Keep Your Horse’s Brain Busy with These DIY Enrichment Activities!
Enrichment activities can prevent boredom and improve your horse’s mental wellbeing while stalled or separated from their herd.
You’ve probably purchased or made an enrichment toy or activity for your dog or cat—but did you know your horse can benefit from enrichment, too? Enrichment activities are important to keep your horse engaged and happy. They prevent boredom and have been proven to reduce unwanted behaviors and improve your horse’s mental wellbeing while stalled or separated from their herd.
Enrichment activities are a core part of the daily routine for the horses at our Equine Adoption and Transition Center pilot (ETAC). Our homemade enrichment activities help the horses progress by keeping them engaged, happy and ready to focus on their training sessions. Fortunately, these activities are easy for you to replicate. There are endless options for creating enrichment activities, but here are two of the ETAC team’s favorites.
You’ll likely see a lick mat in any pet store you visit, and you can easily make an equine-sized version at home.
What you’ll need:
- A wooden board
- A clean, unused door mat (bonus points if it has an interesting texture or pattern)
- A drill or nails
- Molasses or applesauce
- Grain and your horse’s favorite treats
How to build:
Take your mat and affix it to the wooden board using either nails or screws. You’ll likely want to hang this in your horse’s stall or pasture fence, so add holes in the corners so you can easily attach it to a secure wall.
Now that your mat is ready, take your molasses and drizzle it across the mat. This can get messy, so either have a spoon on hand to spread the molasses or use a rubber glove. Then, sprinkle grain over the molasses and add treats to different areas. Once completed, it’s time to share your new lick mat with your equine friend. You’re sure to make his day!
The treat barrel is a fun, easy way to keep your horse engaged for hours. You can build several versions to ramp up the challenge as your horse learns how to get the treats out of his new toy.
When building, make sure to safely use the tools and take all necessary precautions. Younger equestrians should make sure to have an adult present to help with the construction.
What you’ll need:
- A plastic barrel or five-gallon bucket
- Scissors or knife
- Your horse’s favorite treats
How to build:
Take your barrel and cut or drill holes all over the sides. Your horse will roll the barrel to get the treats to fall out, so the bigger and more frequently you add holes, the easier it’ll be for them to use. It’s up to you if you want to make your clever equine work for his treats, or if you want to make it simple and user-friendly for a horse newer to enrichment activities. Once you’re done cutting the holes, make sure to use sandpaper to remove any rough edges and stray pieces of plastic.
Now you’re ready to stuff the barrel full of your horse’s favorite treats. At first, you may need to wedge one of the treats into the holes to help them get the idea. Then, watch your horse explore his new toy and have fun!
If you’re feeling inspired to adopt a horse of your own, visit myrighthorse.org to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, gender or discipline.