As a horse lover, you know that all equines have innately gentle spirits. They’re even ranked as the friendliest animals.
However, horses don’t always get to run around and embrace their docile nature in the great outdoors. Sometimes, you must keep them in a stable to encourage rest or help them recover from an injury.
Being in a stable can bring out an equine’s anxious side. If you’re at a loss for how to calm your irritable horse in a stable, read on for six effective tips to try.
1) Provide Him with a Sense of Control
When your horse is stuck in his stable, he may feel out of control. Even if your horse is becoming anxious in the stable, you can make him feel more at home with food and water.
Place two buckets of water in his stable and allow him to choose which one to drink from. One idea is to make the bowls contain water at different temperatures. Horses usually prefer drinking colder water, but allowing him to decide will reaffirm his sense of control. Even if you provide water of the same temperature in different bowls, your equine will appreciate the calming reassurance that decision-making can provide.
You can implement a similar practice with food bowls. Place identical food bowls in his stable or mix things up by giving him choices between two different meals.
2) Improve the Stable’s Air Quality
An unsanitary environment can cause your otherwise calm horse to slip into a state of distress. Specifically, poor air quality can make it hard for a horse to breathe properly. He may hyperventilate and experience stressful physical and mental effects.
To combat this issue, keep your horse’s stable clean and improve the air quality.
Minimize your equine’s exposure to harmful environmental irritants by investing in cupolas and vents to encourage ventilation. You can also:
- Minimize temperature fluctuations by providing popular insulation
- Use absorbent bedding with low dust levels
- Get rid of porous flooring that can retain odors from urine
3) Establish a Regular Brushing Routine
Brushing is an essential part of any horse’s routine. It keeps him clean and prevents him from developing painful saddle sores.
Handlers often brush their horses inside their stables. This environment provides a secure environment for the handler to get to work.
Some horses love the grooming process and find it comforting. Others get extremely antsy and would like nothing more than for it to be over.
If your horse is in the latter category, you may dread grooming time.
However, there are some things you can do to calm your horse down and help the process go more smoothly:
- Get a new brush: Your current brush might be too prickly, causing your horse to develop unnecessary anxiety. Switch to a soft-bristled one to give him a more pleasurable experience.
- Invest in a massage grooming tool: A massage grooming tool will stimulate your horse’s circulatory system and make him feel like he’s getting the VIP treatment.
- Desensitize your horse: Some horses are incredibly sensitive in specific areas. When you try to brush these areas, he may become resistant and anxious. Calm him by talking in a soothing voice and working slowly. Stay relaxed as you slowly groom his ticklish areas, like along the ears.
Have the same person perform his grooming routine. Perform it at the same time of day and keep it the same duration. This consistency will establish grooming as part of your horse’s normal schedule and keep him calm throughout.
4) Give Him Some Toys to Play With
Horses are active animals, so being in a stable can cause them to become bored. Boredom can lead to anxiety if they are left to fend for themselves. Offer some enrichment by adding some toys to his stable. Some good toy ideas include:
- A ball on a rope that your horse can push around in his stable
- An empty plastic milk jug filled with carrots (cut holes in the sides, so your horse can fish for them)
- Stuffed animals that your horse can toss around
5) Put on Some Music
Scientific research backs up how music positively affects race horses’ emotional states. While your equine is stuck in his stable, you can try playing some calming music to stabilize his emotional state.
Start with some low-tempo music at a low volume. Think of background music at your local Italian restaurant — something mellow and calming.
Gauge your horse’s reaction. You can experiment with different genres if the initial soundtracks don’t seem to affect him. Cease playing music if your horse becomes more irritable or aggressive.
6) Place a Mirror in His Stable
This tip may sound a little strange, but hear us out. You may need to separate your horse from the rest of his group to allow him to recover from injuries. Or, maybe his barn mates are currently turnout (spending time outdoors). In any case, being in a stable by himself can make a horse feel increasingly anxious.
To offer him a sense of peace, place a mirror in his stable. When a horse sees his reflection, he may enjoy the sense of enrichment. He’ll become curious and eager to explore, distracting him from his sense of loneliness. When your horse regularly sees himself in a mirror, he may benefit from more comfort and less stress.
Be cautious with this tip. It may have the opposite effect and cause unintended aggression.
Always use a small mirror, and position it in a way that gives your equine a choice to look at himself or not. Only leave the mirror up for 30 minutes or so at a time — take it down when you anticipate being away for several hours in a row.
Even though your horse might be afraid of being confined to a stable, these six tips can make his experience much more comforting.
Remember to give your horse choice when it comes to food and water. We recommend making the environment as comfortable as possible and caring for your horse with plenty of brushing to get the best results in a stable.