View Full Version : Question Regarding Turnout On "Bad" Ground

Dec. 12, 2011, 08:45 AM
I don't know where to put this as it's for all disciplines really. Lately I'm seeing more and more people with competition horses, not high level, refusing turnout for their horses just in case. Even horses for eventing which really seems odd to me as they really need to cope more with a variety of surfaces.

For me, competition horse or not, you must go out. It was not the norm where Abba was but I made sure she was out daily. Otherwise, yes, she would hurt herself because then when she did get to go out freedom would over ride what little common sense she had. Snow, mud, hard whatever I believe it's better for them to learn to cope with these things on a daily basis. Mine do have to come in at night as Ireland is essentially a quagmire at the moment. If I had all weather pens with shelter it would be different.

We all know turnout is essential for babies but isn't it just as essential for competition horses or is that just me.


Dec. 12, 2011, 09:01 AM
I think it's every bit as important. It helps to keep their minds and bodies fit. A competition horse is like a human athlete. Would you make them stay in a small room any time they weren't exercising?
I live in the Canadian prairies. Right now we hardly have any snow, with lots of frozen ground covered in patches of ice. I still turn out mostly everyone. My biggest fear is that they will slip and injure themselves, but if I keep them in, the become monsters to deal with, due to most of our horses being youngsters. I suppose it is a trade off.

Dec. 12, 2011, 09:07 AM
I believe it is important for all horses to have turnout. It is good for their legs and good for their endurance. It is not healthy to stand around 23 hours a day, and work hard the other hour. I believe, though I haven't science to prove it, that horses are best if they can do a lot of walking around, the equivalent of long and slow fitness. The easiest way to do that is to send them out to do it themselves.

I also believe horses out consistently are less likely to hurt themselves because, as you say, they don't have all that pent up energy to release so they don't run around doing stupid stuff.

Mine are out 24/7 except when we get a blizzard or tornado warning. I haven't had a turnout-related injury in around years. About 5 years back one got in a fence and cut himself, that was the last.

I try to keep my pastures safe from injurious items, and fenced with safe fence, but as for footing -- they can deal.

Mine are great self-regulators. It has been frozen here the last few days and since we don't have snow cover, the ground is rough. I haven't seen my herd above a walk, even for feeding time, protecting their feet. I thought about bringing them in but don't need to. They have shelters with comfy bedding to sleep in and dry hay to eat so they don't have to sleep on the frozen ground.

Dec. 12, 2011, 04:43 PM
I have found that the ones who grow up outside tend to be very sure-footed and can safely cross any surface, even a sheet of ice.

Mine are also out 24/7 with free access to a 3-sided shelter with matted floor and bedding. They choose to spend all their time out unless it's raining hard or hailing. They also self-regulate well and have been fairly inactive the last week that we've had unusually frigid temps and frozen lumpy ground. When it thaws on a sunny afternoon, the weanlings will trot, canter, leap, and buck to their heart's content.

Dec. 12, 2011, 05:35 PM
Agree with all of you. Imo turnout - preferably 24/7 - is absolutely crucial, for all the reasons listed. We have lived in BC and currently live in AB. We get temperatures down to -50C and footing of every type, depending on the season - including occasionally freezing rain that make for excellent sheets of ice. In our area we also get chinook winds that, in the winter, will take the temperatures from literally -20C to almost 20C above in some cases. Guess what happens when we hit the next freeze? Ice :winkgrin: Lots of it. We get our rainy season about May to end of June (though this year it was longer) and again in the fall, which makes for a lot of mud. There are only maybe a couple months of the year - at most - where the footing is actually decent. Despite this, injuries really are not common. You have your odd injury-prone horse and your odd freak pasture accident, but nothing common. HORSES ADAPT to the footing and imo it makes for a better horse when they are on 24/7 turnout and especially when they know how to place their feet ;)

Equine Reproduction
Dec. 12, 2011, 05:49 PM
We all know turnout is essential for babies but isn't it just as essential for competition horses or is that just me.


Nope. I'm with you. ALL of our horses live out 24/7. They all have run in sheds and various terrain, but even all of our stallions live out. Concussion helps develop bone density and I think keeping youngsters cooped up is a recipe for a nutty horse to manage to commit suicide, or at the very least, get hurt. I equate keeping a horse in a stall and only out when he/she is ridden, to locking a person up in their bathroom 23 hours a day. Not my idea of much of a life.

