The Importance of Turnout for Your Horse

Horse galloping in grass

In their pastures, horses are the healthiest and happiest. There are several reasons why your should spend as much time as possible outside. Although many horses may seek shelter in a stable during inclement weather, it is critical that they spend as much time as possible outside.

Sometimes keeping your horse confined in a stall is necessary, such as when a veterinarian prescribes stall rest. Other than that, turnout is crucial to your horse’s health and well-being.

What Is Turnout?

The process of moving a horse from its stall to a designated pasture or field is known as turnout. Regularly turning out your horses assists them to maintain their health by providing them with exercise, play, and social connection with other horses.

Hoof Health

Blood circulation is important for foot health, and horses in stalls may not get enough activity. Standing in unclean bedding with manure and urine can cause thrush and white line disease in the foot.

If horses are left in stalls for lengthy periods of time, especially if the bedding is moist, hoof growth and strength may be impaired. Natural hoof development is aided by exercise.

Leg Health

Stall-bound horses may develop stocked up legs, which is a swelling of the legs, generally below the knee joints. It appears on all four legs and disappears when the horse is allowed to walk around (which is how you tell if the edema is caused by stocking or an injury).

Leg injuries occur when horses that are upset with their stall walls or feeders kick them. By pawing and wearing their feet unevenly, impatient horses can injure their front legs.


Horses are clever herd animals that will get restless and bored if kept inside for lengthy periods of time. A horse can amuse itself by chewing on the stall walls. is a stress-relieving action in which a horse rests its upper incisors on an upright item like a fence post or stall door and arches its neck while breathing. The horse may stall walk around the perimeter of its enclosure, an obsessive-compulsive behavior that can lead to additional health issues (a horse that stall walks continually isn't eating or relaxing).

While not all of these so-called "vices" are solely caused by stabling, keeping a horse indoors where it will be bored and unable to expend energy can exacerbate any bad habits the horse may have.


Herd animals, horses are. Separating horses in stalls where they cannot see or interact with one another may be quite distressing. Outdoor grazing is beneficial for your horses' mental health, even if they are kept in different paddocks but may still see each other. It's much better if you can run or trot with other horses.

Digestive Health

Horses who live outside had fewer occurrences of colic than those who are confined to stalls. Stalled horses may be more prone to colic, according to a University of Nottingham study, because lack of movement reduces gastrointestinal motility, resulting in impaction colic, which is comparable to low motility concerns in people.

Horses that are allowed to wander freely outside are less likely to suffer colic than stabled horses. Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS), a painful gastrointestinal illness, may be caused by the same decreased motility that causes impaction colic in stabled horses. The mental strain of being kept steady for lengthy periods of time might possibly be a factor.

Respiratory Health

Ammonia fumes can harm your horse's airway when dung, bedding, and urine breakdown (a process that takes remarkably little time). Ammonia is corrosive and can raise your horse's risk of pneumonia or recurring respiratory blockage, in addition to being unpleasant to smell (RAO). Dust can also put your horse at risk for chronic inflammatory airway illness.

Even in a well-ventilated barn, stale air can cause problems. Horses breathe easier outdoors.


Stall-bound, active horses may not only acquire problematic vices, but they may also misbehave as they seek inventive methods to expend extra energy. Horses may lash out at stall walls, snap at passers-by, or gnaw or bite anything within reach.

An active, bored horse may try to bite its handler, paw and kick out while tethered, or have difficulty standing still to be groomed or saddled when being handled.

When it's time to ride, you can notice your horse pushing, bucking, or being unresponsive to your orders. Horses who are allowed to wander freely outside are more calm and have less stored energy, making them easier to manage and ride.

Weather and health issues can make the stable the best place for your horse sometimes. But allow your horse as much turnout time as possible.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.