I am usually a big supporter of turning out stabled horses as much as possible. It find it good for their mind and the constant moving seems good for their body as well.
However, coming from a more "temperate climate", I am a bit at a loss when it comes to turning out in icy/snowy/very muddy paddocks. What do you all do in terms of turning out in bad footing?
It's when they are kept in for a day or two because of weather, that they totally wreck themselves when they are again turned out. So one way or the other I insist mine are turned out, not always as early as is the norm, and sometimes not as long.
Studs and snow pads are, of course on the shod one.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
Having seen some pretty horrific injuries due to ice and mud, those are two that I would watch carefully.
Ice? I'd keep 'em off of it if at all possible. Had a gelding literally do the splits on ice and tear his groin. Had it not been very very cold at the time, he probably would've bled out. This was a few years ago (in Iowa). But it has stuck in my mind. He was just walking down to the area where we hayed and boom.
Mud? If it's so bad that you're needing to keep them in due to mud being hock deep or whatever, you can make modifications to address that such as drains.
I grew up in Iowa (CR), so one thing I can tell you is that you're likely having an unusual mud season. Normally, everything is frozen right now and you only have to worry about the mud for about a month in the spring in an otherwise well drained paddock.
Snow? Not a problem AT ALL. I wouldn't worry a bit about turning out in snow.
One of the things that has actually given me more trouble than anything you've mentioned yet is the frozen mud areas where it's all uneven and they have to tiptoe around on it. I used to take the blade out and scrape down to get a more even surface. Shoot, I about twisted my own ankle out there on more than one occasion!
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
The two things that keep me from letting my horses out in their field (they do have a small dry lot to get locked in, that is all sand) are ice and severe mud. Ice, because they can kill themselves just walking on it, and mud because they always want to run around when it's muddy...and I'd like them, and my fences in one piece.
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
Mine goes out through everything except thunderstorms or extreme blizzards or freezing rain. Never ever ever put a horse with regular shoes on ice!! But my mare has some heavy duty snow shoes with pads and borium and pins. She's very sturdy no the ice with those, but she also doesn't ever really run outside.
Mine goes out. And trust me, right now the footing is horrendous. Mud, ice, snow. I had to walk out to get him yesterday and it was ridiculous. But he picks his way and basically stands or walks around all day. He's never had a problem with scratches and I'm not worried about him doing something foolish.
If it gets any worse though, he will be "dry lotted" in the small indoor. Problem is that is too hard packed but he WILL be tempted to thunder around. He's better off picking his way through the miserable mud.
My guys are on pasture board so they're out no matter what. They're careful when its poor footing and they never have the pent up crazies that a stalled horse might have. I'd be more careful with a stalled horse though since they are often not as sensible since they're wound up about going out.
My guy has lived his whole life in 24/7 turnout. Ice, snow, mud...one year we had so much rain he even had to walk through a pond in his paddock to get to his waterer. Never had a problem *knock on wood* with any injuries or hoof problems due to the conditions of his turnout.
I've found the horses who are outside continually seem to have "smarts" about the footing. My guy watches for holes (I found that out when I was riding him cross-country - he'd purposely move out of the way when he spotted holes in front of him), and if he's playing the fool in his paddock, he slows down or stays off the icy sections.
Mine all live out too, with run-in sheds should they so desire to use them (which they rarely do, the snots). I don't worry about them on the footing extremes, mud or ice. They all go barefoot and usually, by the time it gets around to freezing here, we have "cuppy" footing that makes ice sheets basically impossible so slipping isn't a concern. I'd be more cautious with footing in the case of a stalled horse because they do tend to get the "stupids" when they are first turned out and can injure themselves. Horses that live out 24/7 tend to be more cautious when the footing gets iffy.
Mine are out on day t/o. Mud, snow, ice, frozen mud, etc. they have 2 areas with gravel/stone dust so they don't "have" to go in the actual field. Usually if it has been steadily raining all day they come in an hour or 2 early, but that is it.
I can't remember ever having a horse injured in the pasture in a situation like this. Plenty of times after being in a few days or only being allowed out a few hours. But never on all day or 24/7 turnout.
Mine is out at least 12 hours a day in all types of weather. Around here, it's mostly mud. The BO does try to put her in a smaller paddock (sometimes open to a larger pasture) with a run in and gravel area if it's going to be precipitating badly. As someone else said, if we didn't turn out in mud or bad weather, there would BE no turnout for weeks or months at a time. It's been wet here since October, and will probably stay the same til April or May.
Mine stay in if it's ice. The kind where I have to wear golf shoes to get to the barn. Otherwise, unless it's hurricane force winds or tornado warnings they go out. If it's an all day driving rain, I'll leave them out for a couple of hours.
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant
Mine is barefoot and lives on pasture. He's out with 2 buddies and has a 24x48 run in shed. The only time they're brought inside (or turned out in the indoor) is for an extreme blizzard where the BO cannot get to the pasture to check on them. Other than that they're out all the time. Never had a problem.
**Friend of bar.ka**
Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
My equine soulmate
I'm fortunate to have a sacrifice paddock at home that is never too dreadfully muddy (very sandy soil) and I have a raised, bedded "horse porch" so even in the most vile weather my horses have a dry place to stand and are never cannon-deep in mud. They are out 24/7 so whether to "turn them out" is sort of a moot point anyway. But they do not set foot on my grass pastures when there is a lot of mud. The grazing is not limitless and needs some protection from hooves.
I also board a couple nearby, and there they will sometimes keep horses in if the footing is very bad. This is multifactorial--ice is common in early and late winter as well as mud, and both are not ideal for horses to stand around in. Also grass is precious and they don't have enough dirt paddocks for everyone, so turnout in deep mud can ruin the pastures if it's overdone. And to be very honest, when the footing is terrible, that's all horses really do--they STAND AROUND. They do not play and roam around much at all. So when the staff there decide to keep them in for a day or two here and there, I respect their decision. The horses aren't missing much, they are probably a little safer, and the grass in the paddocks lives to fight another day.
Mine are out all of the time, but always have access to the barn. I worry on those rare occasions when we have an ice storm. My experience has been that horses who are locked in for days, and then turned out on the ice, often slip and fall until they realize it is icy. Usually, the ones who were out during the ice storm understand that it is slippery and stay in the run in sheds or barn of their own volition.
Frozen ponds in the pasture worry me. Our horses don't seem to have good judgement about when the pond is frozen enough to hold them and when it is not. My daughter usually closes off the pasture with the pond when the pond is frozen over.
Every year I hear about horses being put down due to fractured legs and hips who were 'always' turned out....on ice. A good friend of mine keeps hers out 24/7 and had to deal with a hip fracture on her favorite mare. She healed after months of stall rest. Another friend had just purchased a 2 year old and she had to put him down due to a hip fracture...due to ice. My farrier told me about a couple of horses he 'used' to trim- they were hit by lightening...he knows of a bunch who were lost to leg fractures on the ice. Another friend had a young horse come running up to the gate in slippery mud...he was put down due to a fracture when he hit the gate.
It is always a matter of balancing the risk. You have to decide.
I take mine to my indoor and work them down when I decide the footing is unsafe.