From Endurance to Dressage
Yesterday I asked for some cheap and easy to make toys to keep Izzy occupied during the day. The best suggestion, more turnout or turn out with a buddy, would obviously be my first choice, but my boarding situation is not at a typical facility.
I keep my horses at someone's house. My barn owner has several acres and a lovely barn that she designed with the idea of having a boarder or two to help off-set the cost of her own horse.
She's the entire barn "staff," and she works full time just like I do. To help make her life easier, she and the neighbor help each other out. My barn owner feeds our horses and the neighbor's horses most mornings while the neighbor does the evening feedings. They do switch off one day during the week so that each one gets one day off.
My barn owner cleans our four stalls most mornings while the other boarder and I help out by doing a second cleaning in the afternoons when we can. This makes things easier for our BO as she's cleaning in the dark before work.
All of this means that there is no barn staff to do turn outs; it's just us. If my horses are to get turned out, it's done by me. So while I would LOVE my horses to get a mid-morning turnout, there's no one there to do it. This is one reason why I visit the barn about 350 days a year. My stalls are quite large at 24 x 36, so it's not the end of the world if a day or two goes by without some riding or turn out, but it makes me feel better knowing they get to stretch their legs every day.
I've never had such a busy horse as Izzy, so it's been a challenge to find enough for him to do during the day when I am not there. Several people gave me some great suggestions, three of which I used last night.
When I got to the barn yesterday afternoon, Laurel and her sister had two of their horses out already. Due to the clever way Laurel designed her arena, three horses can be turned out in three separate areas. I grabbed Izzy and popped him into the third area so that he had a bit of a play date.
I was more excited about it than he was. He happily played nose tag for a few minutes, but then he decided that Laurel's manure pile was far more interesting, and no matter how many times Austin poked him in the butt, the crapped on alfalfa kept his attention. At least I know now that he's equally happy being out alone or with a friend to talk to. His turnout happiness seems to be related to the differentness of the space rather than with whom he's near.
I only feed rice bran and beet pulp - neither of which has any molasses stickiness to make the bags smell good. I know Laurel feeds a lot of different types of feeds to her group of senior citizens, so I popped over there to dig through her trash. I was in luck. Just that day she had emptied four bags of some really aromatic grains into her feed bins.
I grabbed the bags, a heavy gauge plastic, and cut the tops off to make them as hang-up proof as possible. I placed one with the rest of Izzy's toys and then brought him back from his turn out. Before he even walked through his gate he had spotted the new toy and couldn't wait to go check it out.
This horse is the least spooky horse I've ever owned. I could put a dragon in his stall and he wouldn't even snort once. No matter what I drag in there, he wants to check it out. Speedy would have flat out refused to enter a stall with a plastic bag laying on the ground. As it was, he gave Izzy the stink eye the whole time he had his head buried in the bag.
I've been well aware of the big bouncy balls for many years, but they're always so expensive. They're even more expensive if your pony pops it on the first day. Valley Vet has a sale on the big balls right now, so I decided to take the risk. Last night I ordered the 30" Equine Jolly Mega Horse Ball for a grand total of $27.76 which included shipping. I am certain that Izzy will enjoy this toy, I just hope it lasts at least a few months.
There are a few other things I do to help combat Izzy's boredom, but they're just not enough. He gets fed alfalfa/oat cubes twice a day, but I also throw a half a flake of timothy hay to keep him busy and satiated for the rest of the day. He doesn't adore the timothy so there is always some in his stall. We try to ensure that he's never without something to munch on.
He also has a Himalayan salt wheel that he could lick and play with, but it never gets touched. It's hanging at his gate so it's at eye level, but it hasn't proven to be interesting. He used to have a rubber hanging feed bucket that he liked to bash around, but one day he decided to climb into it and got stuck. Fortunately my barn owner was around and managed to lift his leg out of the bucket before he hurt himself.
Izzy also had a Freedom Feeder hay net, but he managed to rip it open and get a leg stuck into that as well. Again, it was lucky that one of our farriers happened to arrive who was thoughtful enough to cut him loose. He no longer has anything hanging in his stall.
I've used orange juice jugs in the past as toys, but Izzy really likes to bite and chew, so I worry about him tearing through food grade plastic. Those containers can get sharp if cut. Izzy's boredom seems to be relieved when he can really grab hold of something and give it a good chew or shake.
Since our barn is only a few years old, my BO wouldn't be too happy to see me nailing or screwing non-permanent items to the walls either. Anything I add needs to be something that doesn't leave a mark and can be removed easily - which kind of defeats the purpose with a destructive horse!
So thank you all for the suggestions. Please keep them coming!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: