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Cold temps & older arthritic horse : in or out?

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  • Cold temps & older arthritic horse : in or out?

    Just curious what people's ideas are about older arthritic horses in winter.

    I have a coming 20 yr old with some arthritis in the front feet & hocks, he's still servicably sound and being worked lightly.

    I normally keep him stalled at night during the winter months, bandaged & blanketed, deeply bedded, so essentially kept warm.

    However there's this saying, motion is potion, so from that perspective out 24/7 would serve the joints better as they woudn't dry up standing in.

    But how much does a horse on 24/7 move around in winter when the grass is scarce, I see him standing in the shed eating hay quite a bit.

    So is it better to be out moving around slightly in the cold (blanketed of course), laying down on the cold frosty ground with those arthritic limbs or stuck inside standing still all night but wrapped (hoofwraps/ hockwraps etc) and laying down on a deep bed.

    Just curious what others with older arthritic horses find works best, I haven't decided either way yet and horse will accept both.

  • #2
    IME you're going to have to see what works for that horse.

    I've got a creaky one here, turned out 23 hours a day year-round, who is actually better in the cold weather. However I spread my hay around. I don't know how he would be if he were parked in front of a hay bale with much less movement.
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      Can you do both? When my old guy was in your situation, he did best when I could open up his stall door to the outside and let him wander around his paddock. So he could come in and lay down in his deep bedding if he wanted, but could move around at night at will. He spent most of the night outside so if you have to pick one, I'd pick outside and try to set up a soft spot for him to sleep.

      I think heavy blanketing, constant access to hay and a bute if he is really sore and the vet approves it really helps the old creaky ones. They need to move.


      • #4
        I think either is fine, but honestly, how much do horses move while outside in the winter at nighttime? Probably not much- mostly they stand in their shed to get out of the wind and sleep. Also walking on frozen mud or snow is not exactly easy either. I guess it depends what your turnout situation is like more than anything. I board and have always had them turned out during the day, and stalled at night. I like to get them out of the wind and also out of the snow and muck for a while. I feed supplements too and it's just to hard to know if they actually get what you feed them when they eat grain in a pasture with other horses. I blanket them with a nice med weight turnout so they have protection during the day. Never had any issues and by 5 or 5:30pm in the winter, they were ready to come in. Summer they stay out til 7:30 or 8. I had this routine with a 24 yr old gelding who was arthritic. Keeping him on Previcox and a good joint supplement also helped him quite a bit.


        • #5
          We don't have any outside sheds or shelters, so the old horses come in at night. They are stalled out of the wind, barn is "heated by horses" so it is warmer than outside, but not a lot. Old horse can move around in her box stall, eat hay, lay down on deeper bedding over mats, so the cold ground is not sucking the heat out of her.

          Our night temps can drop dramatically, usually have wind going too, so the wind chill gets PRETTY cold after the sun goes down. No one lays down on the cold ground at night! So legs never "get the load off" with horse laying out to sleep or rest.

          While I can appreciate how movement can help the horse, I don't think in our location, being out in the very cold day and night, is that much more help to the arthritic. Horses usually move around pretty well during day hours, check out the field for nibbles after outside hay is gone, come back up for drinks and back to the field.

          Is horse getting any medication? We had good luck with Previcox, two weeks on, two weeks off, dosage is very small and the old mare REALLY did a lot more moving, than without the medication. Her severe arthritis was in her neck bones, nothing wrong with her legs. She was trotting all around, with some cantering now and again, out in the field.


          • #6
            Our old guy was out during the day and up at night. I tried leaving him out one winter and could tell all he did was stand in one spot under the run in all night or lay on the cold ground - I ended up bedding the run in with straw!

            The next winter we started putting him in at night and I think he did better - maybe a creaky step or two out of the stall but then he motored off to his morning hay pile with no problem!


            • #7
              Goodhors, I am in South Bend, so probably not that much warmer than you and I was really surprised how much my old guy chose to move around at night (quite a bit given the snow trails he left). I could tell because he was the only one out, everyone else was up -- I just left his Dutch door open so he could go where he pleased, in or out. I left hay in the stall and out under the overhang, so he had all the options he wanted. From his bathroom habits, mine at least seemed to pretty consistently spend two poops a night in the stall and the rest meandering around from hay net to friend and back.

