I have always felt strongly about the importance of turnout for horses. I think horses are happier and healthier when they have the freedom to move around, socialize with other horses, roll in the dirt, and generally just be a horse!
Just as chronic stress can create many problems for humans, the stress of confinement can also create problems for horses, physically and mentally.
When we consider the care of our horse, it’s important to remember that they don’t want the same things we do. For example, if we’re cold, it doesn’t mean our horse is cold also. Or if we hate being in the rain and getting wet, that doesn’t mean that our horse wouldn’t still prefer to be outside grazing and wandering around.
In the video below, I highlight what I have experienced and observed as effects of excess time in the stall. As a personal story, my mare Molly, who is featured in many of the videos here, was given to me years ago, partly because of her behavior in the barn.
Molly was a great jumper and learned she could jump out of any pasture and make her way around the farm to visit the other horses. Her owner at the time was left with no choice but to confine Molly to a stall. Having been a competitive jumper, Molly had been stalled quite a bit in her life, but with this extra confinement she became very anxious and coliced several times in just a few days.
When I brought Molly to my farm she jumped out almost every day, but after a while she settled in with a group of horses in a large food and now only very occasionally goes on an escapade around the farm! However, anytime I put Molly in her stall, if she stays in for more than about 30 min, even with her best friend beside her, she will get anxious: pacing, sweating, and pushing at the door. My guess is that the stall still holds memories of stress and confinement.
I have other horses who love their stalls, but they are typically only coming inside for a few hours at a time.
Take a few minutes to watch the video below and learn about the effects of prolonged confinement. Then leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!