Holiday Gifts Your Horse Will Love

Not sure what to get your horse? Consider an enrichment toy or activity!

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Holiday Gifts Your Horse Will Love
Enrichment objects and activities could help improve your horse's physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. | Photo: iStock

Holiday gifts ideas for horse lovers are flooding my electronic media and filling the pages of my favorite horse magazines. They advertise mugs with clever phrases like, “A woman’s place is on her horse,” and t-shirts for the horse owner’s lonely—yet resigned—partner. But if you’re looking for a gift that your horse will appreciate, consider an enrichment toy or activity.

What is Enrichment?

Enrichment items and activities are the standard of care for zoo animals and have more recently been developed for horses. Even when a horse is provided with safe housing and ample food, stabling restricts his natural behavior. In some cases, a horse’s physical and emotional welfare can be adversely impacted because opportunities to freely graze, exercise, and interact with other horses are limited. About one-quarter of all domestic horses develop problems and stereotypies related to aspects of equine management,¹ including depression², anxiety, aggression, cribbing and weaving, self-injury, gastric ulcers, colic, and others. Enrichment can reduce or prevent these problems by increasing behavioral diversity and the expression of normal behaviors, promoting interaction with the environment, and improving the animal’s ability to cope with challenges.4

Enrichment objects and activities are categorized by what needs they meet, and include nutritional, sensory, environmental, interactive, behavioral, and social. Some enrichment items that would make a perfect holiday gift for your horse are listed below. Not only will your horse enjoy the gift, it will could also help improve her physical, emotional, and psychological well-being

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Written by:

Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, IAABC-Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, is a research professor at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She holds a doctorate in animal behavior and has taught courses in animal learning and behavior for more than 20 years. Her research looks at temperament, stress, and burn-out as they relate to the selection, retention, and welfare of therapy horses. She also provides private behavior consultations and training services in the Seattle area.

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