The Equine Expert

Easing the stress of stall rest – How to keep your stalled horse happy.
By Tanja Schnuderl

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Horses often have to go on stall rest when they got injured and moving around would either worsen the injury or hinder the recovery. Stall rest often puts extra stress on your already injured horse. Depending on how long stall rest is recommended by a veterinarian, most horses struggle mentally with being stalled day and night for an extended period of time. When they are confined with insufficient companionship, exercise or stimulation, they can develop a variety of bad habits, like wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems[1]. Following are a few tips to help alleviating the stress and keeping your horse as happy and comfortable as possible:

  • Moving your horse to a stall with a window (or an outdoor stall for a few hours a day, if allowed by your vet) and cleaning the bedding often, will provide your horse with natural light and fresh air.
  • Keep bugs under control with fans, fly sheets and repellants, to avoid your horse getting irritated by insects all day.
  • If possible, have a “pasture pal” stay in the stall next to your horse for some time, to keep your horse company.
  • Placing your horse next to the grooming stalls or farrier area, so your horse has something to watch during the day can help against boredom. However, the University of Minnesota recommends to keep your horse’s mentality in mind and decide if they would benefit from activity around them or rather would prefer to be in a quiet environment.
  • Installing treat toys or other official horse toys in the stall can help to keep your horse entertained.
  • Stick to your routine as much as possible. If you are allowed to hand walk your horse and would normally groom and tack in a grooming area before exercising, take your horse there and groom before hand walking.
  • Adjusting the feed due to the lack of activity during stall rest is important. Horses most likely will not need as many calories to maintain their weight on stall rest. If your horse needs to gain weight, use fat calories instead of carbohydrates. Fat allows your horse to gain weight and may provide a calming effect, whereas carbohydrates add energy and may increase restlessness[2]. Access to hay at all times is important, slow feed hay nets will add more time to feeding. Talk to your veterinarian and barn manager to discuss necessary changes for your horse.

Tanja Schnuderl is a team member with The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm with expert equestrians offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases and legal matters. Tanja is an expert on Barn Management and Horse Behavior. She is the Barn Manager for Moon Rising Farm just outside Washington DC and Principal of Sigma Equine LLC, an equine appraisal business. Tanja grew up in Germany and was a paralegal for many years. For more information on Tanja Schnuderl email,


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