Why Living Outside Can Be Beneficial To Your Horse’s Mental Wellbeing

Horses are herd animals, and horses that live outside of their regular space can have trouble adjusting to the change. Horses in a new environment might not know how to eat or interact with other horses. However, experts say that living outdoors has many benefits for your horse’s mental wellbeing.

The “the top 15 benefits of horseback riding” is a list of the many benefits that living outside can have on your horse’s mental wellbeing.

I walked passed a mother with a little child while riding in a strong rainfall the other day. They both smiled pleasantly as I rode by, but after I passed them, I overheard the daughter ask her mother whether the horses were bothered by the rain. This made me giggle at first, but it got me wondering about whether it’s better for our horses to leave them outside during severe weather (such as heat, rain, or even snow) or whether they’d be better off inside?

Of course, we always want the best for our horses, but just because we prefer to remain inside when it’s raining or the sun is beating down doesn’t mean our horses would, regardless of how comfortable their stall is. We all have various ideas about what’s best, and although I’m no expert on the subject, I do have a lot of experience in this area, which is why I chose to write this post.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Keeping A Horse Outdoors

Is it true that horses like to be outside? Horses that live outdoors are often happier and more satisfied. They prefer the companionship of others than the seclusion of a stall, in part because they are herd animals. Because they are prey animals, they are also happiest when they are not restricted and have the ability to flee if required.

As with everything in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to keeping a horse outdoors. While there are certain drawbacks that might be bothersome and inconvenient for humans, the most important thing to remember is the positive impact living outside can have on your horse’s mental health. Horses, after all, are sociable creatures that want the companionship of others to feel secure, comfortable, and, most importantly, to avoid feeling lonely and anxious.

Advantages Disadvantages
Horses like to be out in the open. Horses might be more difficult to maintain clean.
For the horse, it is more natural. Shoes or chipped hooves are more likely to be pulled.
Is able to coexist with the rest of the herd Mud fever and rain scald are more likely to occur.
Horses are more active than humans. Horses are more prone to sustain injuries.
Colic is less likely to occur. Horses have an easy time gaining weight.
Behavioral disorders are less likely to emerge Grass sickness is more common among them.
Coughs and respiratory problems are uncommon. If the sun is really bright, darker coats may fade.
Horses are less bothered by leg mites. Having a higher chance of being stolen
Injury detection is more probable. Ingestion of parasitic worms is more probable.

Many competition or show owners keep their horses stalled to avoid injury, maintain weight, and keep their coats in good shape, but after the horse’s competition days are through, it’s usually retired. This implies that in certain circumstances, the owners are unable to pay (or justify) full board and instead choose pasture board. Almost all of these owners comment on how happy their horses are now that they are living outdoors, as well as how they are no longer having problems keeping their weight in check.

With this in mind, the issue should be one of what can we do to make their outside existence as pleasant and problem-free as possible, rather than whether or not horses are happy outdoors.

Horses are typically cautious about what they consume and prefer to avoid dangerous plants, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them alone. You should inspect the pastures at least once a month for any new harmful plants that have emerged. Any plants you discover should be removed as soon as possible, but make sure you pick out the roots as well. However, I would recommend using gardening gloves since certain plants (such as ragwort) may be toxic to humans.

Check for more than just growing plants; certain plants and trees (such as the oak) may drop extremely hazardous seeds or fruits that must be removed as well. This is especially significant since horses may readily graze and ingest acorns and other seeds without even recognizing it.

Exams on a regular basis

It’s crucial to remember that although you don’t have to clean the stalls of horses that live outdoors, they still need the same level of attention and care. This means you can’t just put your horse out, feed him, and leave him to his own devices.

You should bring him in on a regular basis, just like a stalled horse, to check and clean his hooves, as well as to check for injuries or signs of illness. In fact, some data suggests that if a horse is put out and looked over on a regular basis, injuries are more likely to be discovered. It’s unclear why this is the case, but it’s thought that since these horses are handled more often, their owners are more likely to spot any irregularities.

Manure

While horses kept outdoors are less prone to walk in their own (or other horses’) droppings, they must still be collected from the field on a regular basis to prevent worms from infecting the horse. You should do this every day if feasible, but if that isn’t possible, you should do it at least twice a week.

If you have a lot of horses in a field, cleaning all of the manure may be a lot of effort, but it is necessary. There are other methods to get rid of the worms that dwell in the dung as well. Adding a few hens to the pasture may seem unusual, but it will make the chore of cleaning up the dung much simpler. Chickens love to eat the eggs and worms that reside in the dung, and will rip it apart simply to get to them. This indicates that even if they aren’t eliminating the manure, they are removing the parasites, which is the true issue. Horses may also find chickens entertaining, according to some research.

Fencing

Because the fence has no immediate impact on a horse’s health or well-being, it’s frequently disregarded, but it’s critical to have strong, robust fencing that will not only keep your horse safe but will also keep thieves away.

