Making the Best of Stall Rest
Twenty-eight days have passed since my retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, fractured a medial sesamoid bone in his pasture, and I hope I’m not speaking too soon when I say things are looking pretty good. This morning we hit a pretty important milestone. But before I get to that, let’s talk stall rest. This is a big issue for owners caring for injured horsesÑespecially high-energy injured horsesÑand if I’ve learned anything in the past month from hearing friends’ stories and reading Facebook status updates, it’s that each horse handles it differently.
Happy’s veterinarian, Dr. Ashley Embley of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, preparing his leg for an ultrasound exam three weeks ago. She found no tendon or ligament damage in association with his sesamoid fracture.
Happy’s initial angst (yes, I see the irony in his name here) about and boredom with being stall-bound meant more weaving and stall-walkingÑhis longtime stereotypies. But he quickly settled into a routine of twice-a-day hand-grazing sessions, with a whole lot of snacking on hay interspersed. At my team member Erica’s recommendation (her horse has been on stall rest a few times in recent years), I first tried a slow-feed haynet to keep his mind (and mouth) occupied, but I found that it frustrated him more than anything else. (I’d hang it up in the stall, he’d check it out, try to extricate a few pieces of hay, then sneer back toward the stall door with the face of, “Why did you put my hay in a cage!?” Then he’d ignore it, even if I’d filled it with gorgeous timothy hay). Eventually I added a regular haynet beside the slow-feed one before putting the slow-feed back in storage, and I mix the farm’s orchardgrass hay with a few flakes of timothy or a timothy-alfalfa mix.
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