Box rest can be a very stressful time for both you and your horse. Often the box rest has been created by an accident or injury. So, you have the worry over that, and how the injury will heal, as well as the worry about how your horse will cope with being on box rest as well. Remember box rest is a turn of phrase, it does not necessarily mean that your horse can never leave his stable – make sure that you discuss with your vet what the limitations are. Horses, just like us, are individuals and you know your horse better than anyone. If you are concerned about how your horse will cope with being on box rest, please talk to your vet.
One of the main concerns about box rest is that your horse will be inclined to put on weight, which won’t help if he is trying to recover from injury. Balancing out restricting feed with preventing gastric ulcers can be a tricky balance. Make sure that his bedding is comfortable and is not causing him to stand at a strange angle thereby placing more strain through his joints.
Keeping him mobile is a massive part of his recovery. There are various ways that you can do this. Simple mobilisation stretches are a great way to encourage gentle movement, as are baited stretches, provided that they are appropriate for your horse. Walking in hand can be an excellent way to help keep your horse healthy during box rest. Though discuss this with your vet and consider the nature of your horse. If he is going to be rearing and spinning while being led out then it probably won’t help his recovery!
Massage or grooming will be of great benefit to your horse. In the old days all grooms would strap their horses every day, essentially giving them a massage and giving the grooms the opportunity to know their horses inside out. In our fast-paced modern world, we consider grooming simply flicking the mud off so the tack doesn’t rub. If your horse is injured and you can’t ride, you can spend that time massaging and grooming him. This will improve your relationship with your horse, as well as helping him to heal.
Box rest can be difficult. Spending some time working out things to keep your horse entertained and building in mobilisation and massage time into your day, will help you to keep him happy and healthy during his recuperation period. Just remember that when you start riding again he won’t be as fit as he was and to start slowly and build up the work in small increments.