I have a 25 yo draft x gelding. He is my horsey soul mate and after all these years, he owes me nothing. In fact, if hubby would agree, he would come in the house.
Over the last year, he is getting stiffer, creakier and lamer. I talked to the vet to try something different in joint supplements to help him out, but here is my question. Is it better for him to stay out and keep moving or come in at night? I have a blanket on him, he is pretty hairy, I have a shed that he could go into. He also has a friend. He is in good health. I always bring the horses into the barn in rain, wind and bitterly cold weather, especially the sudden drops. Is it better for him at his age to be in at night, muching on hay and being warm, or moving around at will in the cold? Am I bringing him in just for me to feel better? Tonight it's around 25 degrees, no wind and I just brought him in. And if anyone has tried any supplements that they swear by for joints, I'm willing to try anything for him to be more comfortable.
I would honestly leave him out. My older ponies do SO much better when left in a large area rather than cooped up in a corral. Unless your barn is heated I don't think it would be much warmer inside. Walking around outside will keep the blood flowing in his legs and probably keep him warmer than if he were inside just standing there. I really do think that the best thing for older creaky horses is movement.
My 23 yr old arthritic TB is out 24/7 and prefers to be there even when I decide he should stay in the barn (at 15*F or below at night and any time we are are getting a wicked ice storm).
He wears his blankie to protect him from the wind, rain, and snow. Other than that he eats his hay and prefers not to be bothered He does come in twice a day for grain where he gets his MSM and Flex Free (he's been on Flex Free for YEARS - he's the type of horse that does best on the same supplement and every time I've tried something else I've had poor results so he stays on the flex free).
If I were you - I'd leave your guy out until he says he wants in. I've had mine say he wants in on those fall days where it's rained so much I swear I should build an ark! He honestly prefers to be out otherwise.
If you are in a situation where you can try it, and put him back out if it doesn't work out, I might recommend trying it. My vet recommended bringing my near 20 year old in at night for winter. I was really hesitant. He has lived out 24/7 all his life. Recently diagnosed with hock arthritis but doing fine. We brought him in primarily so we could monitor his hay intake (which is about nill) and keep his weight on which we worked so hard to put on last spring. We give him soaked cubes and some hay "scraps" that are easier for him to chew. I too was very concerned about him standing around at night, etc. but for him, the vet felt the benefits would outweigh any negatives, esp. because he is ridden and worked several times a week - so I agreed to stall board with the exception that on warm nights and nice weather, he still be out.
He is doing very well, and perhaps I might say, even better. It's clear he lays down to sleep at night. I ride him several times a week and he has much more get up and go. He has more energy (it could be the cold weather but it is coincidental.) I also sleep much better at night on very cold nights, or windy or rainy weather, knowing he is inside, warmer and out of the elements.
There was a run-in out there but of course his stall is warmer and out of the elements. He missed his field buddy the first week but nothing horrible. They just called to each other a bit, and now there's a new field buddy out there for his friend so I don't feel as bad. I am also on top of how much he eats, and he is eating his hay some nights so I can continue to monitor that. I also like knowing I have a place for him should he need medical care.
So for us it worked, and believe me, if it didn't, I would have put him back out, even if it meant paying the extra money for the stall as backup or for only snow/rain. I board, so I can't flip flop "stall for winter, field board for summer" but as long as I pay for the stall (which was only $50 more in my case), I can turn him out 24/7 if I choose.
I found that blanketing my older horse made a big difference in his creakiness. He was creaky in his hocks and ankles but I think the blanket kept the rest of him warm enough that his hocks were better. It was a very visible and instant change from one night to the other in the way he came out of his stall.
I have an 18 year old mare who has had arthritis is both hocks for years (injury). She always hated being in. She would paw and fuss and want out. All my horses come in at dark, eat sleep etc. And then some go back out again around 9. I find those that go back out lie down to sleep at this time, and I am sure its good to get off those legs for a bit. She is one of the in then out again horses, and it seems to work very well for her.
I think it is going to depend on the horse. i thought 24/7 turnout would be best for my 18 year old but I am beginning to think that he would rather be in for at least part of the time. He is very submissive and I think it just gives him some time to be peaceful and to munch on hay. Sometimes I will turn him out and he will walk outside turn right around and come back, even if he has been in for a couple of days because of the weather.
