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How To Decide Between a Stall, Pasture, or Both for Your Horse

Should your horse live in a stall, a pasture, or a combination of both? Review the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.
Brown horse looking out the stall door

It’s a pretty important question: Where is your horse going to live? When it comes to horse housing, the most common options are in a stall or out on pasture — or both! Depending on your budget, facility, and horse’s needs, one might be better for you than another. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of stalling, pasturing, and mixed arrangements, so you can make an informed choice for both you and your horse.

Safe and Sound: Stalls

Stables offer horses the most protection from the elements and more control over temperature and humidity levels. They provide a safe, secure environment for horses that are prone to injury or need extra comforts due to health issues. Stables also provide convenient access to food and water, making it easier and more efficient for you to care for your horse. However, it can be expensive to maintain a stable because feed, utility, and bedding costs can add up quickly. Stables can also be more labor intensive for owners because they require regular cleaning and upkeep to remain safe and healthy for horses. Horse welfare issues associated with stall confinement include boredom and behavioral vices such as cribbing. Most horses that live in stalls only do so part-time, spending a portion of the day turned out in a field or paddock, depending on the facility and housing arrangements.

Freedom to Roam: Pastures

A horse grazes in a misty pasture
On pasture, horses can move around, socialize, and graze. | Getty Images

Pastures are great options if you have the space available and want your horse to have as natural a lifestyle as possible. On pasture, horses can move around, socialize, and graze on natural grasses and forage as nature intended. Pasture can also be a cost-effective way to provide horses with essential vitamins and minerals. Keeping horses on pasture full time does come with some risks, however, such as potential exposure to disease-carrying insects and toxic plants. Plus, you’ll need to adjust your horse’s rations throughout the year to accommodate for lush grass growth in spring (hello, grazing muzzles!) and lack of natural forage in winter, the latter of which might call for supplemental hay and concentrates to meet your horse’s nutritional needs. And, ideally, you’ll need to provide a safe shelter or windbreak so your horse can seek protection from the elements when needed.

The Best of Both Worlds

Woman leads her horse out to the pasture
For many horse owners, the best horse housing option is a combination of stabling and turnout. | My New Horse staff

For many horse owners, the best horse housing option is a combination of stabling and turnout, where the horse spends all day on pasture and all night in his stall, or vice versa in summer. This allows the horse to enjoy the protection and comfort of a stable when needed (such as during extreme heat or severe weather) and access to turnout and foraging opportunities in a pasture environment. You’ll still have chores such as stall cleaning and turning your horse in and out, but they shouldn’t be as labor intensive as they would be if your horse was stalled most of the time. Another arrangement is to provide your horse access to a stall with a run or paddock attached to it, so he can come and go at will.

So What Will it Be?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to house your horse in a stall, pasture, or both comes down to the facility where your horse lives and which lifestyle is best for you and your horse. Weighing the pros and cons of each option will help you decide which housing type works best for you.

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