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Exercise Those Stalled Horses!
David W. Freeman, OSU Extension Equine Specialist
Don't let cold weather keep you from exercising stalled horses. Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping their mental attitude in good shape, there are many reasons that routine exercise is important to the physical health of your horse. Muscle tone, tendon and ligament flexibility, respiratory system function and the health of the cardiovascular system benefit from daily forced exercise and turnout of stalled horses.
Recently conducted research by a number of different researchers adds another dimension to the need to exercise stalled horses: bone strength. Here are a few bulleted statements that summarize findings of several recently published research trials.
· Stalled foals (preweaned) had reduced leg bone and joint development as compared with foals housed in pastures. Stalled, exercised foals were similar to pastured foals in bone and leg joint development. Those foals that were stalled without exercise rebounded in the rate of bone development when subsequently turned out to pastures.
· Weanlings that were stalled without exercise had decreased bone mass as compared with weanlings that were pastured. The same trial found that stalled weanlings given 12 hour turnouts had similar bone mineral content as weanlings that were pastured.
· Weanlings housed in small pens (dry-lots) given forced exercise increased bone size as compared to non-exercised weanlings that were housed similarly.
· Exercising weanlings on a walker increased cannon bone diameter and the density of bone.
· Lounging stalled weanlings helped to maintain bone mineral content more so than four-hour turnouts of voluntary exercise.
· Pastured yearlings had increased bone mineral content as compared to 'dry-lotted' yearlings.
· Yearlings confined to stalls had decreased bone mineral content as compared to pasture yearlings.
· Mature horses exercised on a treadmill had larger cross-sectional tendon area as compared to similarly housed horses give four-hour turnouts with voluntary exercise.
· Three to four months of confinement reduced bone mineral content in horses. Subsequent daily exercise reversed this condition and increased the bone mineral content.
The general conclusion from all these trials is that some type of forced exercise is beneficial for healthy bone of stalled growing horses that are not allowed extended periods of turnout in pastures. So, don't let the cold weather keep you from exercising your horses, especially growing horses that are stalled.