4 Reasons Your Horse May Benefit From Winter Turnout

Written by: Jessica Konopinski

Published on: 01/17/2023

It’s officially the winter season and before you get stressed about handling horses in the colder climates and harsher conditions, we’re here to discuss how to make this winter the easiest one yet. Believe it or not, horses are generally not fazed by the winter conditions and can actually tolerate them a lot more successfully than we think. More often than not, horse owners can be doing more harm than good by decreasing their animals' turnout time in effort to keep them safe and warm.

While this is good in theory, we must remember that horses have a different thermoneutral zone than humans. [1] With this in mind, there are ways to conform to your horses' natural way of living by providing them with the benefits of winter turnout while also keeping them safe and happy.

Specifically, there are four main reasons you should consider keeping or increasing your horses winter turnout routine:

1. Air Quality

No matter what kind of shelter your horse lives in, whether it’s a traditional stall, a run- in shed, or a partially covered area, air quality matters. The best air quality available to your horse is - you guessed it- outdoors. Not only is the quality of air crucial for all horses, but especially those already experiencing respiratory issues.

If you're not too familiar with respiratory health in relation to horses, winter time serves as the perfect time to get educated. To put it simply, our horses are exposed to risk factors on a daily basis when it comes to their respiratory health especially if they are stabled indoors the majority of the time. [2]

Think about it. We’ve all stepped into a barn where the smell of ammonia completely takes over our senses. It does the same thing to our horses, but worse. Now add in other factors like mites, dust, and mold spores and you have yourself a lot of things to consider when it comes to your horse's health in the winter.

Is turning your horse inside for the winter a total risk? Not exactly, but making sure your horses stalls are getting mucked frequently and the barn is getting cleaned consistently while your horse is not in the vicinity is key. Improving the ventilation of your barn or facility can also be a great way to assure appropriate air quality moving forward. If you have a horse who already suffers from respiratory issues like asthma, this is especially important and further precautions should be put in place with the trusted advice of a veterinarian or equine professional.

2. Joint and Muscle Health

It's no question that turnout has been proven to improve a horse's joint health, muscle health, longevity, and overall well-being. Something to put into consideration in the winter season is the quality of turnout time. In other words, since the quality of forage in most areas tends to diminish in the winter, horses will most likely be standing in one place eating forage that has been fed to them rather than walking around grazing the pasture. This is something that can greatly affect all horses, but more commonly those suffering from arthritis or performance related soreness. [1]

A great way to ensure your horse is loosening up their stiff joints and getting enough movement in is to increase their turnout time in the winter to give them enough time to walk around after finishing their fed forage. To stay ahead of the game, you can also spread out their fed forage throughout the pasture to encourage movement.

3. Exercise

All horses need exercise, especially those who tend to be easy keepers. Winter time means colder climates which in turn, means increased fed forage. Horses naturally feed by grazing so when horses are turned inside and fed large amounts of feed and forage to make sure their nutritional needs are being met, the risk of colic increases greatly. Not to mention, when horses are turned inside for longer periods of time, they are not getting the movement they need to help support their digestion.

When horses who are easy keepers are put on increased stall time for the winter you can put them at risk for endocrine related health issues. On the flip side, if you have a horse who struggles to keep an ideal body condition, less turn out time can lead them to lose bone density. [2] Some ways to help prevent this from happening is to (of course) increase their turnout time or make sure your horse is getting enough exercise through riding, lunging, or hand walking. You can also incorporate feeding forage through a hay net or slow feeder to mimic the act of grazing.

4. Socialization

Horses are herd bound animals and while this can sometimes feel like an inconvenience to have our horse attached to their fellow pasture mate, it’s simply a part of their DNA. Not only does socialization improve the mood or our horses, but allows them to connect to their natural way of being. You may notice that your horse tends to have more behavioral issues in the winter season or that your horse is just “not themselves”.

Something to put into consideration is how much exposure they are getting to other horses and the quality of exposure. Increasing their socialization by turning them out with other horses or even stabling them closer or next to others can make a world of a difference.

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Equine


✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Follow us!

About the Author

Jessica is a brand consultant who brings awareness and intention to equestrian and pet platforms. As a former collegiate equestrian athlete and animal lover, Jessica leads with passion and experience through her writing and brand work for companies who advocate for creating a difference in their space. When she's not riding her horse or walking her dog (with iced coffee in hand), you can find her sharing her love for health and wellness with others and integrating these practices in her everyday work.