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Longest Your Horses Have Gone Without Turnout

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  • Longest Your Horses Have Gone Without Turnout

    Out of curiosity, other than for an injury requiring stall rest, what is the longest any of your horses have been kept inside at a stretch? As in, kept in due to weather conditions, ground conditions...that sort of thing.

    Also, for those of you who turn out regardless of weather, mud, ice, etc., have your horses sustained injuries as a result of the turnout conditions?

    Finally, for those of you who do not turn out in mud, ice, rain, snow, etc. and therefore end up with horses kept inside for long periods of time, do you believe your horses have sustained injuries or suffered unsoundnesses (mental or physical) as a result of the lack of turnout?

  • #2
    I remember a couple years ago we had really bad ice and it was down right dangerous for the horses to go out. I think they were in for about a week or maybe more. They took it fine, but most of them are retired show horses and they are used to being in a stall a lot. I had a couple younger ones and it was a little more difficult for them. I do have one very small paddock right off the barn so I worked to make that safe first (breaking up the ice) so I had something! Mine are in at night and out all day depending on weather. Some of the old guys seem to really enjoy staying in on rain days!


    • #3
      Since I had horses for about 20 years straight and never turned them out as there was no turnout available (So Cal and So Tex)? And know there are many barns in Europe and other continents where they do not have turn out? Can't say that there is a direct connection between lack of turnout and injury/unsoundnes in a properly managed animal

      When I moved East where there was turnout, I saw more injuries from pasture play, fence encounters, twisting legs, trip and fall, and snow over ice and rough ground then in stall bound horses kept in regular work including handwalking daily in addition to schooling/hacking. The ONLY serious leg injuries mine ever had were one suspensory in an icy field and a DDFT when out 12 hrs a day one fine late spring day on dry ground. And there was one compound fracture on a friends that lived out.

      I have seen those in regular work suddenly having to stop and be confined to the stall. Those did risk further injury so were medicated during the strict stall rest period.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


      • #4
        The only time we kept in was from ice, but it was never more than 2 or 3 days. I've never seen any injuries directly related from any other weather conditions.
        Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
        My equine soulmate
        Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


        • #5
          Up to about a week and a half to two weeks due to either weather or horse showing.

          Not ideal, but everyone survived.


          • #6
            Up to three weeks for bad footing/weather. Never had a problem because of that.

            I have had an abscess and a heel bruise from shoes pulled in bad turnout footing.


            • #7
              My ponies at home do not go out over the winter, other than some exceptions, being: no snow (won't turn out in show - you never know what's under there), no ice, ground is not too hard, no mud. Living in New York, days like this during the winter and surrounding weeks rarely ever happen.
              I also won't turn out in any other season in mud.
              None of them seem to mind. On the days that they do go out, I put them out in the AM after they eat, and let them stay out as long as they like. As of right now, they haven't been out for around 5 weeks. They're hayed multiple times a day, fed grain 3x a day, and given supplements to make up for the lack of grass.

              I have another horse (who we board) who hasn't been out in 4-5 months, and was probably kept in for over a year before I got him. When I bought him, we worked on turnout, but he just doesn't like it. Unless the conditions are pristine, he WILL run through or jump a fence in order to get back to the barn. So if it's too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too muggy, too buggy, too rainy, too foggy, etc. he isn't happy being out. Since I've owned him, I can only remember one day that he was happy to be out, and stayed quiet in his pasture for 3-4 hours. IMO there's no sense risking him getting hurt outside, when he'd obviously rather be in the barn.

              I have never had any injuries directly related to keeping my horses in, but have seen way too many happen outside for me to take the chance unless conditions are 100%.
              "It's hard to wait for something you know might not happen, but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want."
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              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by findeight View Post
                Can't say that there is a direct connection between lack of turnout and injury/unsoundnes in a properly managed animal.
                Findeight - when you say there was no turnout in So Cal, etc., do you mean no "real" turnout (as in, not out in big fields), or do you mean the horses were never out of their stalls except for when attached to a leadline, lungeline, or being ridden? No small outdoor dry lot or anything?