Dec. 12, 2011, 05:58 PM
In my area, there are certain fields I would not use after a heavy rain, because the horses will tear up the grass in an area that will be fine in a few days. They all have sacrifice areas where they can be out.

Not everyone has enough land to have pasture with dedicated sacrifice areas.

And of course, if it was just going to be a bog all year, then there's nothing to save it for.

After seeing my horses out every day, I think the benefits are tremendous.

Dec. 12, 2011, 09:35 PM
I agree with everyone, turnout and as much as possible is essential, no hot house flowers here! A number of my horses live out 24/7 with large pastures, and straw bedded sheds, some of the others come in over night, but they all go out every day, in every weather.
If there are sheets of ice, I do go out with a spade to break up the ice patches and spread ashes from my woodstove and fireplaces.
The most dangerous spot though is on the driveway between the house and the barn - but I am the one who has to be careful there! ;) :yes:

Dec. 12, 2011, 11:24 PM
I am a chicken about ice and none have faired any worse from staying in and eating hay when the ice willies get the best of me (that is all the would be doing anyway). :-)

Dec. 12, 2011, 11:35 PM
agree, doubly so after watching the documentary about horses that included dissection..... horses evolved to move. period.

Dec. 13, 2011, 12:58 AM
My daughter lives in eastern North Carolina. She got a nice barn. Her horses are out 24/7 unless there is a hurricane or an ice storm, etc. Two of them are dressage horses. Yes, they get fuzzy, but they are so much happier than the horses down the road a ways that don't go out, or go out one at a time for an hour.

My gelding is boarded and has turnout every day. In winter he is out all day. In spring, summer and fall, he is out all night. He gets unhappy if he has to stay up due to really nasty weather.

Dec. 13, 2011, 03:03 AM
Thanks all for your responses. I'm the same. I don't care what level you jump, event, or do Dressage at, you will be going out daily at least. I also do know with competition horses they do have to know what stabling is due to length of shows.

I have a friend who is told by her trainer an hour per day out will suffice for her mare and definitely no turnout the day before a show. I enquired why and no real reason. Once Abba came back to live with me I got up extra early so she could go out the morning of. These were only her last shows but it was making a difference to her mentally. Then I really did a horrible thing in having her in group turnout with the horses she's know her whole life. But that's because I knew she would be fine in that group. All of them self regulate too. Nobody ever goes out in a blaze of glory.

I (knock on wood) don't have pasture accidents either. They just get on with it. I feel they can get hurt anytime anywhere so they might as well be happy. When spring comes I close off 2 fields and get them done and then repeat with the other 2. So not too concerned with the ground. It's Ireland. We are used to a 9 month bog season!


Dec. 13, 2011, 10:46 AM
I think everyone agrees with turn-out, but it does make for a very, hairy horse this time of year ;)!!

Really hard to sell a yak with only vague equine qualities...

But I could not be bothered to clean 9-12 stalls (nor do I have 9-12 stalls to clean in the first place), so out they all go.

Right now we have no snow and very frozen ground. It's somewhat cuppy and has it's share of frozen horse poop. All my horses are barefoot, from the 8 mos old filly to the 25 yr old retired broodie.

I worry about their feet, but amazing there is little running around. I don't think it feels good on their feet...they walk VERY carefully. Smart. When we have a thaw, or a deep snow, THEN they go to playing and galloping around. Again -- smart!

Of course, if a moose crosses the pasture all bets are off...and I worry about that...but they have to be horses. And I think this kind of stimulation is good for feet & bones.

Dec. 13, 2011, 10:53 AM
i think folks forget that horses evolved in the steppes - so frozen ground, cold, etc etc.

they are alive today so they know, as a species, how to survive in the cold. (heat is something different and they dont do well in heat)

it would be very interesting to see in a few thousand years, what captivity has done to their hardiness.

Dec. 13, 2011, 11:50 AM
I also believe in as much turnout as possible and mine are out 24/7 most every day of the year.

But having had a mare in training for the past 1 1/2, many barns with trainers believe that they will get hurt, so limit their turnout. One barn did not turnout at night, but did during the day -- for fear of them hurting themselves overnight.

I think by posting in this forum, you are going to get a lot of support (vs the H/J or dressage forum!).

Dec. 13, 2011, 12:01 PM
Ours are out as well. Our young horse pastures even have swamps in them. There are places where the footing is very uneven and slick with slimy clay mud when it is warm. In the winter the ponds freeze and the horses use them as "shortcuts" to get where they want to go. They are shallow so no worries that someone will fall in and drowned. They seem to know where and when the ice is thick enough to hold them. There are boggey places in the summer and on hot days they will even get in and roll in the mud. YUCK!

