Stabling of Horses and Ponies
Horses are evolved to be open plains, steppes or prairie dwellers, with freedom to roam and to gallop. As a result, stabling is a very unnatural activity for them. However, for a variety of reasons, it can be deemed necessary, for all or part of the day. The AVMC advises that horses and ponies should spend as much time as possible out at grass, as an alternative to stabling.
The stable in which a horse or pony is kept should be well ventilated, well insulated against extremes of temperature and free from draughts. So often, we see stables that wrongly depend upon draughts for ventilation. The stable should be free of protuberances and be well maintained. The entrance should not be steep or have a high step. We see many an injury from neglect of these points. The AVMC is willing to advise at the planning stage for new stables, having a particular interest in ventilation and drainage.
The floor may be of rammed earth or chalk, in place of concrete, although less convenient, it is safer and softer on the feet.
The bedding material should be clean and comfortable. Providing rubber matting may be of benefit over the floor at the front or all over. The bedding should not encourage the build up of ammonia.
A horse will enjoy having a pleasant outlook or view.
Materials should be non-toxic, including paints or wood treatments.
Hay should be fed on the floor, if possible, to mimic the horse's natural eating posture. Clean, fresh drinking water should always be available. Feed and water receptacles should be designed to avoid injury.
Because stabled horses are totally unable to forage for themselves, it stands to reason that the offered diet must be suitable and be fresh or properly stored.
While there is never intention to provide less than adequate facilities, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of just accepting the norm. Remember that it is our choice to stable horses, not theirs. We are beholden to them and must provide a pleasant environment for their confinement. If it is possible to manage without keeping animals in stables at all, in our opinion that is the best option.
We never recommend ‘box rest‘, except under extreme circumstances (e.g. if the horse or pony has sustained a fracture).