enclosure early on with the approval of your veterinarian you won’t have such a large transition from an inside stall to the outdoors when it is time to extend their liberty.
The next steps
No doubt you have been providing some form of controlled exercise in the weeks (or months) preceding the big day of freedom. The rehab should have helped to maintain a bit of muscle tone and take the edge off their restlessness.
Here are a few ideas on how to safely introduce a horse to bigger spaces:
- Start in increments with the space available to roam; perhaps start with twice the confinement size, and gradually enlarge it to bigger spaces.
- The turnout area you designate should be in a quiet area of the property so he isn’t as likely to have reasons to spook.
- Turn the horse loose on an empty stomach with hay provided in several locations. throughout the new enclosure so they will spend time eating rather than racing around.
- Ensure that they are turned out solo, without any other herd instigators that might set him to running. And, turn them out only after the entire herd on the other side of the fence has settled down.
- Stand lookout initially so you can curtail his activity if the horse becomes too frisky.
- While your horse is still in this transition phase of returning to less enclosed spaces, refrain from putting them back on a full diet until actively back to work.
Sometimes it is less disruptive to leave a horse turned out 24/7 rather than bringing them in and out of the barn or corral. Depending on the horse’s temperament, they might be less inclined to run wild if they are in a larger turnout all the time. Check with your veterinarian about the wisdom of full-time turnout in less restrictive quarters.
By Nancy S. Living, DVM