If you are buying your first horse, you will have to choose whether you should keep your horse in a stall or a pasture. The topic is debatable, with a list of pros and cons for stalling a horse and pasturing a horse. Without outside input, it is best to think about your horse and ask yourself these three questions.
What is the lifestyle of my horse?
Horses need exercise. Whether kept in a stall or in pasture. Bone density increases the more a horse is moving. How often do you ride? If the horse is going to be worked most days out of the week, stalling is acceptable. However, if not, the horse needs pasture to be able to stretch their legs. Keeping a horse stalled without any exercise or turnout can lead to stiffness. If a young horse is stalled for too long without any turnout, riding sessions could easily turn into a rodeo.
The natural mentality of a horse is that of a herd animal. Keeping a horse confined to a stall without any turnout or socialization can lead to negative behavioral effects such as cribbing. Basically, a continually stalled horse becomes bored. On the other hand, being pastured for too long can result in a herd-bound horse that has anxiety when it’s alone.
If your horse will be exercised or shown on a regular basis, stalling is acceptable with a turnout at some point during the day. If the horse is only being worked once or twice a week, pasture will be in their best interest.
How healthy is my horse?
If your equine companion fits the moto, “as healthy as a horse,” stalling or pasture housing is acceptable. One reason a horse is kept in confinement is to keep them from becoming injured. If a horse does injure themselves in a pasture, it is in their best interest to be in a stall, especially if lame.
Horses with respiratory infections should be housed outside due to decreased airflow in a barn. Horses are more likely to inhale dust particles from bedding and hay that irritate the lungs when kept in a stall.
Gastro-intestinal health also needs to be taken into consideration. Horses are more prone to colic when stalled because of the confinement. Horses on pasture forage as they please and exercise increases intestinal mobility, thus a decrease in possible colic.
How much time do I have devoted to my horse?
There’s never enough time in the day, but realistically, how much time can you set aside for the well-being of your horse? If you can spend a couple hours a day with your horse, stalling or pasturing would be fine. If you are on a tighter daily schedule, you probably don’t want to spend half an hour trying to catch your horse out of the pasture. Stalling would be a better option for those who work their horses daily and can give an adequate amount of exercise. However, if the horse is only being worked a couple times a week or only on weekends, they should be pasture housed, so they can stretch their legs.
The stall vs pasture debate will continue. Asking yourself about your horse’s lifestyle, health, and the time you can give will help you reach the housing decision that is in the best interest of your horse.
About the Author
Dani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.
Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.