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Feeding Horses on Box Rest

Feeding Horses on Box Rest

Box rest can be essential for horses recovering from an injury, encouraging rest and healing. However, even though this is time for recuperating, it can be a stressful time for your horse. With the change in routine and confined space, activity is restricted and the opportunity for interaction with others removed, their mood can deteriorate. 

Nutrition and a change in diet can help this transition and aid a speedy recovery though. Remember, all changes to the diet should be made gradually to allow the digestive system to adapt and fresh clean water should be available at all times.

Here are some tips to follow when your horse is injured:

How to Feed Your Horse on Box Rest

Keep the Gut Functioning Normally

With your horse moving less than normal, it’s important you adjust their diet so their normal intestinal movement is not disrupted. Make sure their fibre levels are maintained and low-calorie options are chosen to manage their weight during this inactive period.

For many horses, grass would normally provide a large percentage of the forage and fibre required in the diet. Whilst offering some freshly handpicked grass can provide environmental enrichment, for those on box rest it will not match the quantities provided when horses are out grazing. 

Alternative forages that are suitable for the individuals’ nutritional requirements will need to be supplied to maintain fibre levels and encourage a healthy digestive system. Forage, such as late cut hay, may provide a suitable replacement but it can require soaking to reduce WSCs (Water Soluble Carbohydrates). Soaking hay not only makes additional work for owners but can also make the hay bland and unpalatable for the horse. Hay may not be an option for many horses, in particular those with respiratory issues due to the dust content.

Traditional farm produced forages, such as hay and haylage, can vary in their nutritional values even between bales that were produced from the same field on the same day.  Consistency is key in keeping the horses digestive system healthy and options; High Fibre HorseHage can support owners in providing a consistent diet.

Prevent Boredom with Correct Nutrition

After a global pandemic and lockdown, we all know the boredom that occurs when shut inside for long periods of time – horses feel it too on box rest! Did you know you can prevent boredom with forage and high fibre feeds as they will be encouraged to chew more and keep busy?

HorseHage Timothy can be combined with straw which aids chewing as well as providing more fibre and less calories. You can also make this last longer by feeding this in two small holed haynets; one inside the other or in several small haynets hung in different areas of the stable. 

All horses should be provided with a balanced diet with the correct level of vitamins and minerals. It is even more important that those that do not have access to grazing and are recovering from injury to have their diets supplemented with vitamins and minerals.  Mollichaff Hoofkind Complete is a great low sugar, starch and calorie choice for horses on box rest. It helps recovery by providing a balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals whilst offering reduced calories. 

Mollichaff Calmer Complete has been formulated with ingredients aimed at decreasing anxiety and exerting a calming influence which can be beneficial for those confined to the stable. Mollichaff Complete feeds are all high in fibre, stimulating chewing and trickle feeding helping to alleviate boredom and support a healthy digestive system. 

Specially designed treat balls that slowly emit pellets can also help to occupy your horse. Be sure to choose pellets or nuts that are low in calories and high in fibre.

In addition to feeding, you can also prevent boredom in your horse by:

  • Bringing a mirror into the stable
  • Playing the radio for them
  • Stimulate and comfort them with regular grooming

Ensure They Maintain Body Condition

During this time, it’s vital you keep an eye on your horse’s body condition and alter their diet accordingly. Reduced exercise may see your horse gaining weight but the added stress of box rest may see your horse lose weight. It is vital that forage and feed is weighed to manage the amount the horse receives.

Regularly measure your horse’s bodyweight with a tape to keep on top of it. If they are gaining weight, choose a low-calorie options and ensure the corrects weights are being fed.  If they are losing weight, increase the amount of forage they are being provided with or possibly look for an alternative with a higher calorie level such as Ryegrass HorseHage .

Consider Their Environment

Staying in their stable for long periods of time means your horse may be exposed to a dusty environment. You need to make sure you maintain constant ventilation and water intake so their respiratory health is looked after. Bedding and forage options that are low in dust or dust-free should be provided.

HorseHage has been specifically designed to encourage a dust-free environment, so you can rely on our products to keep your horses healthy. Browse our products online or get in touch with us to discuss your horse’s diet.

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