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Stall rest: how to make it easier

Quick facts

  • Keep your horse busy during stall rest.

    • Make sure they have company.

    • Provide toys or treats they must work to get.

    • Allow access to mature grass hay for most of the day.

    • Hand-walk or hand-graze your horse often.

    • Stretch your horse.

  • Make sure to limit risks of reinjury when returning to turnout.

  • Slowly return your horse to work with your veterinarian’s approval.

Your veterinarian may prescribe stall rest if your horse suffers from an injury that requires rest to heal.

Horses aren’t good at self-protection. If you provide them space, they will run, buck and kick if they choose. This could result in reinjury or further damage to a healing injury. Stall rest helps to control the activity and stress a horse puts on an injury.

Optimum healing requires controlled exercise. Often horses needing stall rest require hand-walking to slowly go back to work. There are a few tips to keep your horse happier and to help ease this process.

Stall rest tips

Don't forget to take care of yourself. Ask a friend to assist you or hire a competent person to give you a break from the caretaker role.


Transitioning to turnout

When the stall rest is over, try to limit risks of reinjury on turnout. Keep in mind your horse has lost some condition. They will likely be excited and may need to reassert their role in the herd. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t feed your horse until you turn them out.

    • This will give them something else to think about.

  • Turn out with one or two other horses instead of the herd.

  • You can sedate the horse at first for turn out.

    • Acepromazine can mellow out the first few days of turnout.

  • Turn out during the heat of the day when all the other horses are moving slower.

  • Supervise the turnout.

  • Ease in to turnout. Start with just a few hours.

    • Turn your horse in early if they are too excited.

    • Don’t turn your horse out on lush pasture due to the risk of laminitis.

    • Start small such as the arena or small paddock.

    • Avoid turnout in pens with round corners as this encourages running.

Ease back into work

Your horse has lost muscle tone and must slowly rebuild it.  Keep up your stretching exercises and avoid repetition until he has his strength back.

Plan for at least three months of gradual return work or longer if on stall rest more than three weeks. This can vary if you worked with a specialized rehabilitation program or were able keep your horse’s muscle toned during layup.

Recheck radiographs and ultrasound to make sure your horse builds up work as fast as possible without causing reinjury.

Author: Erin Malone, DVM

Reviewed in 2021

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