              That one has been gone a couple of years and my herd leader is starting to get a little creaky, so I think I will do the same thing this year with him when the weather gets bad. the old ones just seem to do better if they can stretch their legs a little every few hours, I think. He definitely loves his blanket, too.

              These two have been pretty active horses, though, TB types. I have had other horses in the past who were couch potatoes when they were young, and they definitely didn't get more active in their old age. They tended to park beside the hay and sleep, so for them in was just as good as out.


              • #8
                My old guy is having a lot of problems with stocking up right now. He was out all night up until it started getting cold but we have since started blanketing him heavier and sticking him back outside. So far it is helping, we will see how he does once it really gets cold ie highs in the 30's.
                McDowell Racing Stables

                Home Away From Home


                • #9
                  It's Rock and Hard Place time all over again. Maybe you could bundle him up and place hay here and there around his paddock or whatever part of "outside" he can access?

                  If you go here: http://www.all-natural-horse-care.co...-paradise.html you'll get a general idea of how the Paddock Paradise people set up space to keep horses moving.

                  I have two 30+, one mid-20s, and a couple of arthritics, so I understand the challenge.


                  • #10
                    My old girl stays out 24/7 with access to a run in. She's very arthritic and has numerous 'issues' and I've found that she does best outside with some movement. But we don't have mud, ice, or snow... We have a 6 acre pasture and they migrate around constantly so I know she's moving most of the time. If I put her in a stall she stocks up pretty bad.

                    It's going to depend on the weather where you are. if there is mud, snow, ice I'd keep him inside. Otherwise I'd let him be outside with access to a well bedded shed/stall, and just blanket as needed.


                    • #11
                      My arthritic older mare clearly did best when she was out 24/7 in the winter, blanketed as needed, and only in on the nights when the weather was extra nasty (cold and wet). She always came out a little stiff after being inside all night...I think she was happier and healthier being out. But every horse is different....let your guy tell you what is best for him.


                      • #12
                        fordtractor, you probably get more snow than we do, but temps are probably pretty close in how low they get. Our barn is set so horses are led in or out, no run in stalls. The horses are all pretty good friends, are used to the routine, inside to stalls or outside in groups. Those who get left in or out alone, worry and fret, so being kept alone doesn't work for them much. Just quiet and happy, following the daily routine they have known for years. They do lay down at night, have to brush off the bedding in the AM before turnout.

                        One other thing, is we keep the old horses shod with ice studs, so they always have good grip on the outside ground. Very little chance to slip or fall, with grip on their hooves. Old, arthritic horses DO NOT need to be falling down when the weather changes suddenly, ices up.

                        As already said, you have to manage each horse as an individual, with his own issues.

                        Our present "Old Mare" is going on 28, but sound, though she needs a nice warm up before putting her to work. Still gets used part of the time, she is the BEST partner for a green carriage horse, teaching them to extend or collect in a Pair. Can make the boys REACH to keep up with her strides. No arthritis or other issues beyond being having Cushings, with all the hair. She is kept in good weight, but is VERY attached to the other horses. She would work herself into trouble if kept out alone very long. She might be stiff a couple steps out of the stall, but is MUCH happier in the barn with the rest of them at night or days when the bugs and sun are irritating.


                        • #13
                          Mine has separate turnouts attached to there stalls. I also wonder how active a horse is at night though.


                          • #14
                            I have an OTTB that is also going to be 20 soon. I board so I have a choice of either 24/7 turnout with a shed -or- turnout during the day and stalled at night. I have put her on full time turnout and it worked out fine, but honestly, she was more miserable when it was buggy (July/August) than winter time. But, in the winter she REALLY likes to lay down on something soft. The BM doesn't want to "bed" the shed so my mare would end up laying on gravel. And, like others have said, I don't think they move around that much overnight--they tended to just stand over their respective hay piles.

                            So for this winter, I have her back on daytime turnout and stalled at night. I have not noticed any significant difference in her level of stiffness, etc. She is in regular, light work and still jumps occasionally. Pentosan has probably helped her more than anything. Ideally, I would love an option to have her out 24/7 most of the time, but have a stall for those really buggy summer days, and the really icy, stormy winter nights.

