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 Post subject: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:45 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
I thought i'd post about this 'Mental Stimulation challenge' that the equine trainer Ben Hart has issued on his facebook page. He said:

Will you accept Mental stimulation challenge
This challenge is to meet the mental stimulation needs of our equines. At this time of year many equines don't have the benefit of being turned out or if they d it is for very short muddy periods. Even with turnout, most paddocks are pretty boring environments and even those of you lucky enough to have large open fields with small herds there is always more that can be done to improve the mental welfare of our equines. Think 10,000 acres of Nevada, mixed herds walking 20-30 kilometres a day for food, and how many different choices they have to make. Increasing mental stimulation can help reduce stress, increase problem solving skills and generally create a more relaxed, calm horse. So your mission , should you wish to accept it, is to introduce 15 new, novel activities or objects, detours or changes to your equines environment in the next 30 days.

Mental stimulation works best if it is new and novel so learning to rotate different activities can be the key to keeping your environment interesting. Mental stimulation can range from new training activities, additional quality time, fresh non poisonous bark covered logs, a pile of sand, changing the paddock fencing to encourage movement and problem solving to hiding a few low energy rewards in the stable, do new and novel scents or inventing toy for them to play with. Even providing two or three different sources of water for your animal or just slowing down the access to food can benefit your equine partner and improve their welfare. All equines are different so discovering what your horses like best is part of the challenge. Imagination is the key, but remember to always think is this safe can it go wrong in any way before leaving your equine alone. I would love you all to post ways you have found to best provide metal stimulation, so everyone else can gain from your personal experiences and meet this new challenge. Please share so as many horses, ponies, donkeys and mules can benefit from a more enriched environment Good luck Ben


So... Considering it has been pretty horrible weather and I'm struggling to find good times to take either of the girls out for walks etc at the moment, I thought i'd give this 'challenge' a go, and give myself that extra push to give the girls more stimulation than they usually have at the moment.

So what do you guys do in your horses' environments to make life a bit more interesting for them? Does anybody have any interesting ideas? I can't change their feeding method, because they have a round haylage bale plonked in the field by a local farmer - I then put a net over that to make it take them a bit longer to eat!


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:51 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:22 am
Posts: 211
I like this challenge. I agree that everyday life can get quite boring, especially in winter time.

Here are some of my ideas:

You can find them some (non-poisonous) branches to chew.
You can buy a kilo of carrots and distribute them all over the pasture.

You can introduce playthings while you are with them, like a bag, poolnoodles, tarp, carton, pylons, barrier tape, umbrella, a blanket, a ball... Anything that won't hurt them. You can let them have a look, let them bite it and paw it and praise & reward every kind of interaction. Panti really loves that :yes: I take the playthings out when we are finished.

Do you muck out your paddock? Then you can make a "wheelbarrow race" with your horses (run around with the wheelbarrow and optional mucking equipment banging around loudly).


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:26 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
jaz wrote:
I like this challenge. I agree that everyday life can get quite boring, especially in winter time.

Here are some of my ideas:

You can find them some (non-poisonous) branches to chew.
You can buy a kilo of carrots and distribute them all over the pasture.

You can introduce playthings while you are with them, like a bag, poolnoodles, tarp, carton, pylons, barrier tape, umbrella, a blanket, a ball... Anything that won't hurt them. You can let them have a look, let them bite it and paw it and praise & reward every kind of interaction. Panti really loves that :yes: I take the playthings out when we are finished.

Do you muck out your paddock? Then you can make a "wheelbarrow race" with your horses (run around with the wheelbarrow and optional mucking equipment banging around loudly).


Great! :yeah:

I was thinking of finding some branches for them - Bill is a woodworker, so in theory that should be easy :D

I will do the following so far:

- Apple and carrot hunt
- Something to do with a big builders bag we had left over which had sand in.
- The 'wheelbarrow race' sounds fun - may be with some treats in the wheelbarrow as well as loud things ;)
- Definitely going to get some barrier tape and posts, then change their route a bit in the field using that.
- Possibly hang some noisy bags from the trees? Although i'd be concerned about causing litter - they might have to be very temporary!
- I'd love to put a 'path' down over their muddiest part of the field, but i'm not sure what I could use to do that...
- Pallets - I know that some people use pallets as an interesting object for their horses, but I am always concerned that they might put a hoof through the pallet wood. Does anybody on here use pallets and have any tips?
- I have two tractor tyres that have become part of the furniture in the field now - I need to think of some ways to make them new and interesting again for the ponies.
- Will make a scratching post from a broom handle or door mat
- I will try to find a big tree stump that we can use as a kind of pedestal... Either do that or build a platform.

Hehe this is going to make January such a fun month :cheer:


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:37 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:00 am
Posts: 564
Location: Scotland
Well i suppose you could pack sand into a tractor tyre and turn it into a pedastal
you could also hang a turnip from a tree :alien:
i know charlie enjoyed me makeing a tent with some poles stuck into the ground aand a tarp :)


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:43 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
Ahh good idea :D, I will add poles and tarp to the list, and dangling vegetables from trees. :D :D. I wonder which thing I will do tomorrow! I'm going to try and achieve the challenge properly and actually do 15 in 30 days.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:24 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:22 am
Posts: 211
What about one or several really old and large carpets for the mud path? I don't know how they keep up over time, but it might be worth a try if you get them for free.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 10:40 pm 
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Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:20 am
Posts: 6036
Location: Dresden, Germany
At our pasture one of the most important sources of mental stimulation is wood. Whereas my horses tend to ignore all other "toys" that I put there (e.g. balls, old shoes and pullovers), they just love the wood. They spend hours peeling off the bark but also really eat it, they climb over it and they have to navigate their ways around it when they are walking somewhere.

Also, it serves as a natural protection for Bacardy, because both he and Titum know that Titum cannot chase him away when there is a branch between them, so thanks to the wood they can even stand together and eat from the same hay pile (I am putting the hay between the branches in small portions instead of making one big pile, Nora calls it "adventure eating").

Here are some pictures of our wood - it's not always that much, but at the moment my pasture owner has cut lots of trees.

Image

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:28 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
Wow I love that Romy!
It's got to be one of the best natural 'playthings'. Definitely. Spirit and Skylark have willows in their field, and just love gnawing at them during the summer. Whenever they have to go into a stable I tend to put some branches in there too - taking nature to them 8)
I must have a read of your diary - would love to hear how all your guys are getting on :f:


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Stimulation
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:57 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2014 10:58 am
Posts: 227
Location: Germany
Oh what a nice topic and nice ideas :yeah: Since our paddock isn't very interesting (basically just a big square filled with sand, with two tiny little hills) and our pastures will be closed soon, I was already wondering if the days might get a little bit boring for the horses.
I think I'll try some of these ideas.

Romy what a wonderful pasture your have. It looks great for the horses! Wish we had something similar over here.

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