To say the least, they are really surefooted and have no issues with crossing or jumping into water. I think horses have way more common sense and self preservation instincts than people give them credit for. Over the years the horses we have known with soundness issues have been the ones that have been the most "protected".

Dec. 13, 2011, 12:09 PM
I have been pacing in the house all morning worried about my mare. She has been locked up now on day #3 as it has been raining steadily. Her small paddock has no grass so has turned into slimy, wet, slick mud.

I am so afraid that she will slip, but looked at the forecast and it is supposed to rain for another 5 days!

So, after reading the above responses, I am going to turn her out for the afternoon and hope she doesn't act silly.


Dec. 13, 2011, 02:28 PM
The vast majority of my horses live out as well ~ full time access to good shelters, and all the hay they can eat, sleep in and pee in... A few are brought into the barns at night for various reasons, but even then, all of my stalls have runs or small paddocks attached. Although there is always a risk associated with horses being out, mine are ALL happier and healthier for living a little more like nature intended them to live. :)

Dec. 13, 2011, 04:34 PM
ours do not go out in freezing rain or if the pasture is icy. That is it. So...that is only a few days out of the winter.

Dec. 13, 2011, 05:21 PM
Our babies are always out, just brought in for the night if it is going to be nasty or sometimes just to change the routines up so they learn that being left in a stall solo is also fine.

The horses at the training barns range from 3-6 hours of solo turnout a day depending on the sharing of the paddocks and weather. Sometimes it is also good to vary their times and routine so when they head off for their first shows and spend 4 days in a stall without turnout, nobody goes insane.

The stallions also go out every day. Both were slow to adjust and required alot "babysitting" when they first came from Europe and found the prospect of being left alone in a field implausible. There were some moments where it was just better not to watch the expensive animals skidding around. Both really learned to love it and I think the sunshine, down time and freedom it gives them is very important for the breeding stallions who really have 2 "jobs". The stallion paddocks are seperated off from the others so they can relax, graze or take a nap without needing to fret and worry about who is doing what all the time.

At Tom Dvorak's barn they also had these very neat "rehab" paddocks for the horses who were on stall rest or fresh off a plane from Europe. They were the size of a very large box stall with padded floors and sides and open tops so that the horses who could not run or needed to be introduced slowly to the enviroment could also "go out" with everyone else and stand in the sunshine while they ate their hay. The horses really liked it, you could tell the ones on stall rest truly looked forward to it each day.

Dec. 13, 2011, 11:31 PM
All of ours are out. If I were to leave them in when the ground is icey they'd be in 5 months of the year! I do, however, bring my 2 fillies and my pregnant mare in at night. We have predators here (mountain lions) and I feel better knowing our young ones are safe in their cozy stalls during the long dark nights!

Dec. 14, 2011, 07:46 AM
We turn our young horses, broodmares and retirees out 24/7. The breeding stallions get turnout appropriate for their particular personality, work load and breeding demands. The winter - late spring freeze/thaw cycle here in PA makes MUD, so that impacts whether the FEI horses get out in the indoor, one of our Jenny Craig paddocks or a small pasture. The barefoot riding horses can go out no matter what - and that is all but 5 of the 18 that are in work. I find hunting for shoes to be a waste of valuable time...

Dec. 14, 2011, 08:17 AM
MUD! Mine would never see the light of day if I worried about mud. Generally a 9 month season in Ireland! I'm lucky with shoes including aluminiums and pour in pads. And of course normal regular shoes.

But I suppose if I had serious high level competition horses I would have to have designated turnout areas for those, but they would still get out as much as possible and would have to cope with different ground. I do get it's important to have competition horses used to stabling to due to layovers at shows. And of course we do not have to worry about predators in Ireland. Oddly enough I do worry about semi wild dog packs because they have caused problems with all livestock here. But really that would be because serious predators do not exist. And I also like to keep tabs on when the various hunts are coming through the area. Normally they just stand in a group and watch the sights and sounds. For some reason my neighbor is convinced Abba would persuaded to leave her job of eating to jump over the hedge and join the hunt. She's a pansy showjumper not a no guts no glory eventer!

I guess I'm just miffed here as to why so much, no way will my horse go out in that.


Dec. 14, 2011, 09:51 AM
Mine go out as much as they can. I've been bringing them in at night because we've been having gales, but once the wind drops, they'll be back out 24/7.