Stabling horses, by Maaike Boshuis 19.12.2019
This is such a hot topic, with so many different opinions. And I have one too.
It's pretty simple really. I think so anyway.
Wether you stable your horse or not, it should only be done if the horse is okay with being stabled.
And this is where it becomes tricky. Because how do you know if your horse is okay with being locked up in his 'litter box'?
I have heard countless horse owners saying that their horse is happy/comfortable/fine/okay in a stable. And this might be true! BUT. How often do they, do you, see your horse? One hour a day? Maybe two or three? Do you go once a day, or twice, or more? Is someone else looking after your horse and do they inform you about their behavior?
Horses spend a lot of time WITHOUT humans. And when we are with our horses, they will probably be outside their stable, or we are doing things with/to them in their stable, or they keep an eye on us from inside their stable which distracts/entertains them. But do you KNOW what your horse is doing when YOU are not there?
Horses that are stabled and unhappy, can show one or more of the following signs: crib biting, weaving, box walking, whinnying, pawing at door, grumpy/mean/aggression to other horses or when someone walks by, colic, sloppy poo, explosive behavior when stable door opens, difficult to catch at bring in time, sad eyes, shut down behavior in stable ('learned helplessness'), upset when turnout is later than normal, not eating (enough) forage in stable because of nerves, etcetera, etcetera.
In my opinion, a horse is ONLY okay with being stabled, if it DOESN'T show any of these signs! That also means during the hours that you are not actively looking at your horse.
Sure, a one-off paw or whinny is not that big a deal. But if it happens more often, then please, take your horse's needs and feelings in consideration and think about where he comes from: his species originates from living in open spaces, in a large herd, constantly moving, grazing and socializing. This will always remain in his blood, in his DNA. This is how they evolved. THIS is a horse.
If you are sure that your horse doesn't show unhappy behavior and is indeed quite comfortable in a stable, then, I would think stabling is fine (but please, don't stable 24/7!!!) Because stables do come in handy sometimes. Especially if there aren't 24/7 turnout livery yards with enough drystanding availabe in your area. Because eventhough living out is prefered, spending 6 months a year standing in mud (hello UK!) is also not ideal!
(This blog is not about 24/7 stabling versus 24/7 turnout. I will cover more stable related subjects in the future).