I am almost 100% sure I'm anthropromophising(sp?) a bit here, but I felt like such an awful person when I left the barn last night.
I have 2 horses. Goober is my long time buddy, who I've decided to do right by and find him a home doing what he loves full time. Brolio is my new OTTB who looks like he's going to fit the bill as a competitive event horse. Goobs lives outside 24/7 at the boarding barn with 2 nice turnout sheds. Bro is stalled overnight, but gets plenty of day turnout.
Unfortunately, Goober is now the only gelding on turnout board. He does have plenty of buddies during the day and has 2 mares across the fenceline that stay out overnight, but he's alone at night. BO says he's adjusted well, nothing to be worried about. I cannot afford stall board for both at this time, plus Goobs is much happier out. I would happily toss Bro out with him except, Bro gets 2lbs of grain 2x/day and Goobs gets ~1/2lb 1x/day(air fern type). Goobs will also push a less dominant horse off their grain if he gets done first, Bro is very much bottom man in the field. BO does not want to bring in Bro for grain and then turn back out, which I understand.
So last night was the first time I personally turned Goober out after a ride and after all the other horses were turned in for the night. As I shut the gate, he just kinda stood there and eventually walked off into the darkness in search of actual grass even though both hay feeders were fully stocked. I just felt like a terrible parent, letting him go off alone... He's a tough little horse, my front brain knows he won't die, but that little niggling part bothers me.
He'll be fine but I had those moments as well when I pasture boarded my mare for a year. Turning her back out in the dark when it was raining always broke my heart even though I knew she was physically capable of surviving the cold, wet weather.
Glass half full: he was so secure in his living situation that he WANTED to go for a stroll to browse for grass, instead of staying at the gate or up close to the barn and hay feeders. He's so well managed that he's not inhaling every mouthful of hay, but is content to wander and munch at will.
How's that? :-) My guys have been on rough board for years, but this year will be the first time one of mine is out by himself (within sight of at least 20 other horses!) and I'm sure the first night or two will take some adjustment. They are amazingly resilient beasts!
I think you are misinterpreting his action. You shut the gate, he stood there, contemplating how to spend his night a bit, and then mosey away to find some nice tasty grass. Sound quite idyllic, no? Why should you feel bad about it??? I mean, if you were a horse, would you prefer grass or hay? As to turn out, would you prefer to be shut in the stall all night long, or having the leisure choosing whether you want to stroll around a bit or just standing at one spot?