Turning horses out is a controversial topic that divides the equestrian world nearly into two opposing camps. Although there are, without a doubt, many risks connected with the time spent outside, we want to look on the bright side of the issue and discuss several reasons to let your horse enjoy some fresh air.
The undeniable advantage of being turned out is keeping and improving the muscle mass and coordination, positive impact on joints and cartilages, or structural strength of tendons and ligaments. A free movement on an uneven terrain within the boundaries of common sense has many benefits for a horse's movement system, which you will hardly find in a schooling arena or on a walker. A regular pasture encourages bone density in foals, and mature horses´ hoof wall gets thicker owing to more stimuli.
Two more internal systems benefit from a stay outside. Fresh air without dust and other contaminants is convenient for healthy pulmonary circulation, while discontinuous grazing (natural for horses and other animals) aids the proper intestinal activity.
The last and a very simple reason to turn out your horse is well explained within the words of a British dressage rider, Charlotte Dujardin: „Horses should have a chance to be just horses, and to rest their minds,“ says the Olympic gold medalist. Therefore, even Valegro, while sitting at the top of the World Dressage Ranking, used to graze on the premises of Carl Hester´s stable just like every other horse.
Total freedom may be risky for a horse with a lot of energy or a horse that's not used to being turned out. Nonetheless, there are several simple principles to observe if you wish to keep your horse happy and healthy. These principles may be regular fence checks, familiarizing your horse to the new pasture, turning out separately (to avoid rivalry among horses and consequent injuries), removing dangerous objects or poisonous plants. However, everyone can use common sense and find a way to keep their horses safe while allowing them „to be just horses.“