                Also, regarding the part of your post that I quoted above, I do think that being confined to a stall is really hard on their stifles and hind end generally (even with hand walking, and even when in full work). At least, I really noticed that with my horse when I was rehabbing him from a suspensory injury (9 months of no turnout). I think that sort of ruined his hind end in general, to be honest with you. He's never been the same behind since, and the suspensory injury was in the front.

                Mine also goes completely NUTS in the stall (rearing, bucking, pawing), even when in full work (and behaving great while ridden) when kept with no turnout of any kind at all for long periods. Turning him out for even a half hour a day, even in a rehab sized paddock, seems to "fix" him mentally. Hand grazing also goes a long way, but he will still screw around bucking and rearing in his stall to the point that I worry a lot about him injuring himself in the stall.

                Thanks for your input (and thanks to others who have responded so far)...it's something I have been thinking a lot about lately. There is obviously a chance that they can get injured either way...as you said, you had one with a tendon injury on dry ground with 12 hours of turnout a day. I know of plenty that get hurt while being ridden, sometimes engaging in antics related to not having been turned out, sometimes doing nothing out of the ordinary at all.

                I can see a lot of real risks with ice, for sure. Have known a few that had to be put down after slipping on ice. Especially curious about people's experiences with mud...


                • #9
                  My horses live out 24/7, but have access to a large tractor barn if they want to get shelter. (or at past barns, have had access to at least a small run-in).

                  They are never stalled for weather. In winter, if it's freezing/snowing/raining/super windy, they get the appropriate blanket. In summer, if it's super hot, I hose them and put fans up for them.

                  I put mine in for a few nights when they had scratches and I wanted to wrap them. One ended up very stocked up. That cant be good for em.

                  In 20 years of horse ownership, I've never once had an injury in turnout. (i've seen boarders, BO's, BM's etc have horses injured in turnout AFTER they've been stalled for long-ish periods of time).

                  K, im gonna go knock on wood now.....
                  Last edited by AliCat518; Mar. 14, 2012, 01:23 PM. Reason: adding on
                  Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
                  White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

                  Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by AliCat518 View Post
                    (i've seen boarders, BO's, BM's etc have horses injured in turnout AFTER they've been stalled for long-ish periods of time).
                    This is the part that scares me. If horses stay in for long periods of time and then go out, I feel like it is similar to lighting their tails on fire and telling them to have at it. When mine came off of the 9 months of no turnout, we were very careful reintroducing him to being out again. I always rode him before he went out, we waited until the footing was perfect, he went out in a small space, and he was sedated the first few times back out. If they are kept in for long periods and then go out again without all of the aforementioned precautions...that terrifies me. A lot.


                    • #11
                      Horse is out as much as he likes - Gets brought in when weather is nasty at night. The longest he's been in is a couple of days.

                      We turn out in snow, rain, heat, wind, etc. They are used to the elements and therefore do not act silly. Even in snow, they will usually walk carefully to the nearest hay pile.

                      I've never had an injury for turn-out, knock on wood. Most turn-out injuries seem to happen when turning out after a long time being confined to a stall.

                      Evolution has created horses that are used to moving all day. Although I have no problem with stalling, I feel my horse is happier and healthier when he is allowed to be turned out. It gives him a break from work.

                      Plus.. standing in a 12x12 or 12 x14 box for days on end has got to be boring..


                      • Original Poster

                        Oh, and just FYI, I posted this in the H/J forum because I'm specifically interested in turnout practices for H/J horses (though will take input from anyone interested in giving it! ).


                        • #13
                          The horses I've ridden have always had ample turnout, and turnout is one if the single biggest factors when I decide where to board my mare. As such, I can't really comment on the advantages/disadvantages to having a horse inside... except to say that I've never witnessed anything more than a minor injury in a horse directly related to turn out - and those minor injuries are usually inflicted by herd mates (*knock wood*).

                          However I WILL say that I've seen some unfortunate injuries when it comes to foals who do not receive any/sufficient turn out. With the babies not being able to get outside, stretch their legs, and really use and develop themselves properly, I've seen some sad injuries where they just don't stand up to the work of a riding horse, and their under saddle career is over before they even get into double digits.


