The debate to keep horses in stalls or let them live outside is a fierce one among horse owners and caretakers. While many studies show the health benefits of keeping horses on grass as much as possible (increased joint and digestive health being two main points), there are some potential issues with this lifestyle, including the possibility for metabolic troubles from too much grass.
It has been shown that most horses would prefer to be outside, with access to shelter, the majority of the time—even when it's cold outside and humans are reaching for sweaters and coats.
Horses kept in stalls can have:
- Slowed metabolism
- Reduced gastrointestinal motility (potentially leading to colic)
- Limited circulation
- Stunted development of cartilage in growing horses
- Increased stress and presentation of stereotypies such as weaving or stall walking
- Decreased bone density
- Increased chance of respiratory issues from bedding, dusty hay and inadequate ventilation
However, there are some instances where stalling a horse is beneficial. These include:
- When a horse need to be kept off pasture because of grass growth or first frost when sugars are high
- When conditions are icy and a horse may slip and fall
- If a horse is injured and needs to be restrained from exuberant movement
- If a horse is at the bottom of the pecking order and may not receive adequate hay or grain
Read more at the Naturally Healthy Horse.
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