Depending on the sort of fence you have, you’ll need to inspect it for nails, splinters, and even damaged posts on a frequent basis. Check out the post I just published on fence for a more in-depth look at the subject.

It's important to make sure your horse's fencing is in good condition and secure

What can you do to keep your horse happy (and healthy) during summer?

Even if they aren’t biting, flies may be a serious concern for horses put out during the hotter summer months. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to reduce the negative impact they may have on your horse.

Using a fly or summer sheet (and mask), as well as spraying your horse with a proper fly repellent, will help to keep mosquitoes and other insects from ‘attacking’ your horse. You surely know that standing water attracts a lot of flies, but did you realize that flies are also more prevalent in forested areas? There will be fewer flies around if you turn your horse away from both of them.

Keeping your horse healthy and at his ideal weight during the summer, when the grass is richer, may be tough. Eating too much of this may cause fast weight gain as well as making a horse more susceptible to laminitis. This is why some people keep their horses inside during the day and let them out at night. If you don’t have the luxury of doing so, you may equip your horse with a specially constructed grazing muzzle, which will decrease the quantity of grass he can eat by around 80%.

What can you do to keep your horse happy (and healthy) through winter?

While you won’t have to worry about the heat or insects throughout the winter, you will have to deal with other issues, the most serious of which is muck.

Mud

Mud can be a major nuisance in the winter; it gets into everything, causes mud fever, and can even take your horse’s shoes off if there’s enough of it. However, although you can’t do much about the mud itself, you can do a lot to lessen the quantity and minimize the impact it has on your horse.

It’s usually a good idea to get your horse’s shoes removed during the winter unless your animal actually requires them. This will not only keep them from being dragged away by the mud, but it will also allow your horse to walk over it rather than through it. Horses’ hooves, like our fingernails, are flexible. This implies that without shoes, your horse’s feet will be able to stretch out further, allowing them to function similarly like snowshoes (although not quite as effective). This means your horse is less prone to sink into the mud as he moves.

If you regularly feed hay in one spot, you’ll immediately notice how muddy it becomes; however, dispersing the hay over the field can substantially lessen, if not totally eliminate, this problem. Additionally, the horses will be pushed to wander about more, which will encourage their natural grazing impulses while also keeping them active.

While you can decrease mud build-up where the horses feed, it might be difficult to do so in highly utilized places such near water troughs and gates. Because the horses are standing stationary in the mud (pressing their feet and legs further into the mud), this is generally the most troublesome muck, but laying a layer of straw over these regions will function as a barrier between the mud and your horse. You’ll undoubtedly need to put new straw on a regular basis, but your horse won’t mind standing in muck anymore.

If you’ve done everything possible to limit the quantity of mud on your horse’s legs but they’re still caked in it, bandaging them will prevent this. If you do this, you’ll need to remove the bandages from time to time to allow your horse’s legs to breathe.

Horses can get extremely muddy during the winter

Forage scarcity

Horses, being natural foragers, may search farther afield for food throughout the winter, which can provide challenges of its own. Because there is less grass in the winter, pasture horses are more prone to suffer from eye problems, according to veterinarians. This is because horses seek to hedgerows for the nutrients that grass provided in the summer.

While it may be impossible to prevent your horse from poking his head into a deep hedgerow, you may make it more difficult for him to do so while also reducing his urge to forage. Increase the frequency (and amount) of hay to keep your horse active and less inclined to search for more food by erecting a robust barrier between the hedgerows and the field.

Is it necessary to cover an outdoor horse?

It’s a common fallacy that if a horse lives outdoors, it needs a blanket. This isn’t always the case, and it depends on the weather, the horse, and even its workload.

Horses with a high workload are often clipped to minimize perspiration. When this is clearly advantageous during exercise, it might make it more difficult for them to stay comfortable while turned out, necessitating the use of a blanket.

If you’ve ever seen horses in the wild, you’ll note how they all cluster together to remain warm, shifting places on a frequent basis to keep everyone comfortable. With this in mind, horses who are allowed to grow their natural winter coats do not need blankets, even when it is snowing, as long as they have a shelter to keep them warm.

That isn’t to imply that your horse won’t benefit from a blanket in the winter. Because every horse is unique, something that applies to 99 percent of all horses may not apply to yours, it’s critical to pay attention to and observe your horse. If he looks to be becoming chilly, cover him with a blanket.

Is it always preferable to turn a horse out?

We’ve spoken a lot about the benefits of having a horse outdoors, but since every horse is different, it’s inaccurate to suggest that every horse is better and happier when they’re out all year.

If your horse is often picked on by the other horses at the yard, stalling him for lengthy periods of time may actually make him happy. Some horses have greater relationships with humans than with other horses, thus releasing them into the wild, away from people, is more likely to cause them discomfort and distress.

As I previously said, each horse is unique, and what works for one horse may not necessarily work for another.

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What are the benefits of keeping a horse out in the open?

