View Full Version : 24/7 turnout and the older horse?

Sep. 9, 2009, 08:58 AM
OK, I would appreciate hearing any and all views on how their horse did or did not like 24/7 turnout. My guy is in his upper teens and has only done half-day turnout for the last decade or so. I can't ride as often as I used to and I think he would really benefit from being able to move around at will. However, he is not used to being out in the bad winter weather. Do they adjust? Do you worry about them in snow and ice? TIA!

Bank of Dad
Sep. 9, 2009, 09:08 AM
I'm in MD. My guys are always on 24/7 turnout from birth to death, even if they weren't when I bought them. I bring them in for long, cold (40 and below) rains, and ice and sleet. Usually not snow. They are not clipped and rarely is one blanketed. They have a shelter they can get under, but they don't.

Sep. 9, 2009, 09:18 AM
I have two, one is a 22 y.o. gelding and he does fine with 24/7 turnout. I allow them to grow long coats and I do sheet ONLY when it rains and blanket when it is snowing (actively... an inch or two dusting does not count). The only time my guys wore their blankets last year was 4 days during a brutal cold snap, -17 at night and single digits during the day. Other than that, the old man does great and moves around way more than he would have cooped up in a stall. I check his weight regularly and for chill. They prefer to be out at night and will often stand in snow storms. I contribute his fluid movement to the constant exercise he gets.

I do have stalls, but only use them to feed or lock them in for vet and farrier care. I locked them in once last winter for four hours during a ridiculous bout of freexing icey rain.

Sep. 9, 2009, 09:21 AM
Agreed. 24/7 is great for most horses; the constant movement and herd dynamics really change their life!
Our herd has several senior citizens in it and they seem to do just fine!!
Couple of things to look out for:

1. Sufficient space -- we have a 20+ herd on 70 acres. Even 3 horses is too many in a tiny space. Well managed pasture will allow everyone room to have their cliques and so on without getting into undue scuffles. Obviously you don't need 70 acres, but do be wary of overcrowding.

2. Shelter -- runin shed, tree line, etc. Especially important for the older guys

3. Calories in winter. You want him a bit chubby in November so by March he has not dropped a lot of weight. We have some TBs that really need to be fed 2x a day in winter; most of our horses are easier keepers and do fine on 1x a day (plus plenty of round bales, of course!!). I learned the hard way that it is too late when they start looking skinny in January -- can't get much weight back on until the grass comes in.

4. Protection from truly nasty weather. My guys grow a really good coat which I clip as little as possible (bib clip allows them to stay in work, even if I have to use the hair dryer). I have found that they are totally comfortable in the coldest, windiest weather Maryland can muster...but cold rain (40s, 30s) really makes them miserable. They get rain sheets for that, but once it drops below freezing, they are naked. Access to hay helps a lot with this!!

Sep. 9, 2009, 09:24 AM
Our retirees are all on 24/7 turnout with run-in sheds. They go in the sheds mostly for shade and to get out of the rain.
It seems to take some horses longer than others to get used to it as opposed to being put in stalls, but they all do adjust.
Everyone is happy, colics are extremely rare (knocking furiously on wood!) legs are always tight........ most horses thrive on turnnout!

Sep. 9, 2009, 09:25 AM
When my Arab gelding reached his early-mid twenties, I switched him to 24/7 turnout. He got to the point where he looked decent after being out all day, but was very stiff in the mornings. Being out all the time worked wonderfully for him. He did have access to a large run-in all the time, and was very good about using it when he felt the need.

Sep. 9, 2009, 09:45 AM
Thanks for the info! This sounds encouraging. One thing I am noticing, many of you like to have stalls in case of the icky icy rain/sleet stuff for prolonged periods. That sounds pretty reasonable to me and does address some of the concerns I had about really gross days or nights.

Sep. 9, 2009, 10:01 AM
All of mine are on 24/7 turnout. The old mare would often choose to hang out in her stall for a few hours (I usually give them the option and leave the stalls open) in the afternoon and I know they often will go in to sleep if the weather is bad. But mostly they are out. Gwennie used to stock up behind if she were kept in a stall, but that never happened after I moved them all here and kept them out.

Sep. 9, 2009, 11:06 AM
My TB gelding went from only about 2 hours turnout a day, for 15 years, to 24x7 turnout with a few months acclimation.

At first, after a couple of hours he was standing by the gate. Then he'd come to the gate when he saw me. Then I'd have to go get him :lol: THEN when the only time in was breakfast/dinner, he'd be standing right at his door waiting to go back out. He loved it.

