Ideally, your pony will require a nice stable to go into during the night or for a few hours during the day when they're not being exercised or put out in the fields. It's not natural for a pony to be cooped up in a stable, as this isn't normally how they would be in the wild, so it's important to make their stable interesting and relaxing. Keeping it clean is one of the main priorities, as well providing food and water.
If you can, lower partitions between stables so that neighbouring ponies are still able to see and touch each other. This way they can keep each other company as well as groom and play together. They'll love being in the company of other ponies when they're outdoors too.
If you can't change your stable to allow your pony to see and touch others, then use a stable mirror. Your pony will be able to see his reflection and think it's another pony close to him, and this can help keep him calm and relaxed.
When your pony is in his stable, feed him forage off the floor as opposed to a haynet. This is a much more natural position for horses to eat in and can reduce the risks of respiratory diseases.
Some ponies won't lie down in small spaces. If you think your horse isn't lying down or rolling in his stable, try moving him to a larger stable, and make sure he has plenty of clean bedding.
Your pony's stable should include:
- Bedding: clean, dust free and warm
- Food: usually hay or haylage, ideally in a constant supply to mimic natural trickle feeding
- Water: fresh and regularly topped up
- Room with a view: horses and ponies like to be able to see what's going on if they can't be in close contact with each other
- Your pony will appreciate having some down-time away from the herd in their own private place, so making sure their stable is the best it can be will allow him to feel comfortable and relaxed.
What type of pony bedding should I choose?
The types of bedding you choose will depend on warmth and absorbency, ease of disposal, special requirements, ease of maintenance and cost. Here are some of the bedding options:
- Wood: processed into dust extracted shavings, wood pellets or chips
- Hemp: hemp-based beddings, like Auboise, come from the inner stem of the hemp plant, mainly grown in the Champagne region of France
- Straw: wheat straw is traditionally used for horse bedding, and can also be processed and chopped to make it dust free and less tasty for ponies
- Paper or cardboard: usually comes in pre-packed chips so it doesn't blow around the yard. This type of bedding is low in dust and is not tasty
- Flax: chopped and processed, flax fibres can absorb up to 12 per cent of their own weight in water and the fibres are 20 per cent stronger when wet, which makes it perfect for bedding!
- Oil seed rape: chopped oil seed rape makes for a highly absorbent, dust-free bedding
- Matting: rubber matting is a permanent type of bedding, covering the whole stable floor. It can be used on its own but is often combined with other bedding for extra warmth.
How to muck out a straw bedded stable
1. Take out any buckets and haynets from the stable, and move your pony to another safe location.
2. Remove any droppings and soiled bedding you can see on top of the straw.
3. Work across the stable, lifting up the straw and removing any wet or dirty bedding.
4. Pile up any clean straw in a corner or against one of the walls, then give the floor a thorough sweep, remembering to get into the corners.
5. Ideally, leave the straw heaped up for a while to let the floor dry before laying the bedding back down.
6. Spread out the straw that's left in the stable evenly so you know how much new straw you'll need to put on top.
7. Fluff up your fresh straw, and build up 'banks' around the edge of the bed so your pony won't get stuck if he lays down.
8. Give your water bucket a good scrub out and refill.
9. Tidy as you go and clean up outside the stable too.
10. Empty your wheelbarrow so that it's ready to use next time!