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Pasture boarding is healthier than stall boarding! (Right?)

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  • Pasture boarding is healthier than stall boarding! (Right?)

    I'm curious if horse owners actually demand stall boarding or if what I've observed is merely a reflection of what barn owners would prefer to supply to us?

    I've relocated from central Tx to the Ny/Ct area and have noticed that while pasture board is often "the norm" in the Southwest, it isn't as easy to find or as popular (percentage wise within a single barn) here in the East. Is this simply because of weather factors, or do horse owners (and barn owners, for that matter) actually believe that stall boarding is better/healthier?

    Since moving east, I've encountered high-end dressage barns that have practically turned their noses up at the very thought of letting a horse outside for more than an hour of turnout each day. And, be certain that the turnout will most definitely be alone, not with other mares or geldings. I find that attitude very interesting and possibly (don't yell at me!) borderline-cruel, given that:

    1) Horses are herd animals. They need other horses to groom and communicate with on their own horsey level for the multiple hours that they are left to their own devices and not being ridden or fed.


    2) (Unless there's a medical reason for prolonged stalling,) horses in the wild are wanderers - they need to move around and graze constantly and soak up the sunshine and get their circulation going and do horsey-things that are more stimulating physically and by all means MENTALLY to their minds than standing in a box all day long, day after day.

    That's my 2 cents. (Perhaps you'll think it's worth a little more or less.) But I seriously am curious how others on here think about this subject. There's got to be a reason that stall boarding is so popular, and I find it hard to believe that it could be for the sole purpose of ensuring that your beloved dressage pony doesn't end up with a little scratch or bald spot, etc from playing too rough or just being a horse out in the pasture. (This was more or less the reason I was told by an uber-expensive fancy barn trainer, when I inquired.)

    Plus, stall board is more expensive than pasture board!! I have to be missing something in the equation here. I can't understand why someone would pay more money to put her healthy horse in a box all day long, rather than spend less and give her pony both companions and the ability to move around freely in the sunshine.

    Thoughts? Thanks.

  • #2
    I am with you all the way! Pasture board is the way to go! I'm originally from western NY and preferred barns that offered 24/7 pasture time with run-ins and the option of a stall during inclement weather. My horses (both senior and young) did best in this situation. While mine were easy keepers and lived off quality round bales in the pasture (when grass got eaten down in the summer), the barn also offered to grain horses 2x a day if requested. This was ideal for me.

    My horses now live in a stall with an attached paddock. The older horse has lost muscle tone, even with the same amount of exercise. She no longer has a pasture with rolling hills to meander over. The young horse goes stir crazy if she goes a day without being worked. Even on her day off she needs some time of moderate lunging to prevent her from becoming destructive. Not ideal, but it is the only option at this time for boarding.


    • #3
      I am with you all the way, too. A lot of people around here think they way the snooty people you are talking about do. It makes no sense. It's not logical. It's not healthy. In some places it's literally a matter of space, but too many people don't THINK and are fine with leaving their horse 24/7 in a space of 12 by 12, or even 24 by 12.

      In some situations you might have to stall, but a lot of reasons people do is not reasonable. They think horses will get hurt. In my experience, horses that live in stalls are lame quite a bit, have many more injuries, and aren't as sound in the head as horses that live in pasture. Yes, they may get kicked or scratched up, but so what? I don't think it's borderline cruel, it is cruel. Though, I have had to be cruel and lock them in stalls at times. I feel terrible about it. If you were a person, it would be like being confined to the space of your bed, or maybe a bathroom, 23 plus hours a day. Can you imagine?

      I think people around here do it because they are taught it by people who have always done it that way. They don't know and can't think it through, and afraid to take the step and "risk" the injuries, not seeing how much more damage the lack of movement causes because it's not so obvious. From speaking to people, as an example someone who wanted to ride my horse, I know there is a factor of wimpiness where people don't want to have the bother of walking to a pasture, tromping through mud, dealing with weather, or whatever. I literally had this woman tell me she might consider sponsoring if I moved the horse to a "better" place, where he would be locked in 24/7 at three times the price so she could walk on cement and not have to get her fat ass down the path or her boots dirty, or maybe have to deal with actually leading a horse. (Guess who didn't get to ride my horse?)


      • #4
        100% agree!


