Night turnout for horses: some things to consider

Night Turnout For Horses

To turnout at night or not?

Now that the slightly warmer and drier days are here, many owners consider turning their horses out at night as opposed to during the day. Many believe that it cuts down on the cost and effort of keeping a horse, e.g. stabling, mucking out, bedding and so on. However, this important decision merits more consideration than just effort and cost. Read on to find out exactly what to think about before making this important decision..

The not-so-obvious

Just because you turned your horse out last year, it doesn’t automatically follow that you should do the same thing again this year. Review your horses’s needs and the environment that he’s going to be in at night, as some things may have changed.

Horses are essentially herd animals, however much we try to condition them otherwise! Ensure that there is company for your horse, either in his field or next door!

Horses that are out at night are generally out for longer hours which, in turn, means that they'll eat more grass. Look at your field before you turn your horse round:

1) Is there actually enough grass for him to eat in his field at the moment? After the ravages of the long, muddy months of winter, grass can take a while to come through, especially if there's not much rainfall in spring. 

2) Is there going to be enough grass for him to eat until you turn him back round so he's in at night, i.e. from September/October onwards? After an initial growth spurt in spring, grass doesn't tend to grow very much in the drier months of summer.

The common sense stuff

Some horses seem to escape more at night than they do during the day. Ensure that the field has secure fencing. Check it regularly and make every effort to ensure that your horse can’t get on to a road. 

Some horses gorge themselves when they’re out at night on the grass. Consider using a muzzle to prevent health issues, such as becoming overweight.

Even though horses are out for longer periods of time in the field, they still need to be checked daily and their feet picked out. And rugs still need to be changed or taken off. For example, in Hertfordshire it’s currently still fairly cool at night, so medium or heavyweight rugs need to be taken off during the day.

Make sure your horse has a good supply of drinking water even though he's out when it’s cooler, as it’s surprising how much he'll still drink.

A common misconception is that flies are at their worst in the summer during the day. This is often not the case in some places in the UK. A fly rug and fly spray may still be required at night.

Bringing your horse in during the day means that he can have a sleep and you can exercise him, but do be mindful of the fact that as the day goes on, he'll be thinking about going back out to his field. If your horse is anything like my old mare was when she was younger, it was a challenge to hold her attention, as all she was thinking about was her field!

A final sobering thought

A few years back now, I remember when my local tack shop had posters in it from desperate owners trying to trace their horse that had disappeared from their field overnight. If there’s any possibility, even a minute one, that your horse could be stolen, don’t risk night time turnout, as the subsequent agony you may face could be unbearable.

What do you think?

Do you normally turn your horse out at night, or are you against it? Do you have any stories you'd like to share? Tell us below - you never know, your story may help someone else!

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Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.


  • Anne posted on April 20 2019 at 07:04 PM

    I have a hairy cob mare that lives out 24/7. Her and her 5 friends have add lib haylage, a large field shelter and they are unrugged apart for our 2 very old mares. We find that we don’t get field injuries as the herd stays the same so no fighting. There is no hanging around the gate waiting to come in which is where a lot of fighting can happen. Also with being unrugged they use their energy to keep warm so no high jinks when you ride them. A lot of people that stable horses don’t reliese how much energy is conseved when they rug up and wonder why in winter they have behaviour issues with stabled/rugged horses. Also with being unrugged they drop weight ready for the spring grass. And of course, they all have their friends and live as nature intended. I do understand this is not for every owner and horse but I do believe horses should be out as much as possible.

  • J Wigley posted on April 20 2019 at 07:04 PM

    As one of my horses is a “potential laminitic” I keep the horses on the yard (on which they are free to walk about) from 7am until 4pm so they don’t have access to the grass when the sugar content is at its highest. They are then turned out overnight, and have been now for about 4 years. It works very well and keeps their weight under control, albeit it is a little tying as I provide hay nets every 3 hours during the day. I am in the fortunate position of having shelter available to them 24 hours a day so they can always escape the worst of the weather. Mine are quite hardy heavy horses and are not rugged up at any point during the year, and being out at night doesn’t trouble them in any way. At the moment (April) there is clearly enough grass on the field to keep them contented as they are not particularly hungry when they come in for breakfast, and they are not eating much hay during the day. This regime is very reassuring as regards keeping the laminitis risk as low as I can.

  • Donna posted on June 04 2019 at 10:06 PM

    I, like Anne, have my boy out 24/7. He does like being stabled but prefers to be out. He’s a traditional gypsy cob, so weight management for him is a must- he puts on weight in winter with a rain sheet on!!! He only has to look at grass and puts weight on! The last 3 years have been tricky because of this. He put on too much weight and ended up with laminitis followed by a hoof abscess- both very painful and costly! It hasn’t happened since. Feet done every day, and care taken if ground hard! He gets full clip yearly as his winter coat gets muddy poo ridden and a nitemare to clean, and he itches. He doesn’t without it and is much happier. Now flies are here he’s been bathed and getting z-itch rug on- I don’t like it but is better for him. Our British weather is such a nitemare though- rug on- rug off- rug on etcetcetc. He’s looking a bit porky at the minute too because I’ve been too poorly to ride since last year, so on the mend and looking forward to getting in the saddle. Happy horse riding all xxx 😊

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