Horse owners will often hear an hour or two of turnout a day and think it’s a lot. However, when reframed as 23 or 22 hours in the stall, that puts the reality of not letting your horses out in perspective. Imagine if you were confined to your room and only let out for an hour or two a day! Daily turnout is important for horses to be able to engage in natural equine behaviors, to be healthier and fitter, and to be better behaved.
Here is what you need to know about why some people are reluctant to turn their horses out, problems with keeping your horse stalled, why daily turnout for horses is essential, and more. Let’s get into it!
Why Some People Are Reluctant To Turn Their Horses Out
The more expensive a horse is, the less likely it is to get turnout. Many top-level show stables do not even have paddocks. This is because people worry about horses getting injured in turnout, as horses are very accident-prone creatures. Introducing a new horse to the herd can be challenging and increase risk of injury.
Some horses can be difficult to catch. Plus, the more time a horse spends outside, the dirtier they tend to be. People prefer the convenience of keeping their horse stalled, both because it makes it easier to get their horse and because their horse may be cleaner and need less grooming.
Problems With Keeping Your Horse Stalled
More often than not, people don’t even know how harmful it can be to a horse to keep them stalled all the time. It’s considered perfectly normal for a horse to spend the vast majority of its time in a stall, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s no problem with that.
However, there are many problems with keeping your horse stalled and not letting them get enough turnout. Some of the issues that can arise are problems that people think stalling their horses will prevent!
Some of the problems with keeping your horse stalled include:
- Behavior problems, like cribbing, wind sucking, wood chewing, stall walking, difficulty concentrating while working, and excessive energy while working.
- Filling. This is swelling in the legs that can disappear when horse is allowed to move around.
- Bored horses are more prone to injury, due to kicking at the door, pawing, etc
- Cribbing can lead to colic
- High-strung horses can become aggressive when stabled for long period of time
- Respiratory health problems
- Slow gut mobility
- Loneliness. Horses are happiest with other horses and should be able to at least see other horses in other stalls. It’s better if they can touch noses and groom each other.
- Not as fit as pasture-kept horses
- Impacted growth and development
Counterintuitive as it may seem, your horse may actually be healthier and happier when allowed plenty of turnout.
Why Daily Turnout Is Essential For Horses
We keep horses inside more for convenience than anything. Horses are supposed to be turned out more often than not. It’s important for horses to be able to engage in natural equine behaviors. Horses are meant to meander, wander, and eat small amount frequently. Movement helps circulation, digestion, joints, and their overall health.
Being confined to a stall is at odds with natural horse behaviors. Horses need to be able to move, socialize, and graze. Not being able to do so can impact their behavior, health, and performance.
Fresh air is important too. In stables, cobwebs can trap dust, dust and urine can build up, and horses can end up standing around in piles of their own manure. This leads to all sorts of health issues.
Daily turnout also means that you are using less bedding. Plus, horses are less likely to poop in their waterers when outside.
Benefits Of Daily Turnout For Horses
When you turn your horse out more often than not, this improves performance, health, and happiness. Studies show that horses with more turnout were faster than those stuck in a stall. Horses with more turnout had reduced stress levels, so the more turnout a horse gets, the happier they will be.
Ideally, horses should be able to be turned out most of the time, or at the very least, part of the day or night.
Challenges Of Turnout During Different Seasons
People are often concerned about turning their horses out in the rain, snow, or cold. However, shelters can allow them to get out of the weather if they like. If turnouts have a tendency to get very muddy, you may need to limit turnout to reduce the risk of rain scald or mud fever. If you have frozen and icy fields, it may be safer to restrict turnout until the ice melts or the ground softens.
What If Your Barn Doesn’t Allow For A Lot Of Turnout?
Unfortunately, not all spaces allow for turnout all the time. Some stables do not even have turnouts for horses. Even if you can turn your horse out, there are often time restrictions to allow everyone the chance to use the turnouts, like only being able to turn your horse out for 30 minutes at a time.
However, you need to ensure that your horse can exhibit natural equine behaviors as much as possible. Let them get out every day if they tend to get stiff, as just standing in a stall will make it worse. Ensure that your horse is exercised. Hand-walk them as much as possible. You can do a variety of exercises to keep the horse interested and to stimulate their mind. You can also provide hay in a way that mimics grazing, like on the ground or through a hay net.
Even if you cannot turn them out all day, turning them out as much as you can/are allowed is better than nothing. Plus, there’s nothing like the feeling of love when your horse comes to you of their own free will from the turnout.
Bar Bar A is here to help you keep your horses happy and hydrated, in turnouts and in stalls. Our automatic horse waterers make drinking as natural as possible for your horses. Contact us today to learn more about our waterers and how they can help your horses.