How to Survive the Horse Box Rest Process
It's a phrase all equestrians dread to hear "That will be 6 weeks box rest I'm afraid" says the vet.
Not only do you have the stress of hoping and praying your horse's injury will heal and recover 100% but you have to manage a potentially stressed horse too, possibly a dinosaur over the next few weeks!
I've just been through it with my youngest horse and I must say, I really felt the pressure and all the emotions that come with it. I was practicing loading my horse calmly with feed twice a day. He had been getting better and better at it and that was the day he decided - NOPE! He grabbed a mouthful of feed and ran backwards off the ramp slicing his front leg in the process. Once the emergency vet had been called at 7am, he was stitched back together by 9.30 and the start of recovery was being planned out. Not only was the show we had planned to go to in the next couple of days now cancelled, but when the words "Box Rest" came from the vets mouth my heart sank!
So, I've just been through it and of course not all horses will react the same, but here is what I found helped...
Top 6 Box Rest Tips
- Find a companion horse. Can you adjust the routine with a companion horse so your horse is never left alone? Change overs can be the most complicated part of the day but I found that once my horse knew he wasn't going to be left alone and the other horse didn't react then he got used to the routine relatively quickly.
- Check Bedding Make sure you have discussed bedding with your vet as you may need to change this depending on your horses injury.
- A room with a View If moving to a better stable is possible, then a calm, less busy part of the yard with natural light and good ventilation is ideal. If you aren't able to do this try to see if there are any ways you can improve your current stable to try and improve the setting for your horse.
- Cut down hard feed ASAP. Try to keep the hard feed intake to a minimal. I tried to save his small feed for when he needed distracting for the change over, or during a bandage change. I also added more water than normal to increase the time it takes to eat - every second counts! Slow feeding/ trickle feeding hay is also best if you have a safe way to do it.
- Grooming - My horse loves being groomed and goes out with my other horses so has become very accustomed to it! Now he is on box rest, he tends to nudge me constantly for that grooming time and we now have a lovely bonding session once or twice a day. Try not to rush the process as this time with you can mean a lot to your horse. I definitely found it enjoyable, especially when I used J&H Luxury Grooming Kit. P.S beware for nips! I have a few extra cuts and bruises now!
- Fly Prevention - Don't forget that flies can still get to your horse in the stable. Fly spray can be a saviour to prevent your horse becoming stressed and also prevent too much movement battling with annoying flies. Ive also loved using Eskadrons Fly Sheet/Cooler to help with this.
- Find out Timelines from the vet It's not set in concrete but you can ask ahead of how long the injury tends to take to heal and the process of when they think you may be able to add activities into their routine, obviously subject to how recovery is going. Can you start taking them for a hand graze? When could they go out in a small grass pen? Knowing ahead of time when the vet thinks you may be able to start including or increasing these can help you plan and make box rest as easy as possible for both you and your horse.
- Always walk out with a Lunge Line Even the best behaved horses can become overwhelmed with going out if they are on box rest. A lunge line with headcollar or for the more friskier horses then use a bridle too. This gives you more space, time and control during those high-risk moments hand grazing or walking.
- Treat Balls I use these on days when my horse may seem like he needs more stimulation. Obviously best to keep feed to a minimum but Likit Rainbow Treats are good if you do need something little!
Ask for help. Taking on the burden and worry of caring for your horse can be really tough. You have probably already received a scary vet bill, you are trying to do everything to keep your horse safe and happy and now your normal routine has gone out the window. I've been lucky that even some members of my non- horsey family have chipped in. Even if it's not handling your horse, see if there are other jobs you could get some help with. Pen building, popping in hay, skipping out can all make the difference! - Even better if it means you can spend more time with your horse.
Good Luck x