Sep. 9, 2009, 12:14 PM
I prefer to keep mine out as much as possible. The older ones get too stiff and the younger ones are easier (most of the time) to work with. Colic risk does seem to decrease as long as they have plenty of water at a drinkable temp. I put the tank heater in the first morning that I really need a coat. My horses love their shed, but in really icky weather the less dominant ones come in the barn so there is no chance of being left out in the wet or wind. The spoiled brats also get blankets. It costs to much to feed them and then burn those precious calories keeping warm. Plus, they stay cleaner for the occasional ride.

Sep. 9, 2009, 12:25 PM
All mine are out 24x7, and I don't have stalls -- but we don't get snow or ice here, and it freezes *maybe* 2-3 nights in a winter. Shelter from the rain matters, though -- the 27yo mare doesn't seem to care, but the 28yo stallion will be under his shelter looking smug in any heavy wind or rain.

Sep. 9, 2009, 12:28 PM
My 20 yo mare has been out 24x7 for the past 5 years -- She always has access to at least 1 run-in shed during bad weather, but I've never seen her go inside unless flies are bothering her --

Tried to keep her in a stall overnight a few years ago while waiting for the vet to develop x-rays when she was kicked in the leg -- She wanted no part of it ... even after a tube of quietex and putting a herdmate in the next stall -- So, I turned her out, and she settled down --

I suspect it would take a sedative to keep her in a stall now -- Considering how often she stood calling at the gate to come in when she was stall boarded, I am really amazed by the way she insists on staying out now --

I don't clip her -- She seems to prefer being naked, but I worry about rain rot so will use a sheet/blanket in bad weather --

I absolutely love her Shire's stormcheeta blanket -- 2000 denier, 400 g polyfill, waterproof, breathable, and has an attached neck cover -- She'll stay outside in a freezing rain storm with that with icicles hanging from the blanket and stays warm and dry -- Having checked on her in that blanket several times, I no longer worry about her on miserable nights --

Sep. 9, 2009, 12:30 PM
I'm in MD and we have a 23 year old gelding boarded that is out 24/7 and HAS to be. He is a mess, if he is in the stall for even in hour he gets so stiff he can hardly walk. The winter is a challenge, we keep him rather heavily blanketed despite having a crazy thick coat b/c the warmer he is the less stiff he is.

It's not an ideal situation for him, IMHO (he needs a nice big FLAT pasture) - we have crazy hills, rocks, etc but he wouldn't be able to move if he was standing around all day.

Sep. 9, 2009, 01:05 PM
I've kept mine out 24/7 for several years, mostly because I had an older QH gelding that hated being in. He would throw an absolute fit. We recently moved my Mexican Mustang gelding and my TWH gelding to full care. We are moving them back to being out 24/7 with access to a shed. They thrived being out all the time and are not doing well in a full care situation 12 hours in/12 hours out with a herd of 9. They have access to a shed, 24/7 access to grass/hay and water. I blanket if it's wet and/or windy or really cold.

Sep. 9, 2009, 01:50 PM
As long as they have shelter, staying ou as much a possible is ideal.

Sep. 9, 2009, 01:56 PM
Honestly, I prefer 24/7 turnout for horses of all ages provided that they are in good health and have shelter or are blanketed if they are unable to maintain their body temp in the wet/cold months.

The benefits: less respiratory issues, more movement is good especially for arthritic horses or horses prone to stocking up.

That said, a horse that has become accustomed to being stalled for most of his/her life may not appreciate it too much! I have one mare who has spent the majority of her life out 24/7. In the last few years, she's required blanketing in the winter (quit growing a proper coat after she was sick with Potomac). My other mare was a stall baby and hates any kind of bad weather and bugs.

Sep. 9, 2009, 01:57 PM
Both my horses are out on pasture 24/7 with access to very good shelter. One of my horses is 24. He does much better on turnout and really does not appreciate being in a stall. He is boarded, so we have stalls if he ever gets injured or something and needs one, but I have yet to run into a situation wehre he has need to come in, and I am in Colorado. If it gets super cold I will blanket him, but he isn't clipped and turns into a furball very nicely in the inwter and loves the cool weather. If he decides it is too warm for his blanket he does his best to get it off, so I try to only put it on if he actually needs it :lol:

So, if you have a good facility with good fencing and good shelters in the pastures it can be a wonderful thing for the older horses as it allows them more natural eating habits and freedom of movement to ward of stiffness. My thoughts fwiw. :)

Sep. 9, 2009, 02:20 PM
As long as they have shelter, staying ou as much a possible is ideal.

