What should my horse wear in the turnout?
I know that many of you out there are blessed to have turnout 24/7 for your horses. While this is ideal and desirable for horses in general, it’s not always practical, safe, or available. Lack of space is a big issue for many barns, and turnouts are often a few postage stamp sized pens for a barn of 50+ horses. Other horses are international competitors, and have such an unbelievable level of fitness that turning them loose in a field would be a disaster. Other horses are coming back from stall rest for a few days or even a few months or longer. Other horses just go looney bins. Some horses have a game of “let’s pull my shoe” or “I love to kick myself in the tendons”. Some horses have no idea what to do with turnout that they panic with a capital P. Other horses act as if the turnout is a perfect place for a nap.
Each situation calls for different clothing options, so let’s discuss this further, with the understanding that many horses need some bubble wrap and/or supervision at some point. Many do not, but in the horse world, better safe than sorry.
In dressing your horse for turnout, there are many scenarios (weather, the insanity level of your horse, his tendency to yank shoes, etc.) to consider. Leg boots and bell boots are a good idea, especially if you are teaching him to be turned out like a civilized horse or you have not turned him out for a while for some reason.
Bell boots are great to protect heel bulbs and also avoid embarrassing calls to the Farrier. "Yes, he pulled a shoe off AGAIN...." Face Palm.
Make sure your horse’s boots are properly fitted, and the velcro is free of stickers, hair, and dryer lint to be most effective. Boots should not be left on in the summer heat for too long (over an hour or so) as the heat can create some skin issues with sweat and dust. I prefer a softer type, with sheepskin or fleece. Neoprene can heat up so quickly and create tendons that are too hot. If you are expecting rain, neoprene or another high tech non fleecy boot is the way to go provided they are not too hot.
I will never turn a horse out with polo wraps, because if that closure fails, you have a tangled and panicked horse disaster waiting to happen. I will also add bell boots on the front legs, I prefer the easy on and easy off velcro kind. The key to a smart bell boot choice is making sure it covers the heel and the back of the shoe. Add some fly protection (mask, sheet, spray) and you are ready to go. A light sheet or blanket in chilly or cold weather may be called for, and having waterproof options is handy just in case!
If you leave the halter on, I have only one guideline: it better be leather, or nylon with a leather crown piece so it can break. No exceptions. I know that nylon halters are awesome! Great colors and patterns and reasonably priced. Please change the crown piece to a breakaway style. I personally prefer to take horse halters off for turnout, but I have been unlucky enough to try and catch an 18 hand naked horse that is freaking out. Trust me on this one - it’s very difficult to put a halter on a freaking out periscope of a horse/almost as tall as a giraffe and wigging out at the same time. If this is your horse’s SOP, leave a safety halter on.
Sport boots are great for turnout, but avoid fleecy ones in wet weather.
Over time, and depending on your horse and his daily routine, you may find that his “outfit” for turnout becomes more and more naked. That’s up to you, but should the day come that he’s been stall rest, or the paddocks have been closed from the torrential rain, or he’s home from a long show weekend, you may need to slap those “bubble wrap” layers on again as he may be super happy to be turned out again. You know your horse better than I do, but even my incredibly mellow geriatric fellow will throw some bucks and prance around if the conditions are just so.
How do you dress your horse for turnout?