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Scared to turn my horse out - post injury

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  • Scared to turn my horse out - post injury

    After going through a stall bound period due to injury, I am petrified to turn my horse back out on a regular basis. I know gradually turning him out is the way to go, but I am scared either way. I fear additional injuries. Im contemplating having him stalled the majority of the time and only turned out for 2-3 hours a day privately and ridden regularly. He is actually a happy horse in a stall, he has been stalled for 3 months without turnout and on no medications - yes I have been lucky.

    The issue I am battling with is that I am an advocate for as much turn out as possible, usually 12 hours a day. I believe in horses having a "buddy", so private turnout is only for the meanie guys. This horse is playful and really means no harm, and enjoys having a pasture-mate. Having him switch to 2-3 hours turn out a day by himself just doesnt seem right to me, but I can't afford ( financially and mentally) another injury!

    I guess I am looking for advice. I have already looked into boots he can be turned out in. I am thinking of dividing one of my large paddocks into two smaller ones so he has a horse next to him.

    Thoughts? Advice? Am I completely looney?
    Tinker Toy & Blue Bonnett

  • #2
    I think its normal to be so nervous about re-introducing a horse back to turnout. The thought of another injury, vet costs, more stall rest, all the what ifs, it's enough to make anyone wary.

    I'm sure it seems completely plausible to keep him in most of the time, but it just isn't good for him. Like it or not, 99% of barns are just NOT good environments for horses to be all the time. Ammonia smell can build up even in barns with great ventilation, thrush can happen from standing in his own urine/manure, not being able to move around could lead on early arthritis and other problems, and eventually he WILL start to misbehave. Are you sure you're going to be able to get to the barn every single day to ride? Are you willing to get on and hack out on trails for at least an hour? All that arena riding will get boring. How are you going to afford "premium" board? Most barns (unless they're show barns) don't cater to this type of set-up, so you'll most likely be paying extra. Oh, and make sure you're on the lookout for ulcer symptoms, because even if your horse doesn't seem like a worrier, he's probably stressed from standing in a closet sized box all the time.

    But even if you have found the perfect barn, you know the one with the 24x24 stall that has 2 dutch doors for ventilation and beds in almost a foot of fluffy shavings, the one that mucks stalls 3x a day but only charges you $400 a month, the one that hand walks your horse twice a day and occasionally gets turned out in the arena because, lets face it, that muddy paddock is an injury waiting to happen whether alone or in a group...and you've promised yourself you'll be out everyday to ride, because nothing, not the flu, or chicken pox, or the plague, or that deadline at work that is suddenly tomorrow will keep you from Dobbin.

    So even if you can managed all that, don't forget, you own a horse, a herd animal, an animal that with very few exceptions thrives on turnout in large fields with a few buddies where he can gallop and buck and graze till his heart is content. An animal that when you signed the bill of sale you promised to take care of in the BEST way you know how.

    So, you're asking if you're loony to want to keep your horse in a stall most of the time, with turnout in a small single paddock a few hours a day? Yes, you are, although I completely understand where you are coming from.


    Here is what I would do. Start with individual turnout for a few hours, then slowly work him up to all day turnout by himself. Then introduce 1 calm old buddy. Then one day after you ride (make sure its a nice long ride where he has thoroughly tired himself out) just throw him out with the herd. This is what I did after my horse was on several months of single t/o /stall rest and it was like he never even left the herd. Just walked out and pushed the nearest horse away from some hay...and that was it.
    come what may

    Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013

    Comment


    • #3
      He's a horse. He's going to have another injury.

      I know that's not fun to hear. But if you accept as a baseline that horses, despite our best efforts, are really good at injuring themselves in highly inconvenient and unforeseen ways, you'll be a lot easier on yourself. And, in the long run, on him. Much as we'd all like to, you just cannot wrap them in bubble wrap. And, to be honest, I've seen horses more likely to injure themselves when we try to over protect them.

