As horse owners we want to provide the best possible care for our horses. And, sometimes our idea of what is best for the horse may not be what the horse wants. When it comes to turnout there tend to be strong and sometimes controversial opinions. We like the security of knowing our horses are tucked in for the night in their nice, cozy, clean stalls with hay and water safe from predators. But, is this what is really best for our equine friends?
In this article we’ll break down the pros and cons of turning your horse out at night. Every horse is different and has different needs. There is no one solution that will work universally. You’ll need to assess what is best for your own horse and the points below will help you make an informed decision. You may also want to consult with your trainer and veterinarian.
The Benefits Of Turning Horses Out At Night
Let’s start with the positive side of night time turnout and the benefits your horse may experience.
- Avoid the hot sun and UV rays
- Less bugs and insects
- More freedom to roam and stretch
- Less time confined in a stall
Avoid Hot Sun & UV Rays
When the weather gets hot, your horse may enjoy standing in his stall in front of his fan to stay cool. He may be miserable standing out in the hot sun and sweating. In addition to the heat, the sun can cause sun burns. Especially for horses with a lot of white, without shade and sun protection.
Less Bugs & Insects
With the heat often come the bugs and insects. As we discussed in this article about Fly Protection, some horses are more sensitive than bugs and insects than others. Insects can cause some horses extreme stress especially if they are unable to avoid the bugs. At night, the bugs may be less severe. While you may not be able to avoid insects completely there will be less for your horse to contend with.
Another reason many horses choose to turn their horses out at night or both during the day and night is the ability to move around more. For horses that are arthritic or prone to stocking up or becoming stiff, more turnout and movement can help them stay more comfortable. Additionally, horses are meant to graze, so having the freedom to roam at any time of the day can help their digestion.
Less Stall Confinement
Lastly, stall confinement can lead some horses to develop vices such as cribbing and weaving. Additional turnout can sometimes help to alleviate stress and anxiety and allow the horse to be more content. I have known a few horses that continued to weave and crib outside, or weave at the gate when they want to come inside. Night time turnout may not always solve these issues. You may need to experiment and see how your horse reacts.
Psst! Want some tips for fast and efficient stall cleaning? Check out this guide!
Cons Of Night Time Turn Out For Horses
While there are many benefits of turning horses out at night, it may not be the best option for all horses. Here are a few reasons you may want to keep your horse in the barn at night.
- Quality of Sleep
- Predators and Wildlife
Quality Of Sleep
This could be an issue for some horses. In this article about how horses sleep we discuss how horses need to feel secure enough in their environment to lay down. As well as the risks of not achieving REM sleep which requires the horse to lay down. If a horse is worried about predators they may not be able to sleep well outside. A lack of REM sleep can present serious health issues for your horse, so you’ll need to be sure he feels comfortable.
The Danger Of Theft
Unfortunately, there is also the danger of thieves. While incidents like this may be few and far between, it still poses a risk. Leaving your horse turned out at night, especially in an area where he may be out of your site could make him an easy target for a thief. Horses do get stolen from time to time. However, there are ways to secure your property to reduce the risk of your horse being stolen.
Predators & Wildlife
Predators in the wild can also be a problem for horses turned out at night. If you live in an area where there are coyotes, bears, fisher cats, wolves, mountain lions or other predators you may need to take extra precautions in order to safely turn your horses out at night.
Lastly, there’s always the risk of severe storms and lightning. This may not be much of an issue if you bring your horses inside when bad weather is forecasted. Unfortunately, if your horse is out on large open pasture without many trees or access to shelter, he could be at a higher risk of injury or death. Personally, I like to let my horses be turned out at night when the weather is nice. And, we always check the weather and ensure the horses have access to shelter in the event they prefer to come inside.
How To Keep Your Horse Safe Outside At Night
There are lots of ways to help keep your horse safe during turnout at night. To start, you’ll want to make sure you turn your horse out in a paddock or pasture he is familiar with. Navigating new territory in the dark can make it harder for your horse to adjust and feel at ease. This can help with avoiding injuries and increased security allowing your horse to sleep better.
Always make sure your horse has access to food, water and shelter in order to keep him safe and comfortable. Many horse owners use 3 sided lean-to’s to provide shelter in the pasture. This is a good way to keep food and bedding dry without requiring your horse to stand in his stall.
Next, in order to keep your horse safe from predators and from escaping, it’s important to have solid fencing in good repair. Good quality fencing can help eliminate injuries in turn out whether your horse is turned out during the day or night. Electric fencing can help keep predators away from your horses. At our farm we use ElectroBraid fencing. I love the ElectroBraid fencing because it is more flexible if a horse tries to go through it and won’t cut your horse. It’s also strong enough to keep predators like bears away.
Lastly, installing a good camera system can help monitor your horses both in the barn, outside and the entrance to your property. In the event a horse becomes ill during the night, it’s nice to be able to check on your horses. Posting that your property is monitored can help to deter thieves as well. And in the event that someone does try to enter your property, you’ll have the footage to help aid in an investigation.
I hope you found this article helpful! Leave your tips in the comments for others and don’t forget to share this article for your friends to read!