Ditto! Both my guys (26 y.o. and 9 y.o.) are out 24/7 and LOVE it. Both do excellent.

Sep. 9, 2009, 02:21 PM
[QUOTE=asterix;4362822]Agreed. 24/7 is great for most horses; the constant movement and herd dynamics really change their life!

Hey Asterix
Look for some interesting herd dynamics starting Friday a.m.
Clash of the Titans?

Sep. 9, 2009, 04:41 PM
My 18 year old gelding lives out 24/7 with a run-in and individual turnout. Last winter was the first time I didn't use his stall in the main barn at all and it also happened to be a very harsh CT winter. The only reason I was able to get away with keeping him out 100% of the time was due to good winter shoeing (small ice studs/snow pads), a heated water bucket and I invested in a variety of good blankets as well as a few neck covers. The neck cover used with a heavyweight waterproof turnout blanket kept him warm and dry in even the most wet of weather. Prior to using the neck covers water or snow would often get down the front of his blanket, not with the neck cover, he stays 100% dry. We had a few nights with uber high winds and below zero temps. I layered a medium weight stable blanket under his med. weight turnout aded the neck cover and fed extra hay. I also make sure his run-in is deeply bedded so he has somewhere to lie down. He stayed totally warm, dry and happy outside all winter!! Now he's boarded outside 24/7 with a run-in and doesn't have a stall in the barn but I'm not really worried about it since he did so great last winter.

Sep. 9, 2009, 05:32 PM
If you have a few horses in your herd make sure you have enough shelterS. Horses not high on the totem pole are often driven away from the shelter (even if there is enough room for all). It's great if you can have more than one shelter, even if the others are lean-tos, so that everyone can access a shelter. My older guys are new to the herd, and while they have each other for company, it appears they are not allowed in the shelter when the established crew is there.
Also, I'd look to up the calories for the oldsters and watch to make sure they are not shivering (in which case they may need blankets).
Mostly, I think horses love 24 hr turnout and socializing.

Sep. 10, 2009, 12:42 AM
Like one poster said, outside 24/7 from birth until the end or they're sold. No blankets and they deal w/ all kinds of weather. Round bales make them very happy along w/ grain/pellets once or twice a day. My oldest is 23yo and prior to me having him he was used to track life and more than likely stalled most of those first few years he was in training. I bought him at 6yo so 17 years of 24/7 for the most part all of those years. He is currently at a friend's place along w/ a few others and they have stall access all of the time, but he never uses it unless it's feeding time.

I do have a 2yo though that finds it very exciting to stand there and slide the stall doors open and shut. He gets fed outside, as there aren't enough stalls for everyone, but some of them do share, just not at meal time. My gf texted me one rainy afternoon telling me how much fun he was having opening and shutting the barn doors in the rain. :lol: And he can only do this from the outside of the barn. They have to be latched at meal time or he'll stand there and bug everyone by opening and closing their doors. Said gf has also ran outside in the middle of the night in her pj's during a storm to check on everyone (thinking they'd gone into the stalls for shelter) and they were all standing together under the trees at the back of the pasture in a group w/ their butts to the wind grazing away like it was no big deal. She's gonna go insane this winter when she'll find they do the exact same thing in the snow and ice also. :D

Yup, they love being out all of the time.

Sep. 10, 2009, 11:24 AM
I've owned my older guy for over 12 years and for the first 10 of those, he was on turnout for at most 12 hours. When I retired him I knew I wanted it to be a 24/7 turnout situation, but since he hadn't done too well the last couple of winters in Chicago I knew I needed to send him to a warmer place. He's in Virginia now on 24/7 turnout with some other retired guys. They transitioned him to 24/7 turnout over a 1 month period and now he never wants to come in! He's been through 2 winters now and when I last saw him in June he looked like he was ready to go to a show! He was fat, shiny and happy.

Oct. 16, 2009, 10:42 AM
All the info was very helpful!

So here is a question - if it's 40 ish and rainy, what kind of blanketing would you look for on a pretty fuzzy horse who may not be used to being out in that weather? There is shelter available.

Thanks for the input.

Oct. 16, 2009, 11:22 AM
My OTTB mare LOVED her stall, but for her own good I kept her out as she aged. If she had her way she would just stand in her stall and it wasn't good for her and she would get real stiff even though she was on joint supplements.

