Leaving Horses Unattended: What You Need to Know

As a horse owner or equestrian, you likely understand the incredible responsibility that accompanies your role. Owning a horse requires lots of hard work and, many times, significant sacrifice. One area in which many new horse owners experience confusion is when, how, and if they can leave their horse unattended.

Can you leave horses unattended? No, horses can not be left unattended, even for weekend trips. If you can’t check on your horses daily, you can pay to board them at a stable that will care for them when you’re not available. If you would rather keep your horses on your property, pay an experienced equestrian to check on them throughout your absence.

So, how long can your horse be left alone? What happens if you work outside the home and spend most of the day in your office? Are there really significant hazards to leaving your horse unattended? In this post, we will answer these questions and more, providing you with everything you need to know about leaving your horse unattended.

What You Need to Know About Leaving Horses Unattended

Whether you are an experienced equestrian or a new rider, owning a horse is a completely different experience. Much more involved than leasing a horse that is boarded elsewhere, owning a horse that lives on your property provides a significant amount of responsibility. One of the greatest challenges to owning a horse can be arranging for care during times that you are otherwise occupied or unable to provide care yourself.

How Long Can Your Horse Be Left Alone?

So, how long can your horse be left alone? While many equestrians have different views on this topic, it is important that your horse is not left alone for a stretch longer than 10 hours, or overnight. If you work outside of the home, your horse will likely be unattended for the majority of the day. When provided with access to food, water, and shelter, most horses will remain safe, comfortable, and entertained for several hours. 

You must spend quality time with your horse after any time of absence to foster your relationship and deepen your bond. Most situations in which your horse is left unattended do not provide opportunities for exercise. For this reason, you must provide your horse with an adequate workout following periods of rest such as during the workday or overnight.

If you foresee yourself having to leave your horse unattended for the majority of the day, you should likely consider alternative boarding options for this season of life. Doing so will not only benefit your horse but will provide you with the peace of mind in knowing that your horse is receiving the care and attention they deserve.

Why Do Horses Need to Be Checked On Regularly?

There are countless reasons why horses should never be left unattended for a long stretch of time. Here are just a few of the reasons why horses require regular attention: 

Horses Have Basic Needs for Food & Water

While you may be able to predict the food and water needs of your horse, circumstances may arise that necessitate clean water, fresh food, or other changes to their diet. If you leave your horse unattended, they may not have access to necessities such as food, water, and adequate shelter. 

Did you know that horses can drink anywhere from 5-10 gallons of water today? It’s important that your horse has access to at least this much water so that they can stay hydrated. To learn more, check out our article How Horses Drink Water: Everything You Need to Know.

Weather Conditions Can Change Quickly

Whether you are traveling to a city a few hours away or traveling out of state, it is nearly impossible to predict weather conditions. If, for example, you are planning on letting your horse out to pasture during your time away, a sudden thunderstorm could create an unsafe situation. 

On the other hand, if your horse is kept in the stable for several days while you are away, a sudden heatwave could create unsafe conditions. For this reason, it is important to check on your horse several times each day. 

Regular Items in Barns Create Safety Hazards

While many items in the barn are used to safely care for and train your horse, these same items can quickly turn into a safety hazard. When your horse is left unattended for an extended period of time, they could easily injure themselves on tack, buckets, trailers, fences, and more.

Horses That Are Bored May Attempt Escape

The last thing you want is to arrive home after your trip only to find that your horse has escaped. Even the most well-tempered horse may be tempted to cause trouble if they become bored. It is impossible to provide your horse with proper forms of entertainment and exercise to prevent these destructive behaviors if they are left on their own for an extended period of time.

Loneliness Can Lead to Temperamental Behaviour

Not only can loneliness and boredom lead to escape but it can also cause your horse to exhibit unfavorable temperaments! Horses that are left unattended for long stretches may become withdrawn, depressed, anxious, or angry. These behaviors can not only impact the health of your horse but also your ability to train. 

Illness or Injury Can Escalate Quickly

Perhaps the most important reason to check on your horses regularly is to observe warning signs of illness or injury. Many types of illness or injury escalate quickly in horses. It is important to provide them with the professional care they deserve at the first sign of something abnormal. If your horse is left unattended for a longer period of time, you may not notice important warning signs until it is too late.

Providing Care for Your Horses During Your Absence

Now that we have established the many reasons why you should never leave your horses unattended for a long stretch of time, let’s take a look at how to provide care for your horse in this type of situation. Fortunately, several alternatives allow you to enjoy your vacation while providing your horse with the quality care and attention they deserve.

Pay to Board Your Horses At a Reputable Stable

Most horse owners and equestrians have relationships with local stables. One of the best ways to care for your horse in your absence is to pay for a temporary board at a reputable stable. In this environment, you can be sure your horse is receiving the care and attention they deserve, surrounded by other horses as well as caring equestrians.

It’s important to find a boarding stable that meets all of you and your horse’s needs. Check out our article Choosing a Boarding Stable Your Horse Will Love.

Hire an Experienced Equestrian to Care For Your Horses

Another option that is excellent for equestrians who own more than one horse is to hire an experienced equestrian to care for your horses at your home. You can arrange for the individual to spend the night on your property or simply spend several hours with your horses each day during your absence. This is also a great alternative for horses that do not adjust well to change or new environments.

Consider Installing Cameras For Occasional Absences

For short daily or overnight absences, many horse owners choose to install cameras throughout the property. This provides them with a window into their horses’ well-being at all times. This also increases security on your property, protecting both your family and your equine companions.

Things to Consider When Leaving Your Horses Alone

There are several factors you must consider before you leave your horse alone, even for the afternoon or overnight. By carefully thinking through the situation and environment surrounding the event, you can provide a safe and comfortable area for your horse to relax for a few hours until your return.

Remember, even under the safest and most comfortable conditions, your horse must never be left alone for more than 8-10 hours at a time. 

Are Your Horses Basic Needs Met?

Make sure that your horse has access to adequate food, water, and shelter for the duration of your absence. This is something that should be considered every time you leave your horse, even for an hour or two.

Is Your Horse In a Safe & Comfortable Environment?

One of the worst times to leave your horse unattended, even for an hour, is in a strange environment such as a show or new barn. In a new environment, horses may be more accustomed to experience anxiety, depression, or anger. It is important to ensure that your horse is safe and comfortable in their surroundings before you leave them alone for short periods of time.

What Is Your Horse’s Temperament?

Certain horses do better when left unattended than others. If your horse often displays concerning temperaments, it may be best to limit the time that they spend alone. Other horses are not affected by loneliness or boredom in the same way. Take time to get to know your horse’s behaviors and temperaments before you decide to leave them without supervision for a period of time.

At the end of the day, it is always important to err on the side of caution. While arranging temporary care for your horse may seem inconvenient at times, it is well worth the comfort and satisfaction of knowing that your horse is safe and comfortable. Although your horse can be safely left alone overnight, you should never leave your horse unattended for longer than 10 hours. Doing so can have a serious impact on the health or happiness of your equine companion.

I hope this article will be helpful to you in caring for your horse! We have many other articles dedicated to answering your horse care questions. Check out these articles:


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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.

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