Keeping your horse on box rest

Horses have accidents or injuries, just as we do. According to the insurance company Petplan, the fourth most common type of health problem in horses is desmitis.1. Desmitis is the inflammation of a ligament most commonly in a limb causing lameness. The general treatment for desmitis is box rest, with a program of walking across 6 to 8 weeks, obviously your individual treatment will vary. But if you consider this, then the chances are at some point in your life with horses, you are going to end up with a horse on box rest.

Interestingly the second most common health problem is gastric ulcers, which can be trigged by box rest. So, ensuring good mental and physical health of your horse on box rest is crucial to prevent a knock-on effect being caused by the initial problem.

Keeping your horse active and mobile while on box rest, may be a challenge, but using some routine of stretches can be very beneficial. Stretching is a good way to keep your horse’s brain engaged, helping to prevent boredom.  “Similarly dynamic mobilisation exercises (DME) have led to an increase Multifidus CSA in horses on box rest.” 2. The stretches put together in “Activate Your Horse’s Core” have been proven in field tests, so these may be a good starting point.3. Though, remember as usual to consult your vet, or trusted professional if you are unsure of the suitability of any of the stretches for your horse.

Beware of overfeeding your horse while on box rest. It is easy for your horse to gain weight while he is confined, and extra weight will not help his recovery. Equally starving your horse can contribute to gastric ulcers, so it is a fine line between the two. Feeding a little and often, if possible is the ideal scenario. The current recommendation is to feed during the day, horses seem to be able to cope without food better at night.4. So, if you need to limit your horse’s intake give him less food at night and more during the day.

Remember all horses are different and what works with one horse may not work with another. If you are struggling to keep your horse in good mental and physical health while on box rest speak to your vet, it may be possible to adapt the box rest routine to better suit your horse.

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  1. (2018). The Top 5 Most Common Health Conditions in Horses | Petplan Equine. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2018].
  2. Tabor, G. (2018). The effect of dynamic mobilisation exercises on the equine multifidus muscle and thoracic profile. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2018].
  3. Stubbs, Narelle & Kaiser, LeeAnn & Hauptman, J & Clayton, Hilary. (2011). Dynamic mobilisation exercises increase cross sectional area of multifidus. Equine veterinary journal. 43. 522-9. 10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00322.x.
  4. Group, B. (2018). Gastric Ulcers | B&W Equine Vets. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2018].

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