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24/7 turnout and the older horse?

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  • 24/7 turnout and the older horse?

    OK, I would appreciate hearing any and all views on how their horse did or did not like 24/7 turnout. My guy is in his upper teens and has only done half-day turnout for the last decade or so. I can't ride as often as I used to and I think he would really benefit from being able to move around at will. However, he is not used to being out in the bad winter weather. Do they adjust? Do you worry about them in snow and ice? TIA!

  • #2
    I'm in MD. My guys are always on 24/7 turnout from birth to death, even if they weren't when I bought them. I bring them in for long, cold (40 and below) rains, and ice and sleet. Usually not snow. They are not clipped and rarely is one blanketed. They have a shelter they can get under, but they don't.
    There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


    • #3
      I have two, one is a 22 y.o. gelding and he does fine with 24/7 turnout. I allow them to grow long coats and I do sheet ONLY when it rains and blanket when it is snowing (actively... an inch or two dusting does not count). The only time my guys wore their blankets last year was 4 days during a brutal cold snap, -17 at night and single digits during the day. Other than that, the old man does great and moves around way more than he would have cooped up in a stall. I check his weight regularly and for chill. They prefer to be out at night and will often stand in snow storms. I contribute his fluid movement to the constant exercise he gets.

      I do have stalls, but only use them to feed or lock them in for vet and farrier care. I locked them in once last winter for four hours during a ridiculous bout of freexing icey rain.
      Gone gaited....


      • #4
        Agreed. 24/7 is great for most horses; the constant movement and herd dynamics really change their life!
        Our herd has several senior citizens in it and they seem to do just fine!!
        Couple of things to look out for:

        1. Sufficient space -- we have a 20+ herd on 70 acres. Even 3 horses is too many in a tiny space. Well managed pasture will allow everyone room to have their cliques and so on without getting into undue scuffles. Obviously you don't need 70 acres, but do be wary of overcrowding.

        2. Shelter -- runin shed, tree line, etc. Especially important for the older guys

        3. Calories in winter. You want him a bit chubby in November so by March he has not dropped a lot of weight. We have some TBs that really need to be fed 2x a day in winter; most of our horses are easier keepers and do fine on 1x a day (plus plenty of round bales, of course!!). I learned the hard way that it is too late when they start looking skinny in January -- can't get much weight back on until the grass comes in.

        4. Protection from truly nasty weather. My guys grow a really good coat which I clip as little as possible (bib clip allows them to stay in work, even if I have to use the hair dryer). I have found that they are totally comfortable in the coldest, windiest weather Maryland can muster...but cold rain (40s, 30s) really makes them miserable. They get rain sheets for that, but once it drops below freezing, they are naked. Access to hay helps a lot with this!!
        The big man -- my lost prince

        The little brother, now my main man


        • #5
          Our retirees are all on 24/7 turnout with run-in sheds. They go in the sheds mostly for shade and to get out of the rain.
          It seems to take some horses longer than others to get used to it as opposed to being put in stalls, but they all do adjust.
          Everyone is happy, colics are extremely rare (knocking furiously on wood!) legs are always tight........ most horses thrive on turnnout!
          Equine Retirement at


          • #6
            When my Arab gelding reached his early-mid twenties, I switched him to 24/7 turnout. He got to the point where he looked decent after being out all day, but was very stiff in the mornings. Being out all the time worked wonderfully for him. He did have access to a large run-in all the time, and was very good about using it when he felt the need.
            "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
            -Edward Hoagland


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the info! This sounds encouraging. One thing I am noticing, many of you like to have stalls in case of the icky icy rain/sleet stuff for prolonged periods. That sounds pretty reasonable to me and does address some of the concerns I had about really gross days or nights.


              • #8
                All of mine are on 24/7 turnout. The old mare would often choose to hang out in her stall for a few hours (I usually give them the option and leave the stalls open) in the afternoon and I know they often will go in to sleep if the weather is bad. But mostly they are out. Gwennie used to stock up behind if she were kept in a stall, but that never happened after I moved them all here and kept them out.
                Click here before you buy.


                • #9
                  My TB gelding went from only about 2 hours turnout a day, for 15 years, to 24x7 turnout with a few months acclimation.

                  At first, after a couple of hours he was standing by the gate. Then he'd come to the gate when he saw me. Then I'd have to go get him THEN when the only time in was breakfast/dinner, he'd be standing right at his door waiting to go back out. He loved it.
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    I prefer to keep mine out as much as possible. The older ones get too stiff and the younger ones are easier (most of the time) to work with. Colic risk does seem to decrease as long as they have plenty of water at a drinkable temp. I put the tank heater in the first morning that I really need a coat. My horses love their shed, but in really icky weather the less dominant ones come in the barn so there is no chance of being left out in the wet or wind. The spoiled brats also get blankets. It costs to much to feed them and then burn those precious calories keeping warm. Plus, they stay cleaner for the occasional ride.
                    Just cause you move to Texas, doesn't mean you are a Texan. After all, if a cat puts her kittens in the oven, It doesn't make them Bisquits.


                    • #11
                      All mine are out 24x7, and I don't have stalls -- but we don't get snow or ice here, and it freezes *maybe* 2-3 nights in a winter. Shelter from the rain matters, though -- the 27yo mare doesn't seem to care, but the 28yo stallion will be under his shelter looking smug in any heavy wind or rain.
                      Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
                      No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.


