Horses are intelligent creatures that need mental stimulation and physical outlets for their energy. Some equines get all they need for contentment by roaming through a vast pasture, interacting with a trainer, working in a field, or socializing with others in the herd. Spending time in a stall may not negatively affect the behavior of horses like these. Horses without such mental and physical activity, however, can quickly become bored.
Being bound to a stall for long periods or having to live in limited space can impact the well being of a horse. A change in a horse’s typical routine, such as when it recovers from an illness or injury, can take a toll on its state of mind, too. Without socialization and activity, boredom may set in. A bored horse can become a dangerous and destructive force. Without intervention, a bored horse can develop several bad habits, which can include:
These behaviors can cause problems to the horse, its environment, and others around it. To help curb or stop these problems altogether, many give their horses toys. Toys provide entertainment and challenges that horses need to occupy their time.
Hanging Toys for Horses
Hanging toys are one kind of toy that horses love. Since these toys only go as far as the rope on which they hang, this kind is ideal for horses with little stall space or a limited grazing area. Horses love to bat around a tethered ball; scented balls add even more enjoyment to the experience. Empty gallon-sized jugs are another favorite when suspended from above. Do this and your horse will enjoy the sound it makes when knocked around. That sound is much better than hearing horseshoes crashing against a stable wall! If you decide to add a hanging toy to your horse’s enclosure, carefully consider the length of rope needed; you do not want it tangling around your horse’s legs!
Balls for Horses
Another great horse toy is an oversized, durable ball. Horses can roll them around their stalls alone or chase after one you throw outside. Some balls, like a Jolly Ball for example, have a handle attached to them. This feature makes it easy for you to throw, or the horse itself can fling the ball around by gripping the handle between its teeth. With the handle present, there is no telling in what direction the ball will bounce—what a surprise for the horse! If you have the space, repurpose a leaky rain barrel or rubber drum as a horse toy. Keep both ends closed off for safety. These are large toys that can be rolled or kicked for play, and horses like the sounds they make, too.
Treat-filled Toys for Horses
Some toys can have an additional purpose, since some can be filled with treats. The treats supplement the horse’s diet and the toy occupies its time by making the horse work for the treat. Some balls are designed to hold treats inside that will eventually shake out as the horse plays. Hanging salt licks are great additions to a horse’s stall. Get creative with your homemade toys; add holes to the hanging jug and fill it with carrots or apple slices. Remember that regularly feeding a horse treats can affect its health, so adjust your horse’s diet accordingly. Also beware of what lies beneath a hanging toy filled with treats; you do not want your horse eating sawdust or other harmful materials on the ground.
You can find toys for horses without any difficulty. Bargain shop online marketplaces or visit farm supply stores for a variety of options. Check your own property for items that can be repurposed as toys for your horse. Finally, you can help keep boredom at bay by periodically changing the toys your horse accesses.