How Much Space Does My Horse Need?
Horses are big animals that require a lot of resources. One important resource they need is space! If you watch a horse throughout the day, you’ll notice that they rarely stand still for too long. Even as they graze, horses will continue to walk and move forward. Adequate space gives your horse room to play, graze, and rest comfortably, while not enough space can cause your horse to become stressed.
How much space do horses need? The amount of space a horse needs depends on its living situation.
- If your horse lives on turnout 24/7 and their diet consists mostly of forage from the pasture, your horse will need at least 1 acre of space.
- If your horse simply turned out to get exercise, they need at least 1/10th of an acre to freely move around.
- If you stable your horse, a 12X12 stall should provide an average-sized horse with enough space to move and lay down comfortably.
Not all horses have the same living situation, so it’s important to know the space requirements your horse needs depending on their specific situation. To learn more about how much space you will need for your horse, continue reading!
How Much Pasture Do I Need For My Horse?
Pasture living provides horses with an environment most similar to the one they were initially designed for. When your horse lives on turnout 24/7, its sustenance will largely come from the grass and other forage in the pasture. If you’re looking for the pasture to largely sustain your horse’s diet and weight, it’s important to know just how much pasture space your horse will need to provide adequate grazing.
Horses need 1 – 2 acres of pasture space each to provide them with enough forage to sustain their diet. This much space should also be enough so that the horse doesn’t completely eat the grass down, but that it is able to continue to grow and replenish during the growing months.
While 1 – 2 acres of pasture space per horse is recommended, there are some ways you can still provide your horses with adequate forage and grass in less space. Check out these methods:
Rotate Your Fields
One way you can take care of the health of your pastures while still providing your horses with adequate grass is to rotate your fields. This means that you’ll put your horses in one pasture and once they have eaten down the grass in that pasture, you’ll move them to another one. This gives pastures time to rest and recover from the stress of being trampled on and getting grass ripped out. It will also give time for the grass to grow so that it can adequately sustain your horses again.
Provide Your Horses With Hay
One way you can conserve grass in your pasture is by feeding your horses hay. Now, instead of grazing on the grass all day, they may eat hay for half and then go and graze for the other half. While this can be a great way to save your grass, most horses rather eat grass than hay. Some may even walk away from the hay to go graze. For this reason, you may want to put your horses in a smaller turnout to eat the hay rather than leaving them in the pasture.
Stall Your Horses For Half the Day
This point is much of the same concept as the previous point. If you want to conserve your pasture, keeping your horses in stalls for half the day can let the pasture rest and keep the grass from getting eaten down. However, if you are going to keep your horses in stalls, make sure they have hay to nibble on. Horses graze on average for 15 hours a day, and their stomachs are designed to always be digesting. Providing your horse with hay in their stall will still enable them to get the sustenance they need.
Many people may be apprehensive to leave their horses out 24/7 because the horses will be unattended. To learn more about leaving horses unattended, read my article Leaving Horses Unattended: What You Need to Know.
What Size Turnout Does My Horse Need?
Some equestrians like to provide their horses with both a stall and a turnout out area so the horse can choose whether they rather be in or out. Even if you keep your horse in a stall for the majority of the time, turnout is vital to your horse’s health. Being able to move around enables them to stretch and work their muscles while also causing the body to circulate more naturally. It’s also a great way for your horse to get out any pent-up energy!
Horses will need at least 1/10th of an acre of space per horse for an adequate turnout or dry lot. This provides them with enough space to move about freely and get some exercise.
Avoid Keeping More Than One Horse in a Small Turnout
While horses genuinely like being around other horses, a small space with too many horses in it can cause your horse to become stressed or anxious. In smaller areas with multiple horses, your horse can be at greater risk of injury. Horses will start to fight over space, biting and kicking one another. A turnout that is just 1/10th of an acre is designed to serve just one horse. If you have multiple horses to keep in a turnout, be sure to calculate that much space for each horse.
Put Small Turnouts Close Together So Your Horses Can Be Around Each Other
While you may not be able to keep multiple horses in a small turnout, it’s still important to provide your horses with a social setting. Horses are herd animals, so being around other horses gives them comfort. Put small turnout areas next to each other or at least close enough together so that horses can at least see each other from the turnouts.
How Big Should a Horse Stall Be?
Horse stalls are designed to provide your horse with space indoors where they can escape the heat or cold, the flies, and the elements. I once had a pony with very sensitive pink skin, so during the Summer, she would stay in a stall during the day so she wouldn’t get sunburned. I’ve also kept my horses in stalls when they have been injured and their movement needed to be limited.
A 12X12 horse stall should be big enough for an average-sized horse. This space will provide your horse with an area where it can comfortably move around and lay down. If you have a larger horse, consider a 14X14 stall. A stall that is too small will restrict your horse’s movements and may cause them to become stressed.
Make Sure Your Horse Gets Adequate Exercise
Even if your horse lives in a good-sized stall, the horse will still need exercise. Horses weren’t designed to be sedentary; rather, they were designed to be constantly moving and getting a good amount of exercise throughout their day. Most people who stable their horses will keep their horses in for half the day and then turn them out for half the day. Many people even provide their horse with a stall and a small attached turnout so the horse can go out whenever it wants.
If your horse is in a stall because it’s been injured, you will need to ask your vet about exercise recommendations. The vet may recommend that you hand-walk your horse so the horse can at least stretch their legs. The vet may recommend limited turnout time. Either way, make sure your horse gets the exercise they need. This will help them both physically and mentally.
Clean the Horse Stall At Least Twice a Day
If your horse spends the majority of its time in a stall, make sure that the stall is being cleaned out at least twice a day. A horse that stands in a messy stall for too long can develop hoof problems like thrush. Dirty stalls can also attract more flies, which will annoy the heck out of your horse! Thoroughly clean your horse’s stall twice a day and replace shavings to ensure that your horse is comfortable and clean. 🙂
Health Issues Caused by Stabling Your Horse
While keeping horses in a stable is a popular living situation provided by equestrians, it’s important to know some health issues to look for if your horse does have to stay in a stall. These issues can indicate that your horse needs more turnout and exercise.
The most common issue you may see is stocked up legs. This is where a horse’s lower legs may become swollen. This is due to the lack of movement and circulation in the horse’s body. Immobility can also cause your horse to be at a greater risk of tendon or ligament injury, so always make sure you properly warm up your horse before a ride.
If your horse hasn’t been in a stall much during its life, suddenly being kept in a stall for half the day may cause the horse to become stressed. Stress can lead to your horse developing ulcers and even colicking. To learn how to tell whether your horse is stressed or anxious, check out my article Signs a Horse is Anxious, Nervous, or Stressed.
Providing your horse with enough space is just one way you care for your horse. To learn an overview of all the care horses require, check out my article How to Care For a Horse: Ultimate Guide For Beginners.
P.S. Save this to your “Horse Care” board!