I’ve stall-rested several horses over the years for a variety of ailments, including a couple older horses. And since 19-year-old Dorado has been in such a state for nearly six weeks following his laminitis episode, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my experiences with seniors on stall rest.

Fortunately, Dorado has handled confinement like a champ and is recovering very well. He’s still happy, eating and drinking well, and staying quiet in the stall (he’s decidedly less quiet when we go for walks, but he’s always looked for things to spook at!), and he hasn’t picked up any habits like cribbing or wood chewing. He continues to be cooperative when we need to treat something (be if hoof or shoeing related or cleaning up the nasty skin funk that invaded his legs) and he still takes his medicines without batting an eye, although he does sometimes object with a flipped lip once the meds are down the tube. And he's also quite enjoyed staying out of the almost-constant rain we've had in Kentucky lately. I can almost hear him laughing when the other horses come in from the field drenched from head to toe!

Dorado has handled stall rest like a champ!

Photo: Erica Larson

To help keep him happy and healthy, I’ve provided him with two haynets in different places along with two water buckets—one with electrolytes mixed in and one fresh water source. He has a ball, but I don’t think it gets much attention—he’s still unsure of whether it’s something to enjoy or something terrifying, but he doesn’t seem to mind it as long as it stays statue-still in one corner of the stall. He also gets some extra vet- and nutritionist-approved treats throughout the day, and he’s fortunate to have the okay to take walks around the farm to graze.

I’ve had similar experiences with several other senior horses over the years. Most of these patients were cooperative and seemed to know that we were trying to help them. Others, however, didn’t handle the confinement so well.

Our Miniature Horse Brandy was very anti-stall-rest, and she wasn’t shy about letting us know. She was chronically laminitic and, while we could manage her condition well most of the time, she occasionally required a few days of rest to protect her feet. We tried everything to keep her happy during those times—a ball, spreading her hay out with multiple feedings, a friend in a nearby stall she could see—but she just didn’t like it. Even on days she was very painful, she’d still spend most of the time screaming to go back outside and trying to open her stall door.

And while we never had to rest our Appaloosa gelding, Taz, for long, I can’t imagine he’d have enjoyed it much. He was a horse that, at 27 years old, would rather be outside during the frigid Michigan winters than in his stall for the night. He was the horse that, if you were 10 minutes late turning him back out after dinner, would let you know about it, pawing and yelling until he was jogging around his field. And toys to keep him busy? He’d just “kill” those in a heartbeat. No, I don’t think he would have appreciated stall rest!

Thinking about these two makes me glad Dorado is a star patient! With at least a few more weeks of stall rest to go, he’s taking everything in stride and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Have you had to stall-rest a senior horse? Was he a good patient? How did you make that confinement more manageable?