Monday, July 20, 2009

Stall rest and handwalking: Lord help me cope!

We're on week two of stall rest and hand walking twice a day (barn manager am, me pm). Forget Riley, I can't take it anymore. Don't get me wrong, all things considered Riley has been a gem. It's just a lot to ask of a youngster, being confined 23 out of 24 hours a day. Bob has witnessed some of the more exhilarating moments, and his new pet name for Riley is "bouncey horse."

As usual, I turn to COTH, from whence cometh my help. The most useful thread was started by some poor soul whose 2 year old was sidelined with a tendon tear. Here is some of the advice she received...

The environment

  • No grain, feed poor quality hay in greater quantities than usual.
  • Walk him during the quiest times of the day, NOT during feeding or turnout.
  • Try to walk in the heat of the day, but use fly spray.
  • Horses on stall rest like to have a mirror (find one that is shatterproof)
  • See if you can walk him near a quiet horse buddy.
  • One poster said: my horse found it very calming if I just sat on a folding chair in the stall with her (obviously only do this if it's safe) and read for half an hour.
  • Choose an area he associates with walking, not a pasture or an outdoor ring.
Equipment/handling techniques
  • Chain over the nose (no brainer), and some suggested a chain over the gums.
  • For rearing or severe behavior, try a chifney bit.
  • A "bumper" or "bonger," an aluminum bosal, is sometimes used at the racetrack.
  • Stuff the horse's ears.
  • Create patterns, walk over poles, etc to keep his attention and get his brain focused on paying attention rather than being fresh.
  • Try to do more short walks rather than one long walk (he'll get bored and fussy).
  • Use a lunge line when hand-walking so you can get out of their way.
  • Carry a crop or whip.
  • Can you pony your horse?
  • Watch for signs they're getting distracted. Shake their change, lightly tap their nose with a crop, turn them quickly, get them focused on you agiain.
  • Make a pen out of round pen panels about the size of a stall, and move it around each day so there is always fresh grazing in it. NOTE: ROUND PENS ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR TURNOUT. Make sure the configuration is safe, see previous article on this subject.
  • Handwalk the horse between TWO handlers, like he is cross-tied. One handler on each side. Two stud chains, etc. Walk about 6 feet out from the horse.
  • Wear a hard hat and eventing vest, says one poster who was injured when her horse jumped on her.
Truthfully I was surprised that the COTH community embraced the use of drugs so wholeheartedly -- no dissenters (how often does that happen on COTH?). I guess when you think of the typical hot horse on stall rest, drugs may be the safest thing for everyone. The drugs below were mentioned, I personally have no experience with the prescription drugs for managing stall rest.
  • Supplements such as magnesium, Quietex, Command Serene, Tryptophan, etc, can be fed daily.
  • More than one horse was so bad the owners resorted to daily drug injections. Said one poster, "The big joke at the barn was that after he got done with his suspensory rehab he'd need drug rehab." Drugs mentioned were:
    • Reserpine. Oral and injectable, long acting
    • Acepromazone (did you know this came in oral formulation?)
    • Fluphenazine (Prolixin), correct dose
    • Xylazine (Rompun)

Riley's drug is natural high
Riley is on Quietex but I can't really see any effect. What relaxes him immensely is pretty basic -- grooming. He must miss nibbling and scratching from his pasture mates. A boarder loaned me some massagey grooming tools and you'd think I was a professional masseuse the way he responds. He closes his eyes, lowers his head, and almost snoozes. It's satisfying for both him and me, I feel like I'm really helping him. And it relaxes him for our hand-walk...


Managing the patient on stall rest from Chronicle of the Horse

Laid up or losing it from the Horse Magazine

How to handle stall rest from Equisearch

The pros and cons of stall rest from Wit's End Farm

How I survived the stall rest and handwalking blues from

Management of the stallbound horse from

Nutrition during stall rest from The Horse Magazine


  1. I hope you both survive and both stay safe. I was prepared for my three year old - chains, hardhats, saftey vests, gloves, whips and lunge lines but she turned out to be quite mellow once her grain was cut to nothing. I had my first ride on my now better horse yesterday but she was visited the vet today because now she has a funky skin thing that requires her to ingest 80 pills a day. *Sigh* it never ends. Enjoy your rehab :)

  2. Do stay safe, absolutely!

    Here's what helped me not lose my brain while hand-walking a post-surgical mare: children's music.

    I loaded a bunch of rhythmic, easy-to-sing songs on the MP3 player, plugged in one earpiece and left the other ear "open" so I could hear myself sing >g< and we'd walk endless patterns of circles and zigzags around the grass arena while singing along with "Skip to my Lou" and "If You're Happy and You Know It."

    Easier than drugs, kinder than lip-chains. Not a cure-all, but it helped Hana and me with our calm-and-steady walking.

    Not great if you want to impress other barn-goers with your sophistication and maturity, though.

  3. I'm sorry you are dealing with stall rest and hand walking. It can be very stressful, I know. Very good tips from COTH. I went through this with my 3 year old and agree wholeheartedly about helmet and lunge line. Wear gloves too.

