does your horse have safe turnout behavior

 

Teach your horse to have safe turnout behavior

 

  • For most show horses, we strive to find a balance between “being a horse” and also having a job, which often includes travel, shows, life in a stall, etc. While I wish every single horse in the world could “roam free and just be a horse”, sometimes it’s not feasible, safe, or practical in many cases.

 

  • Layups, lack of space, and temperament play a role in how available turn out is for horses. That being said, there are many things that we can do to help our horses have some safe turnout.

 

For the purposes of clarity, this article deals with turning out horses individually, and not introducing horses into a herd. You can read about safe herd introductions here.

 

  • Not all horses do well in turnout, and some do just fine. Some panic, some play too hard, some are destructive to the fencing, some only snooze, some only roll, you get the idea. Every horse is going to be different, so let’s go through some tips on turnout that can help your horse get adjusted.

 

gray horse with fly mask grazing on a hill

 

First, your horse must know the following:

 

  • How to be lead safely

 

  • How to be let loose safely

 

  • How to be caught safely

 

I know horses that jerk heads and yank away when you remove the halter in a stall. Imagine this in a paddock! Hint: Unacceptable. Period.

 

  • If your horse is lacking any of these vital skills, get them nailed down before you tackle turnout. Whatever method you choose, stick to it and be consistent. This includes informing everyone that handles your horse a course of action, not to be deviated from.

 

  • I’m a huge fan of “clicker training” – and there’s a fantastic book that can teach you – You Can Train Your Horse to Do Anything!: On Target Training Clicker Training and Beyond.

 

 

log on ground in horse turnout

Notice the log between the gate and the grass? We call it a “horse speed bump”.

 

  • From a safety standpoint, turnout should balance the “be a horse” and the “don’t kill yourself”. You will have to decide at what point your horse is dangerous to himself, people, or other horses. This is why you must be able to catch him. I do my best to discourage the gallop, slam, and spin. I much prefer the trot/canter around, prance a bit, you can roll and buck, too.

 

red horse bucking in an arena without a rider

Yes! Get the kinks out! But this should NOT be what you see as soon as you release your horse into turnout. The last thing you need is a hoof to the head.

 

 

  • I have worked with a few horses that competed in the Olympics. Even during peak show seasons, they were allowed to have turnout. Some needed a round pen to get the bucks out, and then could go safely into a grass paddock. Others needed supervision because there was only 0% activity or 239% running and panic while turned out. Each horse had a routine depending on his turnout style and patterns.

If you establish a daily consistent routine, your horse will learn quickly what is expected for turnout.

 

  • And, you will likely find that once that routine is established, like the same time of day, with some munchies, etc., the novelty of it all wears off.

 

  • Many times, after a layup, bad weather, a show, etc. your horse will be more excited than usual to go to his turnout. Plan ahead!

 

horse eating grass hay in a paddock

Adding hay or slow feeders to turnout time can help a horse feel settled and comfortable.

 

 

 

Tips on making the turnout adjustment go smoothly:

 

  • Turnout after exercise.

 

  • Warmer typically = safer for some horses. (Cold weather friskies are common)

 

  • Have munchies available, like grass, hay in a bin, etc. Horses without food know exactly what time it is. Feeding time can = bad behavior time unless they have some nibbles. Come to think of it, horses with food also know what time it is.

 

  • Protect your horse and your fence with hot wire.

 

  • Make sure your horse can see other horses.

 

  • Protect his legs and use bell boots.

 

  • Make sure the footing is safe before you turnout.

 

  • If you must leave a halter on to catch him, it must be leather or nylon with a leather breakaway crownpiece. No 100% nylon halters.

 

What works for your horse at turnout time?

 

go shopping button for horse products

 

If you are interested in picking up a wonderful book about how to train your horse to do anything, check out the book on “clicker training”. And a link to turn any halter into a breakaway style. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, this comes at no additional cost to you!

 

How to Train Your Horse to do Anything Book

 

Weaver Leather Breakaway Halter Replacement Crown, Brown, Large

 

 

Thank you!