Be careful with the blanketing when they are furry. I put one on her once and when I pulled it she was sweating underneath, and even though it is FL it was when temps were down in the freezing mark. I would stall her in cold weather or when it was raining at night. Daytime she always stayed out no matter what. Otherwise she pretty much stayed outside and as long as she had the other horses around she was happy, and she always had someplace dry to stand out of the rain.

Oct. 16, 2009, 11:42 AM
What kind of blanket would I use?
Horse has a coat, access to shelter. His choice to stand in the rain if he wants.
All mine live out 24/7 with run-ins. They go inside during the heat of day and the mares run inside at the first spot of rain, but then they come back out and graze in the pouring rain.

If you blanket or rainsheet over a fuzzy horse you'll flatten out their coat. If you've ever seen a fuzzy horse on a warm day, his coat is all fluffed up - to release the heat the hair is designed to trap.

Remember - Once you start to blanket - you MUST keep blanketing for the rest of the season. You can't do it one day, then leave it on when it gets to 50 degrees, then not put it on next time it rains. You might just as well put your vet on speed dial!

Oct. 17, 2009, 12:19 AM
My 22 year old TB mare, the eponymous Lola, has lived outside her entire life. In the past couple of years, I have put a Rambo on her once it gets really cold. My 34 year old lived out until he died a few years ago, again with a blanket (that same Rambo!) in his old age. IMHO, it is the best way to keep horses. Most of them will make the transition just fine.

Oct. 17, 2009, 04:46 AM
I've been told for years that horses are most comfortable when it is in that 40 degree range. What seems cool or cold to us is really just fine for them once those winter coats start coming in. That's how it's been here and everyone is fine. They are warm underneath all of that fur.

Oct. 17, 2009, 10:50 AM
Yee 30 + year old QH and my 16 year old TB do just fine living outside 24/7 in NJ. I worry when it gets rainy, like right now, so they have rain sheets on. And I have a whole slew of warm winter blankets available, if they need them. I always hope to get through the winter with nekkid ponies!

Oct. 17, 2009, 02:12 PM
I am in Va and I use rambo wugs. It is suppose to do the wretched "wintery mix" tonight, so I'll up the hay and use the rain sheets for the first time this year IF there are cold ears. If we have ice, then everyone is locked in the level paddocks with pea gravel footing. They have a choice of sheds or stalls or a tree. they do move around and gallop to keep warm. the self exercise makes them fitter and sounder. They are all long coated. If I do clip, then the whole array of rambos come into play. Even the foxhunters and eventers do better with the full time turn-out and they are soo much easier to ride.

Oct. 17, 2009, 03:22 PM

When it is a cold rain, my guy gets a waterproof sheet. The reason is that he has to be out grazing for his calories (besides grain) as we do not start haying until November. So even thouh he can be inside (he has free choice access to stalls and/or a run in) he is indeed outside a bit grazng to get his calories adn keep his gut moving.

He s now trace clipped (or it would take foreever to dry him after a ride over the winter) but will not wear a blanket/sheet when it is dry until it gets below 35 degrees as a low. Remeber that horses, unlike us, are most comfortable and happy at 40-50 degrees, so long as they have food to ingest for calories/warmth and to keep them busy.

I second the input on having enough space for the amount of horses. Our geldings will share a stall (they often do on their own) but usually two go in a stall and the other is under the overhang outside (two sided protection). They also have freeze-free auto waterers to ensure they stay hydrated.

Schneiders makes a nice lightweight sheet, like a windbreaker, that is unlined and good for when they have thick coats but is it raining and a bit warmer (say 50 degrees). Over 50-55 degrees and they are fine in the rain without any sheets.

My guy was dry under his coat this morning, even though the top was wet at the edges of the sheet. The coat naturally provides alot of protection. But make sure your sheets are waterproof or make them so before using.

Oct. 17, 2009, 03:53 PM
All the info was very helpful!

So here is a question - if it's 40 ish and rainy, what kind of blanketing would you look for on a pretty fuzzy horse who may not be used to being out in that weather? There is shelter available.

Thanks for the input.

If the horse is fairly fuzzy and has a shelter then I would try nothing at first. See how your horse does and go from there. I put a waterproof sheet on my horse if it's 40ish and raining because he's really not that fuzzy and he likes to hang out in the rain and will often shiver w/o a sheet. If it's going to be 35-40 degrees & rain he gets a neck cover too. Lots of horses deal just fine with just a shelter.

