Leaving Horses Out At Night: Everything You Need to Know

Should you leave a horse out at night?

Leaving Horses Out At Night

When it comes to owning a horse, one question you might be asking is whether or not you should leave them out in a pasture at night. As someone who has left my horses out at night hundreds of times, I put together this guide to give you some helpful info and answer your questions.

So, should you leave your horse out at night? Whether or not you should leave your horse out at night depends on the unique needs of your horse and the facilities where you’ll be keeping them. If your horse has no serious health conditions and your facilities provide the necessary safety and amenities, then it is perfectly fine to leave your horse out at night.  

Before you leave your horses out at night, here are a few useful things to be aware of that will help ensure that your horse is happy and safe while you’re at home sleeping.

What to Know Before Leaving Horses Out At Night

Make Certain Food And Water Are Readily Available

Before you leave your horse out at night or in any field for an extended period of time, you should make sure that there is plenty of food and water readily available for them. While this might sound simple, there are a few nuances to be aware of.

In the winter, you’ll need to regularly check your water buckets or troughs to ensure that they haven’t frozen. Thankfully, there are plenty of water heating options available, (like this cheap one from Amazon,) that will take care of the problem. However, even with a heating solution in place, you should still make it a habit to regularly check to see if anything has malfunctioned.

In addition to water, you’ll also want to make sure your horse has food before leaving them out all night, particularly in the winter. Eating and digesting food is one of the best ways for horses to stay warm and comfortable.

On the other hand, if your horse is prone to weight issues and you’re thinking of leaving them out at night in a field full of lush grass, you might consider using a grazing muzzle on them to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Ensure You Have Adequate Shelter For Your Horse

While horses are capable of withstanding far worse weather conditions than we can, unfortunately, they’re not indestructible. Here’s my article on what EVERYONE should know before leaving a horse out in the rain. 

Whether you plan on keeping your horse turned out during the day or at night, something you’ll want to make certain of is that there is some type of shelter available for your horse to protect them from the cold, wind, rain, hail, and any other type of bad weather.

I recommend that every horse owner has at the very least a sturdy run-in shed for their horse. Run-in sheds are perfect for placing in a horse’s pasture because they give them a safe and easy shelter to retreat to if they ever feel it’s necessary.

If, for whatever reason, a run-in shed isn’t an option, having accessible woods in your horse’s field can give them some protection from the elements. However, you should make sure you cut down any dead trees or limbs to prevent accidents.

For a cheap shelter option for your horse, you might be interested in this one from Amazon.

Make Certain Your Horse Can’t Escape 

The next important thing to think about before leaving a horse out at night is whether or not they might be able to escape.

It’s one thing for a horse to escape during the day when someone is likely going to see them and catch them quickly, but it’s another thing for a horse to escape in the dead of night when no one will be around again for hours.

Horses can move much faster than other pets, so they could be miles away before anyone even realizes they’ve escaped. That said, check and double-check the fences where you plan on keeping your horse to determine whether or not there are any easy escape routes available. 

The most common ways that horses escape fencing is when gates are simply left open by mistake, the fence leaves gaps wide enough for horses to squeeze through, or the fence is leaning too low to the ground, allowing them to jump over it.

You’d be surprised how agile a horse can become when they spot a tantalizing patch of grass on the other side of a fence, so use caution before leaving them unattended at night!

Benefits of Turning Horses Out At Night

Now that we’ve covered some of the important things that you should be aware of before leaving your horse out at night, let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of leaving your horse out at night time, or 24/7.

Increased Social Engagement With Other Horses

One reason you might consider leaving your horse out at night is for the socialization benefits. Horses are herd animals who desire one another’s company. As such, they’re not meant to be cooped up alone for all hours of the day and night!

If your training or work schedules don’t allow for your horse to be with other horses throughout most of the day, then leaving your horse out at night can be a great way for them to get to spend some time socializing with other horses. 

Horses that are well-socialized are less likely to become depressed or bored so in my opinion, it’s well worth your time and effort to ensure that they get good quality time out in a pasture where they can simply enjoy being a horse with other horses.

Health Benefits Of Horses Being Out At Night

In addition to the socialization benefits of being out at night, did you know that there are also some health benefits for keeping your horse out of the stall and in the pasture more frequently?

I’m not your horse health professional, so always check with a veterinarian for the specific health needs of your horse, but studies have shown that keeping horses turned-out as opposed to stabled all-day promotes good health by allowing them to stay limber, move more, and breath plenty of fresh air.

Psychological Benefits From Being Out At Night 

I’ve mentioned this briefly, but horses that are kept primarily in a stable are more prone to boredom and psychological issues than horses who get to enjoy fresh air and company. Horses who are bored might start pacing, cribbing, and have a hard time staying focused. If this sounds like your horse, then keeping them out more at night or throughout the day might help.

For more reading about telling whether or not your horse is bored, here’s an entire article I wrote on the subject!

Reasons You Might Want to Stable Your Horse At Night

While there are plenty of good reasons to leave your horse out in a field at night, there are also a few reasons that you might want to keep them in a stable.

Increased Protection From Horse Thieves

One obvious reason you might not want to leave your horse in a wide-open field at night is horse thieves. Horse thieves are notorious for cutting weak fencing to take expensive horses.

If you’ve invested a large amount of money in your horse, and it’s clear to those who pass by your horse is in great condition, then stabling your horse at night might be the best way to prevent them from being snatched by horse thieves.

However, if your stable has great fences and isn’t easily visible from main roads,  then you might be safe allowing them to stay out at night. It just depends on the level of risk you’re willing to take in accordance with the amount of money you’ve invested in your horse.

Your Horse Is Less Likely to Harm Themselves 

If you do a lot of competing and you can’t afford for your horse to suffer random injuries, than stabling your horse at night might be your best option.

There’s a reason roughhousing is called “horseplay!” Horses are rough with one another as they work to establish a pecking order. It’s not uncommon to see new bruises and scrapes on a horse that’s turned out 24/7.

If you don’t want to take the risk of your horse being injured by another horse or accidentally injuring themselves, then keeping them stabled while you’re not around to supervise could be your safest bet.

Your Horse Will Be Away From Pests 

During the warmer months of the year, pests such as flies and mosquitos can run rampant in horse fields. And while they might calm down a little at night, they can still be very bothersome for your horse.

If you won’t be around to spray your horse with fly spray or provide them with other protection, then keeping them in a stable at night might be a welcomed break from the bugs they have to deal with all day.

More Control Over Your Horse’s Diet

The last major benefit of keeping your horse in a stall as opposed to outside at night is the additional control you gain over their diet.

If you keep your horse in a lush pasture at night, there isn’t much you can do to keep them from eating and eating to their heart’s content. However, if you stable them at night, then you’re able to track exactly what and how much they’re eating.

If your horse has unique dietary requirements due to a health condition, then keeping them stabled can be very beneficial for ensuring that they’re eating only the food that they need to be eating.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck caring for your horse! For more great horse articles, you can see what I’ve been writing here.

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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