The Stables

Mirror, Mirror on the Stable Wall

Who is the fairest of them all? Of course every horse owner would say their horse of course!

However, what if your horse struggles to be in a stable for any length of time? Horses are herd animals and some find it difficult to be separated from their buddies when they are stabled. Sometimes due to grazing issues, box rest due to injury or just the equestrian yard has a turnout routine, horses can spend a significant time in a stable alone. Many horses deal with being stabled very well but some are upset from being separated and start to develop stable vices from crib biting to weaving, box walking to simple signs of unhappiness and stress.

Even with having horses within their sight on the yard or their best buddy is in the next stable, some horses cannot cope without that equine contact. So how can you combat stress for the horse when it is stabled for hours on end?

There are many boredom busters on the equestrian market such as treat balls and hanging treats that can keep a horse occupied when it is in its stable but that still does not eliminate the stress of not being close to a horse. At my yard a few years ago, we had a lovely retired Arab mare that came to us on a short term loan. She has been with her companion for many years and through no fault of her own, she had to come to our yard without her pal. Upon her arrival, she leapt out the box stressed, calling and was in a terrible upset state.

She was put into the field next to our horses and so began a very few stressful weeks of this poor mare upset at her move. She slowly began to settle whilst out in the field with our horses and she seemed ok. Winter soon came round and it became impossible to keep her out all the time which meant she had to be stabled to save the ground. As soon as the stable door shut, she started to exhibit the classic vices when a horse is feeling stressed. She weaved and box walked all the time, even with a horse next to her in the stable next door she didn’t stop.

We felt so sorry for her and then it was decided to give a stable mirror a go to see if this settled her.  An acrylic stable mirror was bought as they were safer and stronger and do not break easily. We placed the easy to fit mirror at a relaxed head height to her but away from her feeding area. Well within minutes she seemed to calm. She was a little wary, to begin with but we were astounded as to how settled she became. It was the standing joke in the yard as this lovely mare stared at her reflection in the stable mirror for hours on end and as happy as can be. The weaving and box walking considerably reduced and we had a very content horse which was all down to an acrylic stable mirror!

Recent studies have shown that horses with separation anxieties are 60% happier being stabled with a mirror. These are also excellent in the use of weaning foals from their mothers which becomes a calmer process with a use of a mirror. Health complications from stress such as ulcers and gastric complaints in horses also have significant results in the treatment and recovery of such conditions just by stabling the horses with a mirror in its box.

So yes the mirror, mirror on the stable wall truly does work. Would it be vain to say that perhaps we need one in the tack room as well? Well us horse riders do need to check out our “riding hat hair” and wipe mud from out faces too…

Written by Samantha Hobden

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Working in partnership with The Plastic People