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Should you turn your horse out during winter?

Should you turn your horse out during winter

A traditional British winter is cold, wet and dark. This can make looking are horses much harder and a lot less fun. So many owners turn to reducing their horse’s turnout to cope. This raises the question of should you turn your horse out during winter?

Should you turn your horse out during the winter?

Yes! Turnout is so important for our horses and it has mental and physical benefits. Turnout nearly always meets a horses basic needs of; Free Movement, Forage, Companionship and Contact. Whereas many of these pillars can be difficult to meet in the stable. Meeting these pillars are vital for happy horses.

But turnout can also help exercise our horses for us! In the winter when it can be harder to find the time to get them exercised, this can be a great benefit. They are likely to be less fresh from being turned out than staying in. Longer turnout can actually reduce the risk of injury. There are also digestive, weightloss and stiffness benefits of turning your horse out vs being stabled.

Why might you need to reduce turnout?

Unfortunately, lot’s of us have to reduce our horse’s turnout over the winter. Whether it’s to avoid handling horses in the dark or due to the mud there are plenty of reasons you might have to consider reducing your horse’s turnout, even if it’s just a case of bringing in a few hours earlier.

  • Muddy fields
    If your horses are prone to becoming really muddy you don’t really want your horse standing in deep mud all day. If you can’t rotate to another field or section off the muddiest parts, you might want to reduce the amount of time they spend in the field. This can ever stop the fields getting too muddy.
  • No grass
    Horses need forage. If your fields are bare, you will need put hay out. But even with hay on bare fields, horses can get bored/hungry and are more likely to show stress related behaviours such fence walking.
  • Little daylight
    It’s not always fun or easy to lead horses in the dark. So you might want to reduce the amount of time your horse is in the field so that you can get them in and out the field during daylight hours.
  • Needing horse to dry off before exercises
    It’s wet, it’s muddy. Your horse going to get dirty. If you have limited time to ride, a muddy horse can ruin your plans. You don’t have time to clean & dry them before riding. If you can get them in an hour or two before you want to ride you have time for them to dry off before you want to ride.

What should you do if your horse is stabled for longer?

If you’ve decided you might need to reduce your horse’s turnout, you will need to make sure their needs are still being met in the stable. You might need to add extra things into your routine to help them cope with the extra time in the stable.

  • More exercise
    You might need to exercise them more often if they are spending less time in the field. This could just be a hand walk in the evening so they can stretch their legs.
  • Toys
    Your horse might need a bit more entertaining in the stable. They might want a treatball or hay block. Read are top tips for keeping horses entertained in the stable.
  • Company
    Companionship and social contact are key for a happy horse. The longer your horse is spending in their stable, the more important it is that they can see and ideally touch other horses.
  • Forage
    Obviously, the longer they are in their stable, the more hay they will need in the stable. But depending on your horse, you might need to think about changing how you feed them their hay. Good doers might need slowing down to stop them eating too much hay. Fussy eaters might need a few different options to keep them interested and eating.

Last Updated on 21/10/2022

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