When the Thoroughbreds arrived from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation it was recommended that we keep the horses out 24/7 as long as we had an adequate shelter. We did not have sheds at that point and I was not comfortable with leaving horses outside all the time.  Through time and much research, though, I changed my mind.  I explain in this thorough post what brought me to the decision that this way of keeping horses is actually better for their physical and mental health.  We had sheds built in June of 2009 and in March of 2010 the horses went to live outside permanently.

Again, see these posts for more:
Stepping off sharply from the rank and file
everything promised is delivered to you

The most difficult part of this decision for me was leaving them outside in the winter snow and cold temperatures.  Against what I was led to believe in the past, I learned that blanketing a healthy horse is not always in their best interest so our horses are outside and without blankets.  They were allowed to grow the proper winter coat.  In other words, they were not blanketed and then the blankets removed and they were not kept inside at all as the autumn nights grew colder. 

Here are excellent articles from Jessica Jahiel that talk about winter horse keeping.  I refer to these nightly when the wind beats against my windows and house.

Winter management
Killing horses with kindness
Blanketing horses

In September of 2010 we added more pastures and a natural "shed" of trees in the woods.  See below for more information about the new pastures.

We feed our horses excellent quality hay and provide a salt block, a mineral block and fresh water at all times.  In addition, we feed a handful of grain daily mainly for a treat and for extra vitamins.  They are fat and happy and are not overly anxious or nervous.  Prior to going out permanently in March, they were well on their way to nibbling the barn down even though they were turned out for 12 hours each day.  Sovey had started weaving a little and I wondered if cribbing was far behind. Now they are calm and happy and gorgeous.   This new way of horsekeeping has been a difficult lesson for me but I will never look back. I now believe that the Paddock Paradise style of pasturing is one of the best ways to keep a horse healthy.


  1. Totally agree that horses that are not pregnant or old do better if left to their own nature. God designed their bodies to handle the changes in temperature and they are healthier and happier when we get out of the way. Our two horses, an Icelandic gelding and a Rocky Mountain Horse mare have stalls they can walk into to get out of the bad weather if they want, but more often than not they choose to be outside. I think giving horses choices helps their mental health as well as their physical health.

    I'm new to your blog, but I look forward to reading more.

  2. Hi Dan and Betty -

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I will check out your blog too. So many plants and animals are designed pefectly to handle changes in temperature and man always wants to "help"! We really do need to get out of the way!

  3. We keep our horses out 24/7 as much as possible. We don't have a run-in shed so when it rains we do bring them into the barn. We have one horse in a paddock with a run-in. He is always out and has a wonderful thick winter coat. He is never blanketed. Jackson is in regular work during the winter months so I clip him. Otherwise he would never dry. So, he needs a blanket. But I totally agree that 24/7 turnout with a shed is the best. And, if a horse isn't in work so it can have a thick coat without danger of getting a chill from the sweat, no blanket is best too. We never have to longe our horses and I think that is because they are always out.

  4. Annette - I don't work the boys enough to work up a sweat, but I know what you mean about their thick winter coats causing a problem with getting too sweaty when riding. I rode Sovereign today all over the farm. He was thick and woolly and it was 19 degrees. We probably rode for 40 minutes, but we were only walking with a tiny bit of trotting so he wasn't sweaty at all. I still grazed him "in case" to "cool" him down, but my boys usually aren't sweaty in the winter.

    The 24/7 turnout definitely helps calm spirits!

  5. Just stumbled across your blog and am really enjoying reading my way through.

    I keep my horses turned out 24/7 and mostly without rugs, although I do give them light rain sheets if it rains for days, rain scald can be a real problem here (Ireland!). This is the first year that I have been in a position to let my horses choose for themselves. They have access to stables, but spend very little time in them, preferring the shelter the trees offer. It has been a good lesson and it made me realise that I often used to base my decisions on what I would like, rather than what my horses needed.


  6. Thank you for the links. Very interesting to know we take care of our horses very much the same way. Dream has a pelleted grain/supplement that is 1 lb. per day and has kept his hooves in wonderful condition (he used to be on maintenance with a hoof supplement). The horses' coats this year are the best they've been for winter. Our pony just gets a handful of the supplement when Dream gets his. Our hay is really good. I do imagine blanketing them when they are aged, but with something thick and light as a feather (like my goose down coat) so that it does not squash down their own natural winter coat's protection.

  7. I have been going through this at my barn! Currently, my horse is pasture boarded. She loves it outside, and she is a Haflinger so she is quite sturdy. My barn friends say I should stall her and blanket her in the winter. I don't want to. How can I put her in a 12x12 stall when she is used to having a large area to run and be a horse in every day? It seems cruel! I may have to show them this post when I get flack for my decision. . .
    But I do agree that horses are healthier mentally and physically if kept outside. Right now, it has been raining for days. My horse has been outside and she is fine (there is a shelter). The other horses are stuck inside and getting quite antsy. I don't blame them!


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