                            The other problem with full time turnout for oldies is they might not get their fair share of the food. If they are out with others that are more agressive, they may get pushed around and not be able to get the calories they need. It depends on their turnout buddies and the set up that your farm has for separating them during feeding. It's usually not an issue but if your older horse has trouble keeping their weight on--it's something to think about.


                            • #15
                              My two 30+ year olds tend to do far better in the winter than they do in the hot/buggy summer months. They are both arthritic, but move around very well for their old age and yucky looking Xrays They are on 24/7 turnout year round with deeply bedded stalls they can go in and out of as they please. I have never seen them lay down in their stalls, only outside. In the summer they lay down at night, and in the winter they lay down in the afternoons.


                              • #16
                                Right now the old guy is out 24/7 with a blanket and soon he'll have a proper stall but the intent is to let him choose in or out. I've had him penned before during snow or bad weather and I think he needs the option to move or starts to rust.
                                Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                Incredible Invisible


                                • #17
                                  Besides, even an old horse will try to leap and run when first turned out after an enforced stall period - much worse for them to do that and slip or strain something.
                                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                  Incredible Invisible


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                                    Goodhors, I am in South Bend, so probably not that much warmer than you and I was really surprised how much my old guy chose to move around at night (quite a bit given the snow trails he left). I could tell because he was the only one out, everyone else was up -- I just left his Dutch door open so he could go where he pleased, in or out. I left hay in the stall and out under the overhang, so he had all the options he wanted. From his bathroom habits, mine at least seemed to pretty consistently spend two poops a night in the stall and the rest meandering around from hay net to friend and back.
                                    That describes the activities of my old retired boy too. If the weather is really nasty (driving ice/rain) he stays under his overhang or in his stall and is pretty darn stiff when I get out there in the morning. Otherwise, even if it is snowing, he clearly wanders about his paddock at night. He prefers the big water trough so wanders there. He prefers to manure in a certain spot so wanders there.

                                    My old guy is not blanketed. He is a very easy keeper and grows a nice coat so I have not felt the need to blanket him.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by JB View Post
                                      IME you're going to have to see what works for that horse.
                                      Yep. My creaky old guys do best with blankets and minimal turnout (e.g. in a small paddock or not for long in a bigger field) when we lived up in the far north. And now that we're in the Gulf, I do like to turn them out naked when it's cool (e.g. 50 degrees) to allow them to move around a bit more, but I have to be really careful that they don't overdo it. My old guy with a gimp often times runs like a nut with the cold wind up his butt and really pays for it later.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Thank you all for the replies.
                                        I guess I'll take it day by day and see what he wants, although difficult to judge at present.
                                        It's been rather chilly here at night recently, this morning it was only 24F without windchill added in.
                                        He hangs around the gate for awhile when it gets dark and again in the morning as soon as it's light. Not sure if that means he'd rather come in or if it's because he sees my younger horse coming in and he remembers his previous routine.
                                        I've got a large shed with partitioning for him & his buddy so they don't have to argue over the hay and the shed is matted and bedded, but neither one will lay down in there. I can tell from the flattened grass every morning that both go lay down next to each other higher up the hill. Not sure why there, might be because they feel more secure up there overseeing it all, even though there's definitely a good bit of wind to be caught there .
                                        I'd feel better about them out at night if they'd go lay down in the shed, but that doesn't seem to interest them, even though they poop in the shed quite a bit, so they must be standing in it for a good time overnight, yet laying down outside.

                                        In snow or very wet weather, I will definitely bring them in. He's shod with ice pins & snowpads and in very good weight, not showing his age. He's on joint sups and NSAIDs from time to time when needed.
                                        I swap to warmer blankets at night, I'm not overly concerned about his bodywarmth so the speak, more the cold legs, knees & hocks if he lays down on the frozen ground.
                                        I wished I had a better idea how much he moves around, I have a suspicion it's not really worth it leaving him out for the little bit of exercise he gives himself, but I could be mistaken.
                                        He's very active with his buddy during daylight however, so he gets plenty of exercise.

                                        I've got him home, so I could bring him in later in the evening, to make the night shorter.
                                        I can't allow him free access to his actual stall at night, because he gets himself into trouble nosing around the barn and throwing everything on the floor, investigating electrical plugs, etc . Too inquisitive, lol.