Group turnout for horses: what are the pros and cons? *H&H Plus*

  • How can we maximise the benefits of field time, while minimising risk? Kieran O’Brien MRCVS offers advice for trouble-free turnout

    Horses in their natural state are free-ranging, social animals. While separate confinement in a stable is necessary if they are to be individually fed and managed, maximum turnout, where possible, should be provided.

    Turnout reduces the risk of colic, respiratory diseases and the development of stereotypical behaviour, while supporting muscle and joint health. Grazing in groups allows coordinated patterns of movement, social experience and mutual grooming, all of which are vitally important for the welfare of animals ill-adapted to a solitary life.

    There are negative aspects, however, the most significant being increased risk of injury. In a survey of 652 UK owners, 40% reported that their horses had suffered a traumatic injury in the previous year – 62% of which occurred while at grass. Results showed that horses grazed in a large group or recently introduced to the herd were most vulnerable. Kicks or incidents with field fencing were the most common causes of injury.

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