It seemed a such a simple idea at the time. I had spied some advent calendars for dogs in the local pet shop and remembered that they were also available for horses. My first thought was that I would get each of the ponies one, but this was immediately followed by the idea that it would be a bit boring, giving them the same small treat each day, probably something I didn’t want them to have anyway, it wasn’t like they could open it themselves. But what if I made something that they could open or interact with everyday?
Something different and entertaining, now this could be fun and interesting.
I wasn’t that hard to come up with a list of initial ideas, but some were rejected as they required expensive toys or equipment, or weren’t suitable for my set up. I needed things I could do easily, quickly and cheaply and that would be fun for the ponies. I started to research some more ideas and found some great resources on the Equine Enrichment Facebook page and the Donkey Sanctuary.
Getting the items together was not difficult, most involved hay and fruit and vegetables which were readily available. A few things were made, from drinks cartons (Swing Pots), old logs (Lovely logs, Treasure Trail), a length of pipe (Pipe Dreams, Kerplunk) and carpet anti-slip grid and fleece (Snuffle Mats). However I did struggle, in December, to find items for the Forage Nets.
Setting up the activities, photographing and filming them wasn’t that hard either but it did take a bit of planning and pre-arranging, though some had to be swapped around a rejigged due to weather conditions.
So what did I learn from the experience?
I thought my ponies already had a fairly enriched life, but they way they looked forward to each activity has made me realise that I wasn’t really doing enough things for them to fully engage in.
Due to work commitments I cannot keep up a daily plan of activities but we can always add in a bit more to enrich our ponies life, even if it is only one or two things a week.
I also learnt through observation, how each pony approaches problems. Thunderhooves goes at them with great gusto which is great for finding things like in the treat chaser, but found more subtle ideas like the snuffle mat and tasty paste more difficult and missed the point of them.
Sparklehorse approached them with more delicacy but easily became bored and gave up if they needed a bit of work to get the reward such as treat parcels.
It was a hugely rewarding experience, seeing how much the ponies enjoyed them. I will be keeping up the enriching activities throughout the year, but I am also planning next years Advent Calendar.
The 24 Enrichment Ideas – All are linked to the original Facebook posts
1 – Apple Bobbing
2 – Berry Branches
3 – Nets of Joy
4 – Pumpkins
5 – Treat Ropes
6 – Seed Cake
7 – Treat Parcels
8 – Hanging Around
9 – Pipe Dreams
10 – Treat Boxes
11 – Herbal Tea
12 – The Treat Tree
13 – Forage Nets
14 – Swing Pots
15 – Treat Chaser
16 – Lovely Logs
17 – Hide and Seek
18 – Swing Ropes
19 – Tasty Paste
20 – Kerplunk
21 – Natural Selection
22 – Treasure Trail
23 – Snuffle Mats
24 – Christmas Cake