While turning a horse out with his friends in a pasture can make some owners anxious, it's important for a horse's physical and mental health. There are some management methods that can be used to ensure he is as safe as possible while turned out with a herd.
Turnout is beneficial for horses because it aids in circulation, muscle tone and joint lubrication, cartilage development and maintenance. It also improves bone density and stimulates hoof growth; turnout can also help with intestinal motility and allows for a sense of calm when a horse can hang out with his friends and move around at will.
While these are all wonderful things, a horse could also be injured by kicks, bites or lacerations while on pasture. He could have a tendon or ligament injury, or even break a bone from playing too roughly in the field. A horse's coat may also become sun bleached and he may have limited access to food if he does not have a dominant personality.
To ensure a horse is as safe as possible during turnout, it's important to be sure that fencing and gates are sturdy and secure. T-posts should be capped and a strand of electric can help keep horses from testing the fence's strength. Horses should be fenced away from trees and other vegetation, especially if it is toxic.
Always walk a horse around the perimeter of a new field and show him where the water and hay are located. Also be sure to show him anything that might surprise him.
Spreading out hay in multiple locations can reduce the competition for food; run-in sheds should be large enough that all horses can get in and out easily.
Regular turnout is beneficial for the mental and physical health of horses, making them more easy-going and quieter under saddle. The benefits far outweigh the possible issues.
Read more at Horse Illustrated.
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