      When I've had one coming off of a long injury, I would start with limited turnout, likely with ace or another sedative (in consultation with my vet), and work them back up to a normal turnout schedule. I really like mine to have at least 6-8 hours out every day, more if we have room. Of course, there are horses who do great in situations with limited turnout, but in general, if you have the ability to let them be horses, I find that you're likely to have fewer other issues. Sometimes that means we have to juggle turnout partners - my self-destructive, plays too hard 5 year old now goes out overnight with a tiny little pony mare who won't give him the what-for, rather than with the crew of younger geldings he was using as punching bags.

      In your case, I'd look into who he goes out with and see if you can find one he might not play with, as you build back his turnout time. You can also think about putting him next to another one if you don't have enough buddies to make swapping him around doable. I don't mind splitting paddocks if you need to, though it depends on how small that makes it. Good luck! And, as a vet once prescribed to me when starting turnout with a horse who had done a suspensory, a glass of wine for the owner is sometimes the best medicine the first time you put a rehabbed one out in the field again.

      Comment


      • #4
        Look at it this way, he's more likely to run around like an idiot if he only gets out a few hours a day. If he goes out most of the day, turnout is less 'exciting' and he'll likely be calmer when turned out, thus less likely to re-injure himself
        .

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Big_Grey_hunter View Post
          Look at it this way, he's more likely to run around like an idiot if he only gets out a few hours a day. If he goes out most of the day, turnout is less 'exciting' and he'll likely be calmer when turned out, thus less likely to re-injure himself
          ^^^^^I agree with this wholeheartedly!! ^^^^^^

          Comment


          • #6
            Do you have the option of turning him out with one "quiet & sane" buddy? I agree that the more turnout the better but I can completely relate to fear of injury due to herd turnout OR turnout with rambunctious buddies. I also would not hesitate to choose individual turnout next to a compatible buddy if no quiet/sane buddy is available. I would definitely choose individual turnout over less turnout all together and more stall time.
            At my last barn my horse was turned out alone 24/7 with access to a run in and always had a buddy next to him. We could not determine a compatible group for him when he first moved there and he seemed fine alone so that is what we stuck with. He seemed perfectly happy with that scenario and as long as he was getting regular work his demeanor did not change at all.
            At his current barn he lives with an elderly mare that is very quiet and sane. There is no romping around or rough housing and they have access to pasture and their stalls 24/7. Knock on wood, he has had a very low incidence of injury in both these settings. He had the most injuries when he was turned out in a smallish paddock with 4 very active TB's a number of years ago.

            Comment


            • #7
              Start small. A small paddock, perhaps some sedative (for you as well as him!), a huge pile of hay if there isn't grass, your horse on his own (though if he's the sort who'll get to hollering if he can see but not touch other horses, you'll want a quiet horse on a shared fenceline.) First day, you may just want to hang out and keep an eye on him. After that you'll have a better idea of how he's going to behave and you can slowly remove restrictions.

              But as someone said, horses find all sorts of ways to hurt themselves, repeatedly. You have to be willing to put up with the risk, if you're going to own a horse.

              Mine was on stall rest after suspensory surgery a few years ago, and then in a tiny hospital paddock, with Ace, for months after that. She's now in regular single turnout (though some people here wouldn't find it acceptable) with no drugs, 6 hours a day. When she first went into the hospital paddock she did cut a leg from rolling and rolling and rolling and getting the leg stuck under the fence, briefly; she is smart enough that she won't roll in her stall unless she really, really needs to.
              You have to have experiences to gain experience.

              1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

              Comment


              • #8
                Go slow and trust your gut. When I first turned my horse out after 9 MONTHS of no turnout (6 months stall rest with hand walks; 3 months of bringing him back to full work before he could go out), I made sure that I rode him right before he went out, then sedated him lightly, then turned him out in a small private paddock for about 2 hours.

                I did that for a while, and eventually he was back to his normal routine. Although, at the time, 2 hours in a private paddock pretty much WAS his routine. The riding beforehand really helped a lot to take the edge off.

