I am a big fan of keeping horses outdoors. I have a small barn with a few box stalls. But I’ve converted the end of the barn into a run in area. I keep the stalls for injured or sick horses, etc.
My Standardbred mare ought to be a hothouse flower, since the extent of her turnout for the first six years of her life was being put in a paddock once a day for half an hour while her stall was cleaned. But she’s quite a tough cookie. Rain, sleet, blowing snow, freezing rain… she is perfectly happy out there. And it’s not that she doesn’t have access to the run in. She’s a very dominant mare, and all other horses bow before her magnificence.
King, on the other hand, who has lived outdoors his whole life, is another story entirely. He adores his stall. When he was still a youngster, he used to rush into the stall whenever he got a chance, fling himself to the floor, nestle into the bedding and close his eyes tightly. If I went over to see if he was okay, he’d open one eye and glare at me, “Don’t bother me! I’m sleeping!” Then he’d close his eyes and start snoring within a few minutes.
He’s rather prone to colic in the winter. I tried a few different strategies to manage it. Warm water to drink, sloppy beet pulp, etc. But none of those things really helped. What did help, was letting him tell me when he wanted to come in for the night. He comes in to have his dinner (a handful of wet beet pulp) and then he tells me how he feels about the weather. His opinion is easily read. If he wants out, he’ll stand at the stall gate. If he wants to stay in, he gets kind of a smug look on his face, and settles in happily facing his hay corner and gives me an expectant look and a nicker. Resistance is futile. King has a rather unique ability to radiate his thoughts and wishes to everyone in range. It’s so bad that at rides I have to watch the passers-by, and even good friends (!!) to make sure they don’t start feeding the sad, starving (fat!!!!) horse when he nickers low and seductively at them, then stares meaningfully at the nearest hay bale.
The weather was awful today. Lots of snow, and much colder again. I am so so ready for winter to be over. The footing is actively dangerous on the trails (big sheets of ice), and the paddock is turning to muck. King was very definite about his preferences for his stall tonight. So he’s cheerfully munching hay indoors.
Don’t they say that endurance horses should take good care of themselves?