Oct. 17, 2009, 04:10 PM
Min turned 29 this year and is on more or less 24/7 turnout here in MD and hasn't worn a blanket at all for the last 3 or four years. He's on "more or less" 24/7 turnout because he does have a stall for really bad overnights (cold wet and windy) - he's the lowest in the pecking order (being smaller and older than his pasturemates) and while he does fine most of the year, he needs a little extra "coddling" sometimes. That just means he overnights in his stall (with the top of the outside dutch door open so that he can see everybody else) with his own private hay pile and protection from the worst of the weather. No blankets or sheets at all, though. He seems happy with the arrangement - and honestly, if he acts like a real stinker, and won't let the BO catch him to go in - out he stays (though my absolutely wonderful BO will make an extra effort to get him in if she thinks he NEEDS to come in for some reason.)

As long as your older horse is OK with it (and doesn't get bullied or blocked from access to feed, water and shelter), I think 24/7 turnout is great for them. If he does get kept out of the run in, or is so low on the pecking order that he can't get enough hay (and feed, if he needs it), or is getting harassed by another horse, or the turnout isn't safe for him and his particular needs because of bad footing, etc., then you have to be willing to re-evaluate and try something different.

Oct. 17, 2009, 04:53 PM
My 18 year old has been doing great on 24/7 turnout for three years now. With the exception that last winter she caught me by surprise dropping weight in late winter (Feb/Mar.). I suspect it was a delayed reaction from too many calories burned in Jan/Feb when we had the most brutal cold. This year we have planned for that by boosting her feed now (Oct.), so she goes into winter with more fat, rather than waiting to feed her up when we notice the weight change.

We are thinking of bringing her and one other very old gelding in at night when it is very cold (teens and below, especially if very windy) this winter, to give them extra warmth. Will try that. But I fear she may get stiff being stalled at night, so we'll experiment when the weather gets bad and see.

She's been doing so well in terms of condition and fitness and NOT being stiff - I don't want to compromise that.

Helpful to read about what others do for older horses.

Oct. 17, 2009, 11:37 PM
All the info was very helpful!

So here is a question - if it's 40 ish and rainy, what kind of blanketing would you look for on a pretty fuzzy horse who may not be used to being out in that weather? There is shelter available.

Thanks for the input.

I have seven at home now.

Three need nothing, ever, as far as I can determine, as long as the shed is available. 38 and pouring ice rain? No problem. -10 and screaming wind? So what?

Then two want a rain sheet and possibly a blanket liner underneath when it is 32-48 and raining. Colder and snow, no problem. Warmer and rain, no problem.

The last two are thin skinned wimps and want a real winter blanket whenever it is really windy and very very cold (single digits) and whenever there is rain and it is under 50 degrees.

Oct. 17, 2009, 11:41 PM
My three horses have access to their stalls but spend most of their time outside. However, when winter hits and there's snow on the ground I bring them in at night. One's 27, another is 19, and my baby is 7. Him I don't worry about much, but the old guys wear Rambo's when it's under 35 degrees. I've had a heck of a time keeping weight on the oldest guy, and a blanket seems to help once the temperatures drop.

Oct. 19, 2009, 01:36 PM
All the info was very helpful!

So here is a question - if it's 40 ish and rainy, what kind of blanketing would you look for on a pretty fuzzy horse who may not be used to being out in that weather? There is shelter available.

Thanks for the input.

Where I retired my horse, they do active blanketing so he wears a sheet or a blanket when it's cold (which I like because he stays dry if he ventures out of the shelter during rain or snow), but they are VERY good about taking them off during the day if it warms up, etc. If the barn you are sending him to is not dedicated to monitoring the blankets, he might be better off with no blanket.

Oct. 19, 2009, 02:12 PM
I'll be the lone voice of dissent...

My old guy is actually better off being inside for at least a few hours. For whatever reason, he doesn't rest well outside, and then keeping weight on him is very hard. Bringing him inside for a few hours (6-8 usually) seems to help keep him fatter. I know that his arthritis would probably be better if he were out all the time, but mentally, he needs the down time inside since its the only time he really rests. I've tried 24/7 and even after years of being out all the time, he never quite adjusted.

Oct. 19, 2009, 06:40 PM
Thanks guys for all the good information. So far so good with the increased turnout time, and I am keeping an eye on the weather and blanket situation to see where he will fall in the range of needs. I appreciate everyone sharing their experiences, and they help me develop my options. :)