                      • #12
                        My 20 yo mare has been out 24x7 for the past 5 years -- She always has access to at least 1 run-in shed during bad weather, but I've never seen her go inside unless flies are bothering her --

                        Tried to keep her in a stall overnight a few years ago while waiting for the vet to develop x-rays when she was kicked in the leg -- She wanted no part of it ... even after a tube of quietex and putting a herdmate in the next stall -- So, I turned her out, and she settled down --

                        I suspect it would take a sedative to keep her in a stall now -- Considering how often she stood calling at the gate to come in when she was stall boarded, I am really amazed by the way she insists on staying out now --

                        I don't clip her -- She seems to prefer being naked, but I worry about rain rot so will use a sheet/blanket in bad weather --

                        I absolutely love her Shire's stormcheeta blanket -- 2000 denier, 400 g polyfill, waterproof, breathable, and has an attached neck cover -- She'll stay outside in a freezing rain storm with that with icicles hanging from the blanket and stays warm and dry -- Having checked on her in that blanket several times, I no longer worry about her on miserable nights --
                        "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


                        • #13
                          I'm in MD and we have a 23 year old gelding boarded that is out 24/7 and HAS to be. He is a mess, if he is in the stall for even in hour he gets so stiff he can hardly walk. The winter is a challenge, we keep him rather heavily blanketed despite having a crazy thick coat b/c the warmer he is the less stiff he is.

                          It's not an ideal situation for him, IMHO (he needs a nice big FLAT pasture) - we have crazy hills, rocks, etc but he wouldn't be able to move if he was standing around all day.
                          Celtic Pride Farm
                          Become a fan on Facebook!


                          • #14
                            I've kept mine out 24/7 for several years, mostly because I had an older QH gelding that hated being in. He would throw an absolute fit. We recently moved my Mexican Mustang gelding and my TWH gelding to full care. We are moving them back to being out 24/7 with access to a shed. They thrived being out all the time and are not doing well in a full care situation 12 hours in/12 hours out with a herd of 9. They have access to a shed, 24/7 access to grass/hay and water. I blanket if it's wet and/or windy or really cold.


                            • #15
                              As long as they have shelter, staying ou as much a possible is ideal.

                              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                              • #16
                                Honestly, I prefer 24/7 turnout for horses of all ages provided that they are in good health and have shelter or are blanketed if they are unable to maintain their body temp in the wet/cold months.

                                The benefits: less respiratory issues, more movement is good especially for arthritic horses or horses prone to stocking up.

                                That said, a horse that has become accustomed to being stalled for most of his/her life may not appreciate it too much! I have one mare who has spent the majority of her life out 24/7. In the last few years, she's required blanketing in the winter (quit growing a proper coat after she was sick with Potomac). My other mare was a stall baby and hates any kind of bad weather and bugs.
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                • #17
                                  Both my horses are out on pasture 24/7 with access to very good shelter. One of my horses is 24. He does much better on turnout and really does not appreciate being in a stall. He is boarded, so we have stalls if he ever gets injured or something and needs one, but I have yet to run into a situation wehre he has need to come in, and I am in Colorado. If it gets super cold I will blanket him, but he isn't clipped and turns into a furball very nicely in the inwter and loves the cool weather. If he decides it is too warm for his blanket he does his best to get it off, so I try to only put it on if he actually needs it

                                  So, if you have a good facility with good fencing and good shelters in the pastures it can be a wonderful thing for the older horses as it allows them more natural eating habits and freedom of movement to ward of stiffness. My thoughts fwiw.
                                  My blog:



                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Janet View Post
                                    As long as they have shelter, staying ou as much a possible is ideal.
                                    Ditto! Both my guys (26 y.o. and 9 y.o.) are out 24/7 and LOVE it. Both do excellent.
                                    View my photographs at www.horsephotoguy.zenfolio.com


                                    • #19
                                      Herd Dynamics

                                      [QUOTE=asterix;4362822]Agreed. 24/7 is great for most horses; the constant movement and herd dynamics really change their life!

                                      Hey Asterix
                                      Look for some interesting herd dynamics starting Friday a.m.
                                      Clash of the Titans?


                                      • #20
                                        My 18 year old gelding lives out 24/7 with a run-in and individual turnout. Last winter was the first time I didn't use his stall in the main barn at all and it also happened to be a very harsh CT winter. The only reason I was able to get away with keeping him out 100% of the time was due to good winter shoeing (small ice studs/snow pads), a heated water bucket and I invested in a variety of good blankets as well as a few neck covers. The neck cover used with a heavyweight waterproof turnout blanket kept him warm and dry in even the most wet of weather. Prior to using the neck covers water or snow would often get down the front of his blanket, not with the neck cover, he stays 100% dry. We had a few nights with uber high winds and below zero temps. I layered a medium weight stable blanket under his med. weight turnout aded the neck cover and fed extra hay. I also make sure his run-in is deeply bedded so he has somewhere to lie down. He stayed totally warm, dry and happy outside all winter!! Now he's boarded outside 24/7 with a run-in and doesn't have a stall in the barn but I'm not really worried about it since he did so great last winter.