Night turnout for horses: some things to consider
To turnout at night or not?
With the clocks going back this weekend, and the promise of drier days and warmer weather hopefully just around the corner, 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..
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!