        • #5
          I came from an area in North America where most horses are kept stalled and I moved to NZ where almost all horses are kept in a pasture. Its so much better for them to be in a pasture. I think part of the reason that people are afraid to turn out stalled horses in a pasture is because they do get hurt, at least initially. Horses that are used to having little to no contact with other horses don't have any 'horsey sense'. And even if they have some sense they will still spend some time working out a hierarchy in the field. Of course there's also running the fence line, jumping and bucking when they get some extra energy and discover they're in a large space. Once they transition to the pasture they'll be fine but its that transition period. Its a totally man-made problem.

          Where I keep my horse in NZ horses are tied next to each to be tacked up, no cross ties here. At first I was shocked to see mares and geldings all within reach of each other not kicking or pestering their neighbours! And its not like they were turned out together, sometimes horses from another property are brought over and still no issues.

          I think high land prices make it more economical for barn owners to stall horses and rotate them for short turn out periods. Also, yes it does suck for owners to trudge through the mud to get their horse. I never found this to be a problem though, both in NA and NZ I take along a bucket with some chopped up carrots. Make some noise and my horse including everyone else in the pasture comes to the gate. (of course every horse that comes to the gate gets a piece of carrot to be fair).


          • #6
            Around here pasture board isn't really an option. Part of that being the fact we're in a desert - what pastures? On top of that, you can fit more horses if you have them in smaller corrals or stalls.

            So we bought horse property.

            I don't judge other people making their own decisions, I just know my horse is MUCH happier now that he has space to move all the time, and can interact with other horses more. He was having overall body soreness issues as he was getting used to new work which I think will be lessened by an ability to move all the time. I do think it's healthier both physically and mentally for them. The place we were boarded was nice, but one little thing after another would happen and my constant refrain was "I can't wait until we're ready to move him. He needs more space!"
            Originally posted by Silverbridge
            If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


            • #7
              I can't imagine keeping horses any other way. They are outside herd animals and I totally agree with you.
              Friesians Rule !!


              • #8
                I was just talking about this with a friend. Im not sure how I feel. But my two are pasture boarded at a quiet farm, because its alot less expensive then a stall.

                My friend's trainer doesnt like to turn more then one horse out at a time. I can see her being worried about injuries, but then they lack that socialness towards other horses. (My dog wasnt socialized, and hes scared of just about everything, to the point its dangerous.) She doesnt like to mess up the pastures, and i sort of understand, since its always wet or muddy here. But that means more stalls to clean and more manure piles to get rid of. My friend said it makes the horse rely on you more (food, turnout, etc). And they arent as lazy if they're not outside loafing around all day. Tell that to my crazy mare, who lives outside, and still tries to drag me around u/s, when I get the time to ride her. My 2 year old will follow me up and down the fence, or meet me at the gait when Im there. Maybe he realizes he gets snacks and brushed when I visit.

                My mare needs pasture board, she gets way to stiff in a stall, even on a 12/12 rotation. My 2 year old has only been in a stall for a few weeks of his life (castration surgery post op) and he was dying to get back to his buddies. At first he didnt want to leave his pasture mates, but he's been great leaving the herd once it was a regular occurance.


                • #9
                  I'd love to pasture board but with it regularly getting below 0F and VERY WINTRY from Nov-April..... and my horse being older he wouldn't do well.... My horse LOVES to come in. I do leave him out as long as possible though.


                  • #10
                    In the east, a lot of places don't offer pasture board because of the lack of land. To leave a large group of horses out for hours on end and day in and day out, you need the grass to support it. Otherwise, you just have horses milling around on a dirt lot.

                    We pay for boarded stabling but my barn owner leaves them out as much as she can. I know they are happier out. But right now, while the spring grass is coming in, she is controlling the amount of time they are out and she is alternating groups of two in one field so the other has a chance to grow some grass.

                    None of our horses have any respiratory problems and I believe it is because they never close the barn doors (no matter how cold) and the horses are often out. I have never ever heard my horse cough.

                    "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me


                    • #11
                      Some boarders insist on stall board.
                      But right now my farm is a smoothly running happy place. Our horses get 22hrs per day of turnout, being stalled for an hour every morning and evening for their grain and some extra hay.
                      This gives me a chance to give each horse a good looking over and quick grooming and flyspray, and obviously keeps feeding time peaceful, each horse getting what they need with no bickering.
                      "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passions." David Hume


                      • #12
                        Absolutely. Back in the day I used to feel sorry for boarders who could only afford field. Haha. Field board is the way. The horses are saner, they don't stock up, they don't tend to develop stereotypic behaviors like cribbing, and their digestion is better. They were meant to be walking around and social IMO.

