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Is your horse stabled all winter with no turnout?

by Jane Smith 10 days ago in horse
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Then it's time for you to make a big change.

Is your horse stabled all winter with no turnout?
Photo by Philippe Oursel on Unsplash

It might be a shock to some people to find out that their horse is waterproof.

I know that it is not quite that simple if your horse is clipped, old or ill. But generally speaking, your horse will not die if it goes out into the field in the rain, snow, mud, or wind.

It seems to have become the norm in England for some reason. No winter turnout. When did it become acceptable to lock up a grazing animal in a 12' x 12' box for generally 23 hours a day, for months at a time?

And yes, you could argue that they get exercised daily. But answer this. Would you walk your dog for an hour and then lock it in a crate for 23 hours? If the answer is no, then why do you do it to your horse?

People wonder why their horses are miserable and have vices such as biting, cribbing, kicking the stable door, box walking, and much more. It is because your poor horse, which should be living on a grassy hill somewhere, is locked in a small box with very little to do other than pull at its haynet. Until that runs out too, it then has hours to wait until you get there to fill it again.

This is not how horses should live. People do understand that don't they? Why is this happening?

Well, there seem to be a few roots to this issue. Here are a couple I have noticed.


This is a massive issue at the moment. Some, not all, people that show their horses or ponies will not turn them out in the winter. At all. Because of a fear of them getting dirty? Or is it too much effort to clean them so you would rather cause mental and physical issues for the horse?

But hey, worth it for that £1 rosette eh?

Livery Yards

Another big one is livery yards with no winter turnout. First of all, how is this even allowed? Second of all, how the hell have they got any customers? Why on earth would you be on a yard that forces your horse to basically live in a prison cell for months on end? This is a welfare issue and any livery yards that do not offer winter turnout should not exist.

There are chances for injury in the winter, slippy fields, puled shoes, mud fever etc. But these are nothing compared to the mental and physical issues of keeping them stabled for long periods of time.

Issues such as coughs and inflamed airways, thrush, colic, compaction colic, especially if they eat their bedding, behavioural issues, reduced lower intestinal motility, stiffening of the joints, tying up, muscle disorders, and much more.

Then of course there is the fact that they are pack animals. Horses naturally live in a herd and for their mental wellbeing, they need to be with other horses, grooming, socialising, playing and more. Seeing another horse through a stable door does not quite have the same effect.

Especially for young horses, who learn their place in the world in a herd, you will notice more behavioural problems and they need to be out moving around more to strengthen the muscles in their legs and core.

There isn't a need to turn your horses out 24/7, although this is always preferable, if not always feasible.

But a minimum of a day out, even just in the daylight hours should be for all horses. Yards should not be allowed to not offer any turnout at all, as this is becoming a huge welfare issue in the UK.

Rugs, shelters, track systems, strip grazing and alternate turnout times are all solutions for the turnout issue.

If you are worried about mud, or your fields getting too trashed, or not being able to cope with it all, then ask yourself, why have you got horses in the first place?

Because if your first answer isn't to have their welfare at the forefront of your mind in every decision, then please, sell them.


About the author

Jane Smith

I'm a horsewoman who is angry about everything that is wrong with the horse world in the UK.

I am the woman who is not afraid to say what she thinks, and I'm not going to stop until the world is a better place for horses.

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  • Chuck Mintzlaff10 days ago

    Excellent article Jane!! I too have been in a bitter battle for the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of horses for many, many years. Please contact me [email protected] I'm fairly certain you will find these videos of great interest. Don't hand feed your horse? Stallions

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