Bored horses tend to be troublemakers, their vices ranging from mildly annoying to significantly destructive. It is not unusual for a bored horse to develop vices such as cribbing, pacing, wood-chewing and weaving. To prevent such destructive vices from developing, take steps to prevent boredom. One measure is to give your horse access to a "busy ball."
A busy ball, also called a stall ball or a horse ball, is a toy that helps alleviate a horse's boredom when he is in his stall or out in the pasture. Horses can play with their busy balls anyway they see fit; most choose to nudge or chase it around their living areas. It is not uncommon for a horse to spend hours batting away at the busy ball or grabbing it in his mouth and tossing it, only to retrieve it moments later. Horse balls do not have to be complicated in design. Simple homemade busy balls tend to work just as well as the more complicated, horse specific designs.
The Easy Horse Ball
Not all horses are interested in playing with toys in their stalls -- so before you put a lot of effort into making your horse a busy ball, build a trial version to see if he'll play with one. A simple busy ball is a 1-gallon water or milk jug, the kind with a lid that screws on, with a couple of horse treats inside it and the lid screwed on tight. The treats will make a rattling noise to catch his interest when he hits it. If he happens to force the toy open, the released treats may encourage him to continue playing after the discovery of a treat. If your horse breaks this simple toy, it is easily and inexpensively replaced.
The Modified Ball
Inexpensive children's balls tend to make good horse toys. You can buy a sturdy, inexpensive ball from just about any toy or sports supply store. The size is more or less irrelevant, but bigger tends to be better when it comes to horses. If you want to make the ball even more horse-friendly, fasten a handle to the ball to allow your horse to grab the ball more easily with his lips. You can make a handle by attaching nylon straps or rope to the ball using nontoxic glue or by tying the rope to a loop on the ball. Tether balls make good horse balls because they are easy to add handles to and can take a significant amount of abuse. If you decide to fasten a strap to the ball, you should make sure the opening in the loop of the strap is too small for your horse to stick his hoof through. You do not want your horse wandering around with a stall ball bracelet.
Playing With the Ball
You can leave the makeshift ball loose in the stall or in the pasture. You can also use a rope to hang it from the barn rafters or from a tree branch in the pasture. If you are going to hang the ball, keep it somewhere around head/eye level with your horse. Your horse can spend his time batting it around or grabbing it with his lips and tossing it either in the stall or in the pasture. Your horse will develop his own individual method of play. If you want to interest your horse in the ball, try grabbing it by the handle and tossing it in the general direction of your horse and seeing if he takes an interest in it.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.