  4. Fluephenazine (sp?) Saved both my horses and my own life. My horse was on full stall rest (10 mins out walking am & pm) for 6 months! He is super smart so he went just as nuts as I did! I loved the fluephenazine because it was very clear when it was working and when it was not. It just helped his brain relax which helped his feet stay on the ground. You should try doing my milk jug treat to feed breakfast and dinner. And my horse Gen LOVED his mirror (and you are lucky because with back to school time here you can find shatter proof locker mirrors everywhere). I also bought all the horsey toys out there and would rotate them in and out to keep things interesting. You can also make a maze (I wish I had saved mine...I would drive it over to you) for carrots so your horse takes some time getting his treats (think labrynth). I also was in grad school when my horse was hurt so I would bring work to the poor old laptop never did recover, but my horse was thrilled to push buttons! And he also LOVED to play with tractors and the muck bucket cart. Music also would help my horse and you can get one of those red cross emergency radio things where you crank it for a while so the music will last for a few hours, can be played quiet enough so it doesn't bother anyone else, and needs no electricty so you can just keep it at a safe distance outside his stall. My horse also LOVED to watch everyone riding so he got the stall on the end when he was hurt to look out and about. I mean, think about it...if you were stuck in his stall for all but 20 minutes a day wouldn't you go crazy? I know I would. I have more toys and gadget ideas if you need them. It was 9 months before my horse was on a normal turn out rotation so I hear you pain.

    Talk to you vet about fluephanzine. It is a controlled substance and has to be signed out with every use so your vet is not going to be stupid about dosing. My horse was on it for 7 months and showed no side effects other then being able to be handled and not kill me. I wrote all about it on my blog when Werth's horse came back positive.

  5. My mare was on 6 mos. stall rest and hand-walking after I first got her due to a suspensory injury. We did use Ace and a nose chain (wrapped around the noseband). I personally would never use a chain inside the mouth - the risk of injury to the horse is too high. It was an ordeal for me - she did pretty well.

    I don't agree that any horse should get poor quality hay - perhaps they just meant lower in nutritional quality - it's possible to use quality grass hay and soaking it will remove some of the sugars.

  6. It doesn't work with all horses, but I ground drove/taught to ground drive all my horses I ended up having to hand walk to rehab. However, both horses were older (8-10 years old) so didn't ahve the young horse attention deficit disorder....

    In one case the horse was such a bad patient I had to turn out in the field and hope for the best. I did 1 month of hand walking and finally it was to a point where I couldn't od it any more because of her behavior. I could probably deal with it better now.

  7. I definitely don't envy you or Riley on the stall rest thing! Ace is a terrible patient; if he's stuck in a stall he walks the entire time. Not only does he make a huge mess, but he misses the entire point of "rest". Fortunately, he hasn't had an injury yet that really requires little movement. I'd have to get super creative if he did!

    You and your readers have given all kinds of wonderful suggestions I'll be tucking away in my memory banks just in case I should ever need them.

  8. Sigh. Good luck with that! When I first brought Armani home he was quarantined out back in a small paddock for weeks. He was so bored. I'd sit for hours and read with him - plus lots of massage and grooming. Interestingly I think it helped our bond. So hang in there! You may both be better for the experience! :)

  9. Oh, dear. I was afraid of this. I had my old guy on oral Ace when he had to stay in. He was frantic in the stall, otherwise.

    Yes, to wear your helmet when you deal with Riley. A radio is a good idea. I've never used a mirror, but it might help.

    Walking with the lunge line is a keeper too as it allows you to get out of the way, or, as we say, "Save yourself!!"

    Cutting the grain is probably one of the better strategies too. If you do get some toys, you might want to rotate them do he doesn't get tired of them. My friend said one of those treat balls where the horse had to roll it around to get the treats out was a big hit, but you have to have a stall with a closed door so it doesn't end up in the barn aisle.

    Wish you well. As I said before, it's a good thing there are other people doing some of the work for you. *sigh*

  10. also, you have been given an award on my blog. may take some scrolling down, however!

  11. there is nothing sadder (or more frustrating) than a horse on stall-rest :-(

    i used to specialize in rehabs for all kinds of horses and injuries at my former facility and i've always had the best luck with the round pen panel 'stall' outside for doing rehabs. that way the horse can still have a sense of normalcy and routine, and doesn't panic that he'll never get out of his stall again. slow feed hay nets are also a must for us (we use them daily anyway,) so even when there isn't grass they can be busy in and out of the barn...

    and i second the longe line, gloves, hard hat and paddock boots suggestion any time when taking a the horse out of the stall. if the horse is difficult to handle, instead of using a chain or other harsh equipment, i often use a longe cavesson (the kind with a metal hinged plates over padded leather) for added control.

    anyway, good luck to you and riley. hope things get back to normal soon :-)

  12. How frustrating. Hang in there! One idea: One of the barns I was looking at when I looking for a new place to board had a neat small pasture (liek round pen size) rigged up with a sort of circular maze (with hotwire) inside of it. It was designed so that the horse who was recoveering could walk around lightly, but had no room to run or trot or pace. It kept his mind active to walk thru the maze but also prevented him from doing too much serious activity. Just an idea, don't know if it would work - but I just thought it was a good idea.


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