Horses are intelligent and social animals that prefer to spend their time in the pasture, roaming and grazing with their friends. Unfortunately, modern horsekeeping all too often leaves horses stalled for most of the day without anything exciting to occupy their minds. The result can be stress that may manifest as negative behaviors such as stall walking, weaving and cribbing. These behaviors are performed to occupy the horse’s time in a boring environment, and a bored horse may also give a poor performance during training and in the show ring.
The good news is these behaviors can be overcome through enrichment, which increases the complexity of the environment, gives the animal a bit of control, and allows them to display more healthy, natural behaviors. Enrichment should be biologically relevant to the intended species, which for horses means activities and objects that engage them in moving, playing and exploring.
Below you will find several boredom busters for horses that are easy to implement and fun for equines of all ages.
Change of Scenery
If you consistently work your horse in a certain ring or on a specific trail, a great way to break up the monotony and challenge your horse both mentally and physically is to simply ride in a different location. Take your horse into a field they aren’t familiar with or head out on unfamiliar trails during some of your rides. As you explore this new terrain together, consider walking alongside your horse rather than remaining in the saddle for the entire journey. This will allow you and your horse to experience one another differently in a new setting, which can be a wonderful way to bond!
Bring out the Toys
Horses love toys…like, a lot! Horse-friendly toys that your equine can tug, roll, nudge, pull, nibble or carry around will provide hours of pure bliss. Activity balls are always a favorite and can be hung in the stall or placed on the floor so your horse can push it around or pick it up and toss it. Roller toys and treat ball feeders require your horse to interact with them to receive a treat. Hay slow feeders allow your horse to munch throughout the day. A quick web search for horse boredom buster toys is sure to help you find a clever innovation your horse will love!
Bring a Friend
Standing alone in their stall is sure to leave your horse feeling bored and frustrated quite quickly. Maximizing the amount of time your horse is turned out each day will help with this, especially if they can be turned out with a companion who is also stalled near them in the barn. You’ll figure out quickly which horses your equine is compatible with by watching them interact during turnout. Housing your horse next to at least one favorite friend, and turning them out together as often as possible, will be sure to help prevent both loneliness and boredom.
By keeping your horse busy with these and other appropriate enrichment activities, you increase their overall happiness and good health while reducing their need to fight boredom with those destructive or repetitive behaviors that make you both miserable!
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