Are stalls or paddocks better for my horse?
In the great Stalls VS. Pasture debate, there’s much commentary on what’s natural for horses. BUT, I’ll take the opposite stance and explain why keeping horses in stalls can be better. And by “explain” I really mean “try to explain” and by “better” I mean “better for some horses or in some situations”.
Stalls are a wonderful way to keep horses. Barns allow for many horses on a smaller property, and also make feeding and cleaning easy and efficient. Horses can still enjoy each other’s company, without risk of kicks, bites, and other tangles with fences or shelters.
It’s easier to regulate input and output when horses are kept in stalls. And by that I mean what they eat and what they poop. Horses with dietary restrictions, allergies, or perhaps are at the wee bottom of the pecking order can benefit from stall living and eating.
Windows create ventilation and allow for horses to watch some "TV" and see their friends.
Horses in barn stalls also stay a bit cleaner in terms of dust and dirt on their coats. They are protected from the elements, which helps keep dark coats dark and white noses and legs free from sunburn. If you have a horse sensitive to bugs, or even a horse with sweet itch, housing them in a stall will help. You can use fans to dissuade bugs, and I have seen some stalls that are actually screened in for severe cases of sweet itch. A horse that has photosensitivity can't be in the sun without risking major skin damage. Stalls are a must!
I understand that many of us (including me for the most part) prefer to have our horses live outside for as much of the day as possible. That being said, I firmly believe that ALL HORSES need to learn to live in stalls anyway. At some point, they are going to need to be stalled, and they better do it without hassle or stress. Sicknesses, lamenesses, travel, showing, horrible and dangerous weather, evacuations, you get the idea, are all very real reasons for keeping your horse in a stall.
If you horse resists being in a stall, it’s your job to train the behavior so that when you need him in a stall, he will be okay with it. If it takes five minutes a day of being in a stall, gradually working up to five hours a day, then that’s what you need to do. Make the stall training part of your daily routine, like picking feet. An injury is not the time to acclimatize your horse to stall living. (This is very similar to how I feel about horses that don’t load. You must make it a part of his life so that in an emergency, it’s a non issue.)
Barns and stall living are the norm for many, many horses. Many many horses do just fine with it, and some actually prefer it. We all do the best for our horses with the resources that we have. If you are lucky enough to have 24/7 pasture or turnout for your guy, do everyone a favor and be sure he can also knows how to chill in a stall. Just in case!
How does your horse do in a stall?