Equine Enrichment: Tips and Tricks
Horses benefit from mental stimulation. There are so many ways to enrich a horse/pony's environment with a variety of fruit or vegetable kebabs, a choice of different forages, horse-friendly herbs or tree branches and toys. Take a look at a few of our favourites, here at Oak Tree:
- Carrot stretches are a great way to get your horse/pony moving and stretching out while listening to you and thinking about what they have to do to achieve the reward of the carrot. It is important to remember to start off small with your stretches and not ask for too much without warming up as this could hurt your equine. Simple stretches include to the horses chest, shoulders, side and in between the front legs.
- Fruit/vegetable kebabs are easy and fun to make, and your horse/pony will love them! You simply need a piece of bailing twine and some fruit or veg, this could include carrots, apples, pears, bananas, swede. Simply tie the fruit and veg with the string creating a ‘kebab’ and hang in the stable for your horse to enjoy.
- Groundwork/join up is an excellent way to teach your horse/pony manners and build a better relationship with them. This can help with all aspects of horse ownership, including keeping your equine mentally stimulated. It can be as simple as walking over poles or ‘obstacles’ or you can teach your horse specific manoeuvres on the ground like half pass, back up or turn on the forehand. Manoeuvres taught from the ground could then be progressed when in the saddle but that isn’t the only reason to teach your equine certain commands…
- Teach them a trick! Simple tricks such as bow, paw or smile can be fun and rewarding to teach your horse/pony. However, you should be mindful of which tricks you teach them and the cue use for it. You don’t want to encourage bad behaviour, like pawing the ground for food or if using treats as a reward for your horse, they may start nipping as a result of anticipating the reward. It is good to teach tricks without food where possible, if they have an itchy spot then it may be better to try and give them a scratch as a reward rather than a treat. You should make sure the cue you choose for the trick is clear and easy for the horse to distinguish so that they don’t get confused. Just like people horses can get stressed or agitated if they are confused.
- Treat nets are a great addition to the horses stable. If you have a very small net (with small holes) you can fill it with fruit and vegetables and depending on the time of year you could also chop them some yummy plants they can enjoy! Plants that horses enjoy and are safe for them to eat include- rosehips, nettles, moss, wild geraniums and hawthorn.
- Hay ball/treat ball can be a boredom breaker for many, used in the stable, paddock or even arena. Treat balls are a favourite of many here at Oak Tree. We fill our treat balls with fibre nuggets as these are a low calorie, high fibre treat that are still suitable for horses with laminitis or other health issues. You should supervise your horse/pony with a treat ball, especially when they first use it, to ensure they don’t injure themselves.
- Apple bobbing! All you need to do is put some apples in their water trough or in a bucket of water and your horse/pony will try and pick the apples out to eat them! It can be a fun way to keep your equine entertained while also encouraging your horse to drink more water. You should supervise them while doing this just in case they try to paw the water bucket or trough.