Does my horse need shelter?

In winter we use one of the sloping fields that also has a shelter in. By the fence and gate it’s really muddy. Most of the liveries have decided not to put their horses out due to this but I don’t want to keep mine couped up in a stable. It was suggested that we ‘change fields’ but this will also get muddy and would be ruined for spring – is there anything that you would suggest? ******* If my horse should find herself to be the only horse out at night do I need to provide any entertainment beyond some hay? ******* I know you have your horses out 24/7, but do you have outdoor shelters for them to go in voluntarily, or do they have trees to shelter under? I want to manage mine naturally, but it isn’t really natural in the wild for a horse to be limited to only one field with no ability to move to shelter? ******* All my horses can live out 24/7, but the TBx is old now, and he seems to be quite tired out in the fields, and sometimes longs to go to his stable. I know he enjoys being turned out, but should I bring him in more?

Field-management in the winter can be very hard, and experience has taught me several useful tips. Hard-core pads around the gateways in particular and on high ground give the horses a choice for getting out of the mud (if their circulation is working effectively, mud fever should not be a problem). At Brackenhill Stud I did have shelters in the fields: just a roof backing onto a hedge with the minimum of upright supports, to avoid potentially dangerous corners. If a shelter has walls it causes the air within to become static, and therefore colder. Here at Bowhayes I have only recently installed shelters, and my horses have wintered without any problems for 6 years . However, the key to this system of management is choice: if your horse wants to come in, see if you can arrange the stabling and fields so that he has permanent access to both. This is not about forcing horses to live outside! However, no horse should be expected to live alone; they are herd animals and need at least one companion, maybe retired or a youngster. Our system is as natural as possible but not truly natural where horses would roam until they found better conditions. Necessary paddocking means that we must try to make up for the shortfalls.

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