Turnout 101: Keeping Your Horse Healthy, Happy and Safe

Written by: Jessica Konopinski

Published on: 11/07/2023

One of the more controversial topics in the horse world, turnout seems to be one of those subject matters that not all horse owners can agree on. Why is this so? Put simply, everyone has a different approach to their horse's particular lifestyle needs.. For example, someone whose horses are retired and ridden minimally may have their horses turned out 24/7. On the flip side, someone who actively competes on their horses may only turn out their horses for a few hours of the day to make riding, post-care and rest a priority.

In addition to a horse's lifestyle needs, weather is an important component in determining a horse's turnout schedule. Not sure how to measure exactly how much turnout time your horse should be getting? Look no further. We’ve gone ahead and laid out exactly what considerations to take in order to decide a turnout plan that keeps your horse healthy, happy and safe all year round.

The More Turnout the Better

Proven time and time again, the more turnout a horse receives, the better. Think of it like this. Horses are grazing animals meaning they are built to roam the land feeding off of natural forages. No matter what type of lifestyle your horse lives, the more you can mimic their most natural state of being is going to be most beneficial for your horse and in turn, more beneficial for you. Let’s go ahead and break down all of the specific benefits that increased turnout can offer your horse.

Turnout for Respiratory Health

When a horse is inside they are exposed to irritants such as mold, dust, mites and ammonia from urine. [2] If a horse is turned inside for prolonged periods of time these irritants can begin to aggravate the horse and begin to have negative effects on a horse's respiratory health.

Especially if you have a horse who already suffers from a respiratory problem such as asthma, increasing their turnout time and if they do need to be turned inside, making sure there is not an abundance of dust or other irritants in the air can help your horse feel more comfortable.

Turnout for Better Digestion

As discussed before, horses are grazing animals meaning they are meant to be eating small amounts over long periods of time. When horses are inside, they are most likely given an abundance of hay at one time that may not last them as long if they were outside naturally grazing on pasture. Not only is it beneficial for a horses digestion to be outside moving around, but having access to pasture all the time decreases their risk of developing any type of ulcers. [1]

Turnout for Joint & Mobility

Especially beneficial for older horses, increased turnout time allows for more blood circulation aiding in a horse's overall joint health and mobility. [1] Not only can more turnout time help older horses, but for horses in a more intense exercise routine, this can alleviate any stiffness or soreness they may experience after rides. A great way to encourage more movement while a horse is turned out is by spreading hay throughout the pasture in different spots or by providing a water source in multiple areas of the paddock. [2]

Other Considerations for Increased Turnout

Now if your horse is not used to prolonged periods of time outside it’s important to gradually introduce them to full time. Offering more and more turnout time each day and providing them some hay while in the pasture to keep them occupied serves as a great approach to making them feel more comfortable and acclimated.

During the colder months, it’s always important to feed more forage as the pasture dies down. Making sure your horse always has access to fresh water and encouraging drinking by introducing your horse to a salt lick or electrolytes can keep them on track.

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.