Q: I own a four-year-old Palomino gelding. Where I board there is no grass. Is there anything I can give him to keep him busy so he doesn’t eat bark and sand or develop vices?
To prevent your horse from scrounging around in the sand, consider putting heavy-duty rubber mats in his corral or stall, especially where he’s fed. That way he’s less likely to pick up sand as he forages for leftovers. Speak to your vet about possibly adding a psyllium supplement to some pelleted feed on a regular basis to help transport any sand that does accumulate in his digestive tract. If your young gelding seems to be fond of de-barking trees, you can remove the temptation by wrapping the tree trunks with wire or a special type of plastic webbing available at nurseries and home improvement stores. Another way to keep him busy between meals is to purchase roll around stall toys that contain treats inside. In order to obtain the cookie, the horse has to spend time figuring out the puzzle, manipulating it with his mouth and nose.
If your horse seems like a midday snacker, inquire at your boarding stable about a lunch program. For a nominal fee most barns will toss your horse a flake of grass hay or a scoop of pellets in the afternoon. Or, if possible, personally take more control of his feeding regimen. Sometimes dividing your horse’s daily ration of feed into three or four small meals will keep his tummy full, thereby keeping him out of mischief. Plus, this feeding method is closer to the natural rhythm of eating that pastured horses enjoy. Finally, if you really want to make the extra effort, you can do what some race horse owners do: buy several flats of quality Bermuda grass at your local nursery. Set them on the ground and hold your horse in his halter and lead while he chows down on his super-sized squares of greenery. Bon appétit!
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