                If it makes you feel better, that was about 3 years ago, and he is doing great and enjoying all day turnout now. The fear goes away with time.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Luckily I have my horses at home, so that gives me a bit more of a control factor and I don't have to worry about paying for premium board etc. Only downside is I do work a regular job so no one is at the barn for several hours during the day. On a typical day my guys get turned out around 8 and come in at 5 or so. I had him on private turnout when I first got home and noticed he was mostly fine but did pace a good bit which to me is stressful to the horse, and ruins paddocks/pastures. I dont want to endure that. I will be looking at the layout of one of my bigger paddocks and dividing it down the middle so he can be next to a buddy- at least at first. I would love to be able to turn him out with his original herd eventally. He is very much so a playful horse, which I feel is important to his sanity, but if his buddies arent playing WITH him... he is pestering them TO play which caused the bad kick in the first place.
                  Tinker Toy & Blue Bonnett

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you have a small paddock, or large round pen, that is the ideal turn out. It is usually wise to do a little sedation for the first day or so, check with your vet. If you are lucky enough to have grass right now, he'll be busy with that for the first hour, otherwise a flake of the tastiest hay you can find-the stuff he couldn't have on stall rest.

                    Start with a short time, and then gradually increase it. You can play it by ear.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd start over the weekend so that by Monday, you have peace of mind.

                      I'd start Friday right after work. Take him out in the field to hand graze. Once he's settled and grazing, quietly unclip the lead, and stay where you were standing prior. Slowly back away. Back up 2 or 3 feet than stay there for a few minutes, etc. After an hour, bring him in for dinner.

                      Repeat Saturday morning for an hour. Then in the afternoon, let him out and go in the house. If he makes it from 12-5, great! Then Sunday, go back to all day. By then, any of his crazy "I'm free!!!!" moments will have come and gone and he will be happy to resume his life of grazing.
                      Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Did he have access to grass or at least hay in his previous turnout when he was walking the fence line?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by AzulBlue View Post
                          ^^^^^I agree with this wholeheartedly!! ^^^^^^
                          me too - ours are turned out 24/7 except in REALLY bad weather, and they are all so...lazy....they hardly move. and even if they're turned out in the giant pasture, all they do is stroll around and eat. if they have a round bale, they're standing there at that 24/7 and we're picking up piles of manure from behind their feet every other day to keep them from standing in it.

                          whenever they are holed up in their stalls for a while, they get much more energetic and hyper when turned out.

                          I'd turn him out individually for a few days - maybe take him in the arena and lunge him for 30 minutes to get the worst of the crazies out, then put him out in a pasture, then repeat for a few days, then turn him out with a buddy full time if possible.
                          Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                          Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by WARDen View Post
                            Luckily I have my horses at home, so that gives me a bit more of a control factor and I don't have to worry about paying for premium board etc. Only downside is I do work a regular job so no one is at the barn for several hours during the day. On a typical day my guys get turned out around 8 and come in at 5 or so. I had him on private turnout when I first got home and noticed he was mostly fine but did pace a good bit which to me is stressful to the horse, and ruins paddocks/pastures. I dont want to endure that. I will be looking at the layout of one of my bigger paddocks and dividing it down the middle so he can be next to a buddy- at least at first. I would love to be able to turn him out with his original herd eventally. He is very much so a playful horse, which I feel is important to his sanity, but if his buddies arent playing WITH him... he is pestering them TO play which caused the bad kick in the first place.
                            Understanding each horse in your herd is key to choosing a friend for him. Sounds like he needs one that is patient with a playful type but who won't engage too much. Maybe an older gentle fellow? I always find that playful types put together get nicked up too much for show horses. He would get used to being alone beside other horses but its best for their minds if they have friends. If possible don't put more than 3 together. Maybe start trying him with one at a time when you are home to watch them.
                            You don't scare me. I ride a MARE!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have to say that it really also depends on the horse. My horse was on the injury list starting in Aug. He is a 24/7 turnout horse and he was perfect during stall rest. However that being said, we turned him out in a small injury paddock alone, with friends around, for a couple hours a day and he was more concerned with eating grass then socializing (he thinks hes constantly starving). After a month of stall rest, we kicked his butt out. I don't know how your fields are set up, but we have a small (sacrifice paddock that connects to 3 bigger fields. So since he had exposure to his buddies in the injury paddock, we locked him and friends in the sacrifice paddock with some ace and hat and let them eat. again more concerned with eating the alfalfa hay then galloping around. The plan was to keep him in there overnight and let him free the next day if all went well. Well after and hour they were still so calm, that we ended up opening the gait to the main pasture and my horse literally looked up, watched the others walk through and continued to follow. No galloping, running around, etc.