You'll be able to tell what your horse wants if you have the chance to try it for a few days.
I got a stall for my oldest guy a couple years ago, and without it I don't think he'd make it through the winter. Even blanketed, he seems to need those hours out of the elements to hang out and EAT (he's an incredibly hard keeper) and recover from whatever the day brought (wind, rain, cold, heat, flies, pesky 2-year-olds). He is also very social and loves his stall, front and center in the main barn aisle, with a stall guard so he can stick his nose into everybody's conversation. If he has to spend a night outside because one of the others needs the stall in an emergency, he pouts!
Arthritis isn't a big problem for him. We have two TB's who are around 20 and much more arthritic than he is, and I do see a difference when they are stalled at night. The whole crew of older guys gets the injectable Acetyl D every 2 weeks and I think it helps more than any of the oral supplements we have tried over the years.
I agree with tpup. Try it. My old TB mare (recently died at 33) did much better coming in at night. She did sleep better, she drank and ate better. But again try it, it's not for some horses and he can't be the only one in either.
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My 22 year old arthritic mare lives out 24/7, and does best on this schedule because she keeps MOVING. She gets stiff if cooped up too log. She has a wardrobe of blankets and a cozy stall when/if she needs it, but she clearly does best if allowed to be a horse.
i have a retired 22 year old grand prix jumper that i too keep out as much as possible.. he wears heavy duty blankets and is in a pasture with his buddy. he is arthritic and in agreement that he does better when out and moving.. however i am finding, that he doesnt sleep well enough when out 24/7, so am now opting to bring him in every 4 days and let him stayi n his stall for a day or two and let him sleep and rest.. poor guy almost fell asleep last nite when the farrier was trimming his feet ..
I think he should come in the house My guy stays outside. He seems to prefer it. He doesn't even spend great amounts of time in the shed. We put mats in the shed to make it easier on his legs. I see him lay down and snooze. If a big snow fall or ice is predicted, he's brought in.
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I have two senior geldings, a 24 yr old OTTB, and a 22ish yr old QH. They both do much better in a paddock with a run in stall. (it's more closed in than just a 3 sided shed). If they can move around they are usually better able to keep themselves warm. Both of mine are arthiritic and have some other age related stiffness. I have them on Aniflex Complete and it seems to be working well. Although I will footnote that by saying my vet thinks it's good to switch up their joint supplements every few years.
TPUP - have you looked into the chopped hays offered by Lucerne? They make a chopped Denghi that has served some of our seniors well. My QH is heavey so if I can't get second cutting, I'll use that.
It's really a toss up and I think you'll have to experiment to find out what works best for your horse.
I would probably go w/very good blankets (I stick w/Rambo, Rhino and Bucas, the Holy Trinity IMO, but others here are very happy w/other brands!) and a high dose of MSM, like JB suggested, first. I say that because a change of routine for an older horse can be much more tramautic than for a younger horse.
The only truly old horse here is 32. He lives out and actually WILL NOT go in a building unless he is sedated first (can you say dementia?!!) so I manage him completely w/good blankets and good feed. It helps, I am sure, that he is built like a tank, an easy keeper and hairy like a yak. We love him terribly!
If you don't see an improvement with that plan then you can try stabling him and seeing how it goes.. one step at a time would be prudent, I think.
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Out. Locking in stall = bad for arthritis. It's also easier to keep warm if you can walk around vs being locked in a tiny room at the same air temp. Drafts are also usually pretty cool-weather tolerant. Do give him free choice hay during this weather.
I have drafts in their teens and 20s+. They do fine out. That being said of course each horse is an individual and you'll have to see what works best.
Can you leave a stall door open to the outside and see if he prefers in/out?
IMO, in general if they have run-in option and safe access I think they're better out unless there's multiple horses (more than 2). I've found the older horses tend to be bullied and can be really miserable. So, if he's got run-in and one compatible companion, out is almost always best. More than one, bring him in at night to protect him.
Horses are almost always better out, even in mud (miserable!!). The modifiers to that statement are wet (I've seen them shivering in 40 degree weather), windy, no shelter, and bullies.