Any readily-available stats on soundness, stalled vs. pasture kept?
I'm curious if there have been any studies conducted or stats collected regarding the soundness of horses and how they are kept/boarded. I'm not talking about good feed vs. poor quality feed, but more along the lines of:
Do horses that are offered a stall along with pasture tend to have more or less soundness issues (over-all) than those who are kept outside 24/7 (with access to suitable 3-sided shelter/stall in extreme conditions)?
Not sure why I was thinking about it, but figured I would ask COTH experts.
Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. W. C. Fields
This was a quote from The Horse magazine, although does not cite any stats: “The Horse”:
“Full-time turnout (paddock and/or pasture) is the most healthful way for a horse to live, even in cold climates. “The best housing for horses in winter is no housing at all, or at most a wind break,” says Elford. Wheeler also likes using run-in sheds: “The design should provide a dry location and reduced wind speeds. Surrounding ‘sacrifice’ paddocks with an engineered surface that sheds precipitation and is easily cleaned of manure provides a safe environment where being at liberty is the goal rather than grazing.”
I can tell you from my experience especially having an older horse and a mid-teen with issues, being out and moving around 24/7 is the reason they are doing as well as they are. The 23 yr old is sounder than he was at 19. The other horse is younger but has an old injury..same thing. They come into the stalls in very bad weather, but mostly have their sheds and paddocks.
I think most horses in fair to good weather do better outside. However, looking at a variety of horses out 24/7, there is a big increase now of horses being sore with the hard frozen ground and ice. The ones that come in, seem to at least have the chance to dry their legs off from the mud and rest their feet.
And I agree that usually stiffer, older horses do better outside, however, if it's cold and miserable outside, I think that negates any potential movement they would be doing.
I wonder if there has been any more serious studies done along those lines.
My guy is out 24/7 with access to shelter -- 15 years and the closest I've ever come to him being unsound is an abscess when he was 8. That being said, when the ground gets nasty and muddy there isn't a lot of reprieve from the mud and his feet never really 'dry' so he tends to have a slight thrush problem during those months -- nothing uncontrollable and the farrier isn't concerned in any way, so I figure it's an okay trade-off.
To be loved by a horse should fill us with awe, for we hath not deserved it.
I think that horses in pasture tend to have a higher incidence of tramatic injuries than horses that live in stalls. I also think that there is a difference between box stalls and stalls with runs as far as horses becoming stiff from standing in a stall. There is also the necessity of exercising a horse that is kept in a stall every day... in some barns that means a lot more longeing... which is hard on the joints, tendons and ligiments and the longeing might, in fact, be the cause of any extra injuries of horses that are kept in stalls. Horses in pasture also have to deal with more variation of moisture levels in the footing, which can cause abcesses, buising and otherwise sore feet... Horses kept in closed up barns can get heaves and other lung problems... I do agree that for older horses more movement is probably going to help them feel sounder than they would if kept in a box stall.
There have been studies, but I don't have the time to look them up for you sorry. Do you have access to journal databases like PubMed or Web of Science or whatever? Or even Google Scholar would probably be of some help. Search for things like OCD.
MY TB was stall-kept most of the 20 years I had him with limited (less than 6h/day) turnout.
When I moved him home at 22yo and gave him 24/7 turnout, the stiffness I had attributed to age greatly improved.
This horse also had a history of developing abcesses. About one a year for nearly 10 years.
With free access to pasture, in the 5 years I had him at home he developed just one resulting from a bad stone bruise.
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
Just my empirical evidence, in Europe, all mature horses years ago spent their lives in stalls, some of them standing stalls.
They also were managed for that with several hours of work practically every day and rare turnout time, maybe two weeks in a pasture in the summer, maybe running loose for a bit in the winter in the indoor some days.
The ticket was those horses were in work, not just being ridden less than one hour a day and some days not at all.
The same goes for many race horses.
We hardly had any injured horses, in the performance and school horses in Europe or the race horses in training or racing.