Stalling a horse is a human innovation designed to make our lives easier; it is not a natural horse activity. Horses are herd animals that like to live in herds, which provides them with a sense of safety and protection from predators. It also allows them to unwind by grooming each other (kind of like a spa day for us!). This is why being outdoors benefits a horse’s mental health so much, but there are other advantages to horses living outside as well.

Because they have the flexibility to do what they want and aren’t locked in a limited location, horses that live outdoors in the company of other horses are significantly less prone to develop behavioral difficulties such as windsucking or weaving.

There’s also evidence that horses that are turned out are less likely to have impaction colic, owing to the fact that they don’t consume their bedding and are less likely to be stressed.

If you are unable to exercise your horse on a regular basis, having them turned out might assist you in doing so. Horses are natural foragers and will happily travel long distances (up to 30 miles per day) in search of food and water. This means that, while your horse will not be traveling such long distances, he or she will be far more active wandering around their pasture grazing at various patches of grass and socializing with the other herd members.

What are the drawbacks of keeping a horse out in the open?

While it’s frequently in the horse’s best interest to keep a horse outdoors, there are certain drawbacks, particularly if you’re hoping to display your horse or they’re easy keepers.

It’s tough to keep a horse clean year-round if they live outdoors all day; in the winter, they’re likely to be coated in muck with a variety of plants clinging to their manes and tails. In the summer, horses like rolling in the dust, which not only cools them down but also acts as a natural sunscreen. Depending on the color of your horse’s coat, it may potentially fade in the sun (although this is more common in darker horses).

When your horse is turned out, it’s also more difficult to control what he eats; you can know precisely how much you’re giving him, but it’s impossible to know how much grass he’s eating. When a horse spends a lot of time grazing, it’s more likely to take up parasitic worms from the dung that have found their way into the grass.

Keeping a horse outdoors typically entails a lot more labor for us, as we must clean up waste on a regular basis, remove dangerous plants, and inspect (and replace) fences. Unfortunately, this implies that not every owner will be able to do so.

Conclusion

While there are advantages and disadvantages to keeping a horse outdoors, it’s clear that it’s a considerably superior alternative from the horse’s perspective. However, it is not always feasible to fit it into our schedules, therefore if this is the case for you, you should attempt to give your horse as much outdoor time as possible. This will enable him to socialize with his peers while also allowing him to utilize his horse instincts.

In the long term, an outside horse will be significantly more content.

Additional reading

Products that are suggested

I’ve tried hundreds of different horsey products over the years, from various blankets and halters to various treats. I’ve liked some and disliked others, but I wanted to share with you my top all-time favorite goods, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve given links to the goods that I believe are fantastic (in no particular order).

  • Mane and Tail Detangler – Even if you never exhibit your horse, you’ll need to disentangle his tail (and maybe his mane) from time to time, which is always a difficult task! I’ve discovered that running a little detangler through my horse’s tails every few days keeps them from mattifying and makes combing them simple, even when they’re covered in muck. It also works wonderfully on my hair, which I’m not sure whether I should disclose or not.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – I’ve tried a number of various clippers over the years, and although some were clearly better than others, these were by far the finest. They’re heavier than many other clippers, which I think is a good thing since it makes them seem more solid and durable. Furthermore, they come in a variety of speeds, making them as effective at trimming your horse’s back as they are his face. I also enjoy that they come with a convenient travel bag, although that isn’t for everyone. The firm that manufactures them is fantastic, and they’re also really helpful, which is a huge plus these days. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it didn’t come with any oil, but it’s not a big deal since lubricant isn’t hard to get by.
  • Shire’s ball feeder — There are a plethora of boredom-busting toys available, but I like to use them on a daily basis, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I found that giving my horses with treats (or pieces of fruit) not only encourages them to solve problems, but it also mirrors their natural grazing activity, which helps to keep them relaxed and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is an odd one that many people are startled by, but I prefer to have horse safe mirrors in the trailers and quarantine stalls. It helps to alleviate feelings of loneliness by creating the idea that there are other horses around. Horses, like herd animals, may get severely anxious if they think they are alone, but with these stick-on mirrors, they assume at least one other horse is around.

I hope you found this post to be informative. If you do, I’d like it if you could share it with me since it would be quite helpful.

Watch This Video-

Horses are very social animals. They need to be around other horses and humans in order to feel happy. However, some people live outside the city where they can’t have that luxury. If you do decide to move your horse outside, it will benefit them mentally as well as physically.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do horses improve mental health?

A: Horses are a very positive and beneficial figure in society as they provide many health benefits. They can help people improve their mental health by providing them with company, physical activity, and emotional support when needed.

Does horseback riding give you a bigger butt?

A: It does give you a bigger butt, but not in the way that most people think.

Is riding a horse cruel?

A: Horses are not cruel by nature. They were domesticated for thousands of years, and some horses can even be ridden with a rider on their back all day without any issues. The most common causes of horse cruelty are actually poor management practices, intentional abuse from humans who steal the horses freedom in an attempt to profit off them or use the horse as a means of transportation but refuse to feed it properly when they dont need it anymore

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