                        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                        • #13
                          It's really hard to find pasture board around here that doesn't equal benign neglect, where people won't assume you want pasture board because you're cheap. Finding a place that does proper pasture management and also offers great care, good arenas, watchful managers, good hay, etc. I also want a decent sized pasture where they can self-exercise. Not some dinky little paddock. AND that isn't an hour away from where I live.

                          I pasture board my 3 year old at a barn that mainly stall boards but because I am down every day I make it work so he's cared for to my level of expectations. And the farm itself is beautiful with lots of trails and fields to ride in. I also don't want to be stuck with only a ring as my option for riding. booorring.


                          • #14
                            My horse is on pasture board, and she does very well under the conditions. She never stocks up, she's got thicker skin and is less bothered by flies, I never worry about ulcers, plus I don't feel guilty when I miss a day or two of riding. Overall, I think it is better for horses, but it does not work for every horse.

                            Take my trainer's gelding for example. He's high-strung and will start pacing the fence after a couple hours of turnout, his body expression saying "Get me out of here!!!" He just gallops around and becomes a danger to himself if he's out any longer. She only keeps him outside in the mornings - the rest of the horses are out for 8 hours a day.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Anyplace Farm View Post
                              In the east, a lot of places don't offer pasture board because of the lack of land. To leave a large group of horses out for hours on end and day in and day out, you need the grass to support it. Otherwise, you just have horses milling around on a dirt lot.

                              We pay for boarded stabling but my barn owner leaves them out as much as she can. I know they are happier out. But right now, while the spring grass is coming in, she is controlling the amount of time they are out and she is alternating groups of two in one field so the other has a chance to grow some grass.

                              None of our horses have any respiratory problems and I believe it is because they never close the barn doors (no matter how cold) and the horses are often out. I have never ever heard my horse cough.
                              Ditto. This has been my experience too. Land here is expensive, so most farms aren't that big. If you want any sort of pasture - then the horses can't be on it 24/7. I've boarded at several farms. The turnout schedule is usually 12 hours in - 12 hours out. At my current barn, the stalls have dutch doors that open to the outside. The horses get lots of fresh air even when inside. Pasture board is available, but usually only in farms that are further out where land is cheaper.


                              • #16
                                Of course being in a pasture is healthier. My boarded horses get all day or all night turnout with a small group. If I can't get at least 8 hours of turnout per day, I will find another place.


                                • #17
                                  I have to say I agree, but I'm still allowed to fret about it, right?

                                  The logical side of me knows my horse is better off outside 24/7. I was from the 12/7 crowd my whole life, from my parents farm to when I moved away and got my own horse. I was lucky enough to have an in-between step... we moved from a barn that was 12/7 to a small place where he had access to a stall if he wanted. He showed me then that even in rain, he wanted to be outside. When it was time to move from there, I went 100% pasture board, and he's never been happier.

                                  Now, he has more clothes than I do, and in the rain, the 'maternal side' of me wonders if he'd rather be inside. But, I also know him well enough to know he hates noise and things above his head. I would try and calm him down when he was in a stall and a big storm him. He'd spin around in his stall around and fret... outside, he continues to graze!


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by paintlady View Post
                                    Ditto. This has been my experience too. Land here is expensive, so most farms aren't that big. If you want any sort of pasture - then the horses can't be on it 24/7. I've boarded at several farms. The turnout schedule is usually 12 hours in - 12 hours out. At my current barn, the stalls have dutch doors that open to the outside. The horses get lots of fresh air even when inside. Pasture board is available, but usually only in farms that are further out where land is cheaper.
                                    Ditto Ditto. Also with temps that get down to 15 below 0 F (and that's before windchill) in the winter its just too cold. And then there's pastures that are sheets of ice for long periods, followed by mud season when limiting turnout is required in order to have any semblance of decent pastures once everything dries out. Ah the joys of real winter weather.
                                    Happily at the barn where I board we have a great indoor which allows for indoor "turnout" periods when we can't get all the horses outside.


                                    • #19
                                      Depends on the situation of each individual horse.
                                      If you have a horse with crappy feet being outside(24/7) is not the best situation. That particular horse can have some turnout under highly managed amounts of time.

                                      and then there are some horses who believe that their princess-like selfs should always bee inside or under cover --like my current broodmare and my broodmare before her.


                                      • #20
                                        My horse loves her big huge pasture and being able to hang out with her horse buddies. I think she is much happier and healthier this way. I think she has too much energy to be cooped up in a stall.