The horses that lived 24/7 turned out, young ones and ranch horses and broodmares mostly, those were also fine, but our pastures were real pastures, miles long and with all kinds of topography, not just a small paddock as some call "turned out".
Those horses walked/ran/played part of the day, snoozed around water some also when they came to feed twice a day.
What I think is that, not so much how you manage a horse's space is what is important, but that you manage the whole horse.
There are way too many factors to say, horses in stalls 24/7 is good or better, or bad or worse.
This is a question that will be better answered with "it depends".
If you have an old horse not being ridden, of course keeping him in a stall or small pen without taking him out to exercise any won't be good for that horse.
That same horse in a stall with several hours a day being exercised, given a chance to move around, will be better off.
That same horse turned out on a pasture with a big bale and standing there eating and napping all day will also not be that healthy, he needs to be actually moving around for all that space be of any benefit, something many horses supposedly living outside still won't do on their own.
Then, when you add exercise or work to any horse, be it in a large pasture with an active group of horses, you may have some injuries from that, just as you will if you are exercising or working that horse yourself.
Our 30 year old was fat and sassy and healthy and came in running, bucking and playing with the others, it is a mile to the pens and getting there he took a bad step and blew his knee beyond repair.
Our at that time 20 year old was playing with a five year old and bobbed up behind to tell him off and pulled a chip off his stifle and had to be retired.
In Europe, I saw ONE mild colic in many years around horses.
I came to the USA and colic was common every place, it still is, I still can't figure that out.
I don't think that has anything to do with horses being stalled 24/7 and exercised/worked several hours a day and kept trimmer than the too fat horses in the USA.
But I can say the horses in serious work were sure, in general, healthier and more sound all around than I have seen, in general, in the USA.
It could also be a difference in the breeds and their mixes we had there, not the same we have here.
I say, it may depend more in how you manage any horse, if he will stay sound and healthy, more than how you stable it.
I personally prefer stalled horses have a run, pastured horses best if it fits with your management, but that is a personal preference, won't point fingers at some that keep horses 24/7 and say that is not right, because I also know that, with the right management, those horses will also be fine.
I will say it takes more to manage a horse that is confined to a stall, you need to have those hours a day your horse is out there doing other, when a horse that can move around will, not always, well, move around some more on it's own.
Our horses get half-day turnout, but that is a space issue (just outside of Boston). However they do get worked 5-6 days/week, we allow them sufficient warm up and cool down time since they do spend a large amount of time in their stalls, and we have VERY little incidence of lameness. When I worked at a barn that had full day or 24/7 turnout, we had lots of abscesses, lots of times when horses would be NQR for a few days for no clear reason, lots of bumps and scrapes and cuts. I do still prefer full-day turnout when possible, but my point is that more turnout doesn't always equal less lameness.
My horse will live out the rest of his years in a pasture, except in the very worst weather. He is sounder, happier, and more sane since he's been on pasture board. His thrush has disappeared and he's not had any pasture injuries. It seemed like he was always getting hurt outside when he was turned out for only a few hours a day. I am firmly in the camp of pasture board if it is realistic.
When our closed horse population of 150+ was studied by a group of top east coast vets at the behest of the NYC Dept of Health in the early '90s, two of their findings were 1) the extremely low incidence of upper respiratory problems of any kind; and 2) the remarkable fitness and overall soundness of our horses. They attributed these findings to the fact our horses spend 7-9 hours nearly everyday out of their stalls, and walking much of the time. This was confirmed again when Dr. Lowe of Cornell University did a study of our horses in 2009; same findings, same opinions as to why.
At Blue Star Equiculture, our official retirement home in Massachusetts, they are implementing "paradise paddocks/pastures" management, which they say
that, among other things, encourages more movement which benefits the overall health of the horse. Because like people here have already said -- sometimes the horse won't do the moving on his own lol
So all that said -- I think I would prefer pasture board if I were outside the city, very generally speaking. Although I have to add that the only injuries my and my DH's horses ever got were when they were at liberty, on vacation in PA