Without a doubt, keeping your horse in a stall can be helpful. There are times when the weather is awful, an injury requires confinement, and turnout space is limited. However, horses kept in stalls for long periods of time can begin to show physical and mental distress. Living in a 12 by 12 box is clearly very unnatural for your horse. Here are some consequences of stall confinement.
1. Isolation: When trapped in a stall, your horse is unable to interact with other horses in a herd environment. This lack of social interaction can lead your horse to crib, weave, and become anxious. Those stalled early on in life may even lack appropriate social skills when put into a herd.
2. Lack of Exercise: By nature, horses like to wander and are continuously on the move. Those who spend most of the time in a stable are unable to get the daily exercise they need. They can become anxious, spooky, and difficult to handle.
3. Growth Impairment: Young horses that are stall kept experience delayed growth and musculoskeletal development.
4. Poor Fitness: Horses kept out 24/7 generally have better fitness levels than those stalled. Field horses also have a larger increase in bone density.
5. Decreased Metabolism: Light movement (grazing and walking around) has been known to increase digestive motility. This can even help decrease your horse’s risk for colic. However, those kept in stalls are unable to freely move around.
6. Dusty Environment: Between hay, bedding, and lack of airflow, stable life can be hard on your horse’s respiratory system.
Don’t forget the extra work on your end of cleaning stalls and making sure your horse receives daily exercise. If you have the means, your horse will be much happier and healthier when turned out to pasture.