Did you know that toys can help promote herd play, assist with proper digestion and eating behaviors, and bring fun to your training?
Toys and treats tend to be associated with images of overindulged, spoiled ponies. Many horse owners can’t even imagine a scenario in which their horses would use (let alone need) a toy of any sort. After all, they’re horses, not dogs!
But that doesn’t mean horses don’t like to play. In fact, they have a natural desire to do so. If you find yourself with a horse who has an overly high play drive, a toy can help take some of the pressure off his field-mates to entertain him. These types of horses seem to particularly like playing with those oversized horse balls (like yoga balls, but sturdier) or a tough Jolly Ball with a handle they can grab – sometimes you’ll even see two of them playing tug-of-war! The oversized horse balls can also double as training tools for your groundwork, play time, and under saddle work with your horse.
Work for It
The second type of horse that often benefits from some extra entertainment are those on restricted turnout or forage. I have seen some creative new toys lately for horses who could use something to help pass the time, or for those who need their meals to last a little longer. Toys like the Likit Snack-A-Ball and Nose-It® are designed so that your horse has to work a little longer for his snacks. These toys have multiple benefits for your horse:
- Grain meals last longer, important for horses who like to gulp their food down. They’re also helpful for horses prone to choke or digestive issues.
- They can provide entertainment for horses on stall rest, limited turnout, or individual turnout.
- They can dispense roughage or hay cubes as a method slow feeding, and imitate grazing behavior for horses on a diet.
Toys can also be used as training tools, and you are only limited by your imagination here. I’ve seen people get very creative with things like large horse balls, pedestals, tarps, pool noodles, flags, balloons, barrels, bridges, tires, cones, plastic milk jugs, plastic bags, hula hoops…the options are endless!
You don’t have to equate toys with an unhealthy indulgence for your horse. From encouraging play in the field, entertaining the stall-rested horse, and adding fun to your training, to aiding with proper eating and digestion, toys can promote a happy, healthy, well-behaved horse if you go about it right. So get playing!