Whether recovering from injury or surgery, or confined for another reason, a horse on stall rest can be challenging to feed. When the medical crisis requiring rest has passed, long-term stall management becomes a matter of balancing the horse’s needs and keeping it occupied.
A nutritional evaluation should be done for horses recovering from surgery or illness. Dietary changes are recommended for laminitic horses and those suffering from the effects of old age, Cushing's disease, respiratory problems, and hepatic disease.
Manage weight and nutrient intake
In each case, a carefully balanced diet rich in specific minerals and vitamins should be designed to provide the horse with the best possible nutrition for its recovery and future health. For instance, a horse recovering from laminitis would benefit from a combination of supplements including biotin, zinc, and methionine.
Track the weight of horses on stall rest in order to monitor whether their diet is providing too much for their sedentary lifestyle. A scale would be ideal, but a weight tape can be used weekly in order to track changes in girth, as long as the same person takes the measurement in the same manner each time.
A ration balancer is a low-calorie feed that will provide the amino acids necessary for repair of damaged tissues, and the minerals and vitamins required for maintaining health. Follow the feeding directions for a “maintenance” activity level based on the weight of the horse.
Provide sufficient forage
Provide hay at 1.5-2% of the horse’s body weight. It should be mostly grass hay, but giving a little alfalfa (lucerne) may help to prevent the development of ulcers. A mixed hay with grass as the majority plant type is ideal. If you do not have the mixed hay, add a flake of alfalfa per day to the other forage.
To keep the horse from eating hay too quickly and being bored the remainder of the day, you might want to consider one of the special hay bags that allows the horse to get only a little bit at a time.
Guard against bone demineralization
A little known fact regarding horses on stall rest (or even those transitioning to a stabled environment) is that as soon as exercise (free choice or forced) is reduced, the bone begins to weaken. One of the most important factors in bone density and strength is the stimulus that exercise and the resulting concussive forces provide. The bone reacts to these by remodeling, or building more bone where it is needed. When that stimulus is removed, the amount of bone resorption exceeds bone accretion and bone loss results.
Which solution is right for your horse?
DuraPlex®. Bone mineralization supplement. Ideal for horses who spend the bulk of their time stabled, including those transitioning to a management program that includes significant time spent stabled, those undergoing a convalescent period (lay-ups), and those that have sustained a bone injury or recovering from surgery.
EO•3™. Omega-3 supplement. EO•3 is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, compounds found to optimize the well-being of all horses, regardless of age or use. Choose EO•3 to promote a more natural balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the body and the benefits this can confer on inflammatory processes, immune system support, and bone health.
Nano•E®. Nanodispersed, liquid natural-source vitamin E supplement. Nano•E provides a highly bioavailable natural (d-α-tocopherol), water soluble source of vitamin E to horses through a unique delivery system. Recommended for horses that spend a significant portion of their time in stalls or otherwise confined, performance horses, horses whose forage intake is largely from hay rather than pasture, those with neurological problems, those exposed to stressful events, and convalescent horses.
Preserve™ PS. Prescription strength antioxidant supplement. Preserve PS provides superior antioxidant protection with natural-source vitamin E, organic selenium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Preserve PS is ideal for supporting muscle recovery after work, promoting optimal immune function, and providing nutrients which may be lacking in regions with selenium-deficient soils.
Micro-Max. Ration fortifier. Micro-Max is a low-intake concentrated source of vitamins and minerals for mature horses. Micro-Max is ideal for horses that maintain body weight on diets of forage and small amounts of concentrate. The use of Micro-Max ensures that all vitamin and mineral requirements of mature horses and ponies are satisfied. Because of its low feeding rate, Micro-Max can be fed by itself or mixed with a concentrate.
Learn moreNutrition for Horses on Stall Rest
Feeding a Horse on Stall Rest
Q&A - Feeding an Athletic Horse on Stall Rest
The Importance of Protein During Convalescence
Training and Bone Development