It’s true that the UK weather can be quite unpredictable and unpleasant at times. No way would you like to be out in the rain in the middle of a downpour and getting soaked, not to mention the possibility of catching a cold!
So surely your horse would like to be indoors during the storm as well, snuggled up in his big pile of hay, right?
“Stabling is more a human thing than a horse thing”
-DR. Karyn Malinowski PhD, Founding Director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center
While there may be conditions where you should keep your horse under shelter, such as, when they are injured, the field is in a dangerous condition, or they are sick, the best place for them is to be grazing free in the fields. Which makes sense, after all, horses evolved from roaming over vast areas, covering around 10 miles a day for grazing.
While they love to be outside, this can be unrealistic for different situations. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Benefits of extensive turnout:
- Stronger Bones
- Better mental health
- Better respiratory health
- Lower stress levels (less colic risk and improved training)
- Socialising with other horses
Main worries of extensive turnout:
- Risk of injury
- Dirty horse
- Lost shoes
- Pesky insects
“Being outside helps them stay happy and healthy.”
-Dr. Karyn Malinowsk
While most of these worries will happen anyway, the benefits definitely outweigh the worries. Here are some ways you can decrease the risk:
- Make sure the fields are safely and securely fenced and free of debris, holes and any other hazards.
- Stay on top of your horse's shoeing schedule to keep their shoes on.
- Invest in fly masks, fly sprays, and good field management to help with keeping the bugs at bay.
- If the weather is your main worry, and you feel guilty about leaving your horse out, ease your mind and realise that your horse can deal with a much wider range of weather that we can! Horses can be out in rain and snow, but if there is extreme weather such as thunder and lightning it might be a good idea to keep them in.
But why not think of a happy medium? Keep your horse pastured as long as you want and provide them with covering with a field shelter. They get to be happy in the field, and you have peace of mind knowing they have a safe place to hide under.
Not only will a horse field shelter protect them from rain and snow, but they can provide shade from the sun in hot months. Throw some hay in, with a water trough nearby, and they’ll soon have a new favourite spot.
Whatever combination suits you best, just keep in mind that your horse loves being outside. You don’t have to go from 0-100 and keep them outside 24/7, be realistic and give as much as you can. Your horse will thank you no matter what!
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