February 2, 2015

Surviving Stall Rest

I cannot imagine that there is a horse owner out there that is happy about dealing with stall rest. If they do exist, they clearly have some sort of masochistic issues that need to be dealt with. However, I think most of us agree that stall rest is a necessary evil. I hope for most horse owners that they never have to deal with stall rest. Sadly for me, I have had to inflict it on my horses several times over the years and have learned to tolerate it. This time however is the longest stretch, and will continue to be for an unknown period of time.
Stall rest, week 3 and counting...

This is also the hardest stall rest I've had to deal with. Mostly because my horse is at home now, which means that I have to work stall mucking, medication, and bandaged changes into my already full and complicated schedule. To top it off I slipped on the ice, during day two of stall rest, and bruised my tail bone. That took three weeks to heal, and I can just now easily bend over and pick things up. It made mucking very slow and painful. Not fun. I guess if I were a stall rest masochist though, that would have added to the fun.

As horse owners, we do what we can and we suffer through it with a smile on our faces most of the time. In the end, a healthy, happy, sound horse will be well worth all the extra toil. I suspect that for most of us, our concern over stall rest isn't just all the extra work involved, but maintaining our horse's sanity.

Rose hated stalls when I first got her. However, stall rest or not, she had to be in a stall from time to time depending on our boarding situation and show schedule. I was desperate to do whatever it took to occupy her mind and also keep barn owners happy. As a result I learned a few tricks. Some things I tried were a waste of money and some things worked. Eventually she became a good girl in a stall, and I no longer worried that I would get kicked out of whatever barn or show grounds we were boarded at.

Going into Gentry's stall rest I immediately pulled out all the stops that I knew worked, and I hoped that he would be good about the stall. As far as I know, he has never been in a stall in his life. So far, he has been a saint about his stall rest, and I guess I will never know if it is because of my stall rest tricks or if it is his saintly personality. Regardless, I feel like I have gained some excellent knowledge on the topic of maintaining a sane horse on stall rest, and thought I would share my tricks.

How to Survive Stall Rest

Nibble Net

    Nibble Net
This is seriously your best friend and THE MOST effective stall "toy". Keep it full of hay at all times. I feed one flake of hay on the ground at meal times so that the horse can get a quick fix of food, and then put the other 2-3 flakes in the nibble net. That will last until evening feed, when I fill it up again, which will last until morning. I also take this to horse shows when stalled for a weekend

Hanging Salt Lick

    Salt Lick on a Rope
I like to use a hanging Himalayan salt lick on a rope. Not only does it provide them with a salt lick, but it is also an entertaining way to get their salt. Normally I keep this in my trailer tack room and hang it in show stalls when we are boarding for a weekend.

Two's Company

DO NOT lock your horse in a stall in a barn all alone! Horses need company. This is the most sure fire way to guarantee your horse will go bat shit crazy. Just don't do it. Give them an outdoor stall if possible where they can interact with or see other horses and people. Same thing goes if you only have an indoor stall option. This might mean giving them another "stall rest buddy" if all your horses are normally outside 24/7. Misery loves company. Neither horse will be stoked, but neither will go insane either.


Cut off the grain train. Because of their newly inflicted sedentary lifestyle, your performance horse does not need all that grain that they normally eat when on stall rest. A better option than cutting or eliminating grain, is to switch to a ration balancer. This way your horse still gets all the protein and vitamins necessary for healing, but not all the extra calories. In my experience it is the calories that cause grain brain, not protein. Gentry is already on a ration balancer because he's an easy keeper, so there was no change here for him.


Nice thick bedding is really helpful to keeping the horse comfortable standing in it's stall. Because our stall is outside in our run-in shed, I use pelleted bedding. This is great for outside because it doesn't blow away and also decomposed easier in the manure pile (makes better garden mulch than shavings).

Heated Water Tub

16-gallon heated water tub
If you are lucky enough to be doing stall rest in the middle of winter in a northern climate, your horse needs water in a form more palatable than ice. Historically that meant a stock tank and stock tank heater. Stock tank heaters are a pain, mostly because horses love to play with them, chew on them, pull them out, and then let their water freeze over. I did not want to deal with that. That is why we have a heated automatic water in the paddock. Luckily, there have been modern advancements in the field of keeping water liquid. Heated water buckets and tubs. Not having any desire to fill and dump two buckets of water multiple times a day, which would only result in creating more ice on the ground, I went with a 16 gallon heated water tub. It looks like a keg tub, but has a plug and an internal heater that keeps the water from freezing. There is basically nothing for the horse to mess with, aside from the tub itself.  I also only have to fill it once a day. Winner!

Things to Not Bother With

Jolly Ball

    Off-brand "Jolly Ball"...my dog ate the name brand one years ago.
I have yet to witness or have evidence of a horse ever play with this thing (dogs love them though). That is why all these years later it is still in great condition. None-the-less I threw it in Gentry's stall because it was laying around. However, I do not suggest ever buying one for your horse. He hasn't touched it, as expected. Pointless. Waste. Of. Money.

Likit Tongue Twister

Horses do like these, and they are entertained by them briefly. However, I find that they eat the whole darn thing in about one hour. Why they market the thing to last for days is beyond me. Again, waste of money. They also get broken fairly easy by a pissed off horse who ran out of it's likit smack and is stuck in a stall.

In Conclusion or TL;DR

Give your horse an endlessly full nibble net, hanging salt lick, barn buddy, and cut the grain from day one and they should be mostly content during stall rest. For his part Gentry is staying nice and sane, and has not shown any evidence of developing a stall vice. Now it is just a matter of waiting it out and continuing to survive the rest of his stall rest.



  1. Hahaha, Miles demolishes his "Lickit" by CHOMPING on it... and it lasts about 30 minutes.

  2. Thanks for sharing your tricks! Apollo was briefly stalled but my youngsters have never been in a stall (and likely wont' until they are old enough to show). Good to have some tricks up my sleeve :)

  3. Oh I feel your pain, Pongo had 3 months of that May - July last year, not allowed out of a box stall. And in the heat too, it was misery. I think the #1 determinant of a successful stall rest is the attitude of the pony. Sounds like Gentry is putting up with it well too, yay! I used a nibble net too (and still do!) and that was a lifesaver. I bought a lickit and we hung it from the center of the stall where he couldnt pin it against a wall or anything and it lasted for a lonnnng time. I bought him a boredom buster wall mounted play toy that he could have cared less about. He also had his window open so he could see outside and touch his neighbors nose. I spent hours grooming him in there and just sitting on a stool reading my kindle, playing with him and giving him little sponge baths to cool him off.

    1. Oh! One more tip for people, if they kick the stall have a squirt bottle of water hanging on their stall door and tell everyone to give them a squirt in the nose if they catch kicking! It worked like a charm for us...and was kind of fun/funny too.

  4. You are such a good momma, helping him stay busy!

  5. Great tips and what a good pony you have!!!!

  6. love it! glad gentry is surviving the stall rest - it's definitely tough on them!

  7. Stall rest is totally a pain, but like you said worth it in the end if you have a sound horse. Great tips!



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