                          • #14
                            Usually there are a few times each winter where the horses stay in for a few days. All the horses get some time in the arena though, plus riding.

                            I have seen horses fall in bad footing and sustain injuries so I dont like to risk it. plus, my horse just stands at the gate waiting to come back inside whenever we have bad weather anyways so I dont feel bad for keeping her in her box.


                            • #15
                              My horse lives out 24/7 with a run-in barn type shelter to go into if he wants. The only time he's inside would be at a show.

                              Like AliCat, blankets when it's cold, etc.

                              The worst turnout injury he's had was a nasty scrape on his leg that healed up quickly.


                              • #16
                                when you say there was no turnout in So Cal, etc., do you mean no "real" turnout (as in, not out in big fields), or do you mean the horses were never out of their stalls except for when attached to a leadline, lungeline, or being ridden? No small outdoor dry lot or anything?
                                I'm not findeight...but lots of barns in congested areas, urban areas, etc have different stalls than other places. Common is 12x24...half of that with a roof, sometimes walls and the other half open-air. So not really what other areas would term small turnout, but it's much larger than just a stall. These types of places often have day-care type arrangements where someone takes the horse out for a short turnout in a larger area or longe it, etc.

                                If you're compiling info on turnout for any reason, having the location and type of area of each post might be a big help. And also what each persons' normal turnout amount is. And home vs boarding.

                                I'm in CT. We have a little of all kinds of turnout, from double stalls like in CA to 24/7 to everything in between. Dry turnouts and grass turnouts depending on area and age of property. (older places more often have more grass due it taking a long while and costing a whole lot to turn heavy woods into open fields, LOL)

                                The most my horses have been in has been 48 hours. Due to a very heavy sheet of ice covering the entire turnout. That was unusual as heck for me because although we get ice on a regular basis, I just break it up with the tractor and then turn out. We don't normally have weather where the weather itself lasts more than 24-36 hours. Even Nor'Easters blow out by then. That one time the sheet of ice didn't break even if hit with the tractor bucket. Weight of tractor didn't do squat. Took a couple days of sun to soften it enough for the tractor to smash it up and scrape it off.

                                My horses are home, I normally turn them out all daylight hours and in at dark. In bad/nasty weather I let the horses decide...I turn them out and put some hay outside and if they come back in and stand in front of the stalls I let them back in.

                                When I boarded, the last place the owner would turn them out pair by pair (same pair that shared turnouts together) into the riding ring so they could blow off some steam while he cleaned the stalls. Each pair got left out 30 minutes each. The place before that didn't turn out of the grass paddocks were soft, but he'd clean the stalls multiple times per day and after a couple days would turn them out one by one in a small dirt paddock for a short while.

                                Over the years I've known horses who've gotten injured in turn out and in stalls. Sometimes from too much of one or the other, mostly because horses are accident prone animals that can cause themselves catastrophic injury on a pillow. We love them and think them noble...but in reality they're not the brightest bulb in the box. Mother Nature intended them as food, not longevity. She gave them speed, not brains.
                                You jump in the saddle,
                                Hold onto the bridle!
                                Jump in the line!


                                • #17
                                  At my barn (which is entry level dressage, hunter and jumper) the horses mostly live outside, but the inside horses go out regardless of the weather. If it gets icey out, I make sure the more active ones get to come in to play in the arena a bit as they tend not to want to run outside.

                                  Previous barn wouldn't turn out if it was wet and would ruin the grass. Horses did get nutty when finally back out, but one nice thing is the horses had a pretty long walk to the turn out, so they were at least "warmed up" by the time they got let loose.