                              Now while he was so good about it, I also knew his personality and knew he would be fine with turnout and not go bonkers. So that is definitely key! Ironically enough, it was the older horses making a big deal out of him rejoining then himself rejoining. Also he is the herd leader so I knew no one would pick on him either.

                              Good luck with your guy! It is definitely never easy!
                              Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
                              Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
                              Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
                              Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                                If you have a small paddock, or large round pen, that is the ideal turn out. It is usually wise to do a little sedation for the first day or so, check with your vet. If you are lucky enough to have grass right now, he'll be busy with that for the first hour, otherwise a flake of the tastiest hay you can find-the stuff he couldn't have on stall rest.
                                I have a friend who set up a round-pen made of stock panels in the middle of a small paddock. Her rehabbing horse went in the round pen, and a quiet pony in the rest of it. It worked very well.
                                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  When my horse got injured over the summer he did stall rest then graduated to a 20x20 pen for a few days, then I thought I had the perfect intro-to-turnout solution: I put him in the ring which is smaller than his pasture, but borders his pasture so he was RIGHT beside his friend. The ring was never used by anyone but me, so I wasn't getting in the way. And the ring was overgrown with grass so there was plenty to eat and keep him busy. BTW my horse is lazy and I was NOT expecting him to be rowdy...

                                  Well he acted like a nut out there. Spooking, bolting, spinning. Just wasn't happy. I gave in and put him back in regular turnout field with his friend and he was calm. So, while I thought I had the perfect solution for gradually introducing turnout, evidently my horse just wanted to get back to normal turnout.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Turn-out woes

                                    Just because a horse has no turn out does not always mean he will have problems. Because of the risk of injury I do not turn out my show jumpers and have no problems. I have a 19 yr old gelding I've owned since he was 3yrs. He's been a successful show jumper competing up through the 1.50m level and earning over $100k in prize money. He's a cribber (born with the habit). He's never colicked, never been sick or had any accidents. He loves his 12x12 box stall. It's his safe haven. That said, he's fed grass hay and Timothy along with a large scoop of Ultium by Purina mixed with a large scoop of soaked beet pulp. I found this feeding program keeps all my horses in great condition and mentally stable. I don't have hoof problems but I'm meticulous about keeping the feet clean and avoid bathing or getting the feet as much as possible. I've owned in excess of 30 horses over a 45 year time frame and have always boarded in large commercial show facilities. In my early riding days I used to turn out but experienced injuries and had too many soundness problems. Additionally I witnessed so many turn-out accidents of other boarders horses the vet might as well live there. Those experiencing the most problems were those owners feeding their horses alfalfa and oat hay. Their horses tended to be crazy hard to ride and accident prone. Also, the alfalfa fed horses were the ones that would colic. The last problem I noticed was those horses that their owners insisted on keeping them clean with frequent bathing. They tended to get scratches, hives, and thrush.
                                    Don't shoot me I'm just the messenger. LOL
                                    Last edited by aef1000; Feb. 23, 2013, 12:30 PM. Reason: Deleted extra letters

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I won't deprive an animal that is supposed to be out roaming around with his friends, to soothe my anxiety. When they're out a lot they become smarter about what they're doing and are less likely to get injured than when they aren't. They're less likely to go careening full speed through the mud at the gate because they know it's slippery, they look where they're going and know the terrain, they aren't so excited that they haul a** around every time you let them go, etc.
                                      Go slowly, but let him be a horse.
                                      FWIW, my most serious self-induced horse injury was my gelding nearly killing himself last spring getting cast in his stall.
                                      As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.

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