                                  Friends who ride at a BNT's barn have small pens for turn out and the "good" horses go out rarely and only for short periods when the weather is nice and the footing dry. The manager finds the horses do hurt themselves more when they are turned out, and would rather just have staff longe or hand walk them. I don't think mental soundness is taken into account, and I imagine a horse is more likely to hurt itself trying to play in a 50foot pen than in a larger area.
                                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                  • #18
                                    Currently, my horse goes out every day unless there is lightning or a blizzard. Seriously, her t/o instructions say just that It's about 9 hours/day of turnout in the fall/winter/spring, and in the summer when they switch to night turnout it's about 12 hours of turnout. I am a BIG fan of turnout for the horse's well being, but we have huge beautiful pastures that tend to not get too torn up when it's wet, and there is a large run-in for protection if the horses actually decide to go in there. The horses here are generally healthy, sane, and sound!

                                    The barn I boarded at previously kept horses in whenever the weather was the tiniest bit inclement...i.e. a single drop of rain, too much wind, temperatures below 35, etc., so it was not unusual for my horse to go 5 days without turnout. This barn also used small, small, small paddocks from late fall to mid spring so that the grass in the fields wouldn't get torn up. Needless to say, the paddocks were atrocious, overcrowded, mud pits and the horses just stood at the gates. For my horse personally (an OTTB), the injury she sustained from it was a result of having too much energy from lack of adequate turnout- I had to longe her forever to get the yahoos out before I got on, so she ended up with a soft tissue injury. I didn't stick around long enough to find out what other injuries could occur!

                                    The barn I boarded at when I was younger and had a nice horse with a show career had very limited turnout, and most horses did not go out every day. Priority was given to the owner's horses, then preferred boarders, then other boarders, then lesson horses. I knew this going in and still moved my horse there for the level of instruction and other amenities. My horse was a "preferred boarder" and went out on average about 3-4 hours every other day (occasionally back to back days) in pleasant weather only, when not away at a show. He ended up with ringbone and navicular at age 9 (4 years later). To this day, horses at that barn are plagued with suspensory issues, navicular problems, and lots of colic. It could just be because they are working harder and showing regularly, but I suspect the lack of turnout has a lot to do with it.


                                    • #19
                                      The longest stretch at my current barn was 3 days because there was ice on the drive that led to the pastures. Even then, every horse was handwalked twice a day, for 20 mins to stretch.

                                      I think horses that are used to being turned out are fine, and horses that are used to being in for long stretches are fine. Horses like routines, and once the figure out their routine, most settle in to it well. I think it's when they're schedule gets disrupted (ie in for 5-10 days when they've been out for 12 hours a day for a few months) is when problems start. I've known quite a few horses to be let out after an unusualy long period in who have been complete idiots and hurt themselves. Again 'unusualy long' is relative term.


                                      • #20
                                        Usually the longest is less than a week although there have been a couple 2 week stretches (horse shows) over the years.

                                        The horse shows are less of an issue, because if mine is staying the entire two weeks it's probably because he is doing the pro and ammy divisions. If it was just one or the other, I'd bring him home and if they are doing both and getting all the hacking, exercise, showing at a show, turn out when they get home isn't much of an issue. The moment of "oh god please don't break/tear anything!" is usually reserved for that first turnout after 3-4 days winter storms + cold weather + horse that hasn't even been ridden (see weather issue).

                                        However in all the years I've been dealing with that plus "crazy TBs" I have either been very lucky or much more likely (as I am not that lucky), a horse that gets regular turnout is more capable of dealing with turnout rambunctiousness than one who is intermittently turned out or bought in as soon as he starts playing.

                                        I also think there is a lot to be said for the flexibility and "stretchiness" of soft tissues in a horse that spends a lot of time out. Just like any one of us, we know there is a point where we stop stretching soft tissues and start tearing them. That point is a lot sooner if you sit at a PC all day then get up and run around the block without warming up. It's kind of a no duh moment that the person who spends all day walking and moving can do that same running around the block and be far less likely to come back limping. But somehow we don't see that a horse who lives the same couch potato existence - standing in a stall 20 hours, turned out for 3 hours and ridden for 1 hour (if it's a really hard work day) is no where near as flexible as the horse who is turned out for 8/12/24 hours just walking even if he isn't ridden an hour a day (caveat - there are some upper level stalled horses that do not get turnout but have an entirely different work program than our not upper level horses and this logic probably doesn't apply to that situation).
                                        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.