As a lot of you may remember, my old barn did night turnout – which I despised. Thankfully, I am now at a facility where night turnout is no longer the norm. My reasons for not liking night turnout were varies, and they include:
- Not all the fields had run-in sheds; therefore, if bad weather struck, the horses either had no shelter or they had to find shelter under trees – not ideal during a thunderstorm;
- No one did night check;
- The horses were, for the most part, turned out in very large groups. The probability for injury was high, and the probability for that injury being left undiscovered for 12+ hours was even higher
I was the “pain in the ass” boarder meaning I would be the one constantly checking the weather over the summer to see if it was going to storm overnight. If there was a good chance of storms, I would ask for my horses to be kept in. I don’t know if this annoyed the barn management, and I know there was one other boarder who also did this, but for some reason – night turnout just irks me. I know some of you may disagree. In fact, we have had this discussion on Twitter. I love turnout. I think it’s extremely healthy for the horse’s physical and mental health, but it can be done during the day when the horse can be supervised.
But, there can be some perks to night turnout. Even I will admit that. Just because I don’t like – or want something – doesn’t mean it can’t be beneficial. So, let’s take a look at the perks of night turnout and day turnout.
Night turnout perks (Editor’s Note: These all take into consideration that night turnout is being done solely during the summer months. If you are doing 24/7 turnout or turn your horse out at night during the colder months, there are obviously other things to take into consideration):
- In the summer, this cuts down massively on irritation from bugs, parasites, and heat. Turning out early in the day or late in the evening and leaving out overnight allows the horses to enjoy their turnout time free from stamping, sweating, and hiding in the run-in shed (if available). They are able to get the grass and exercise they need. Studies have shown that constantly stamping because of flies is not good for horses. It can cause injuries to tendons and ligaments as well as stone bruises and lameness.
- Some horses enjoy night turnout. I knew quite a few horses that despised being turned out during the day during the summer. They would stand by the gate protesting their punishment. No grass or hay eating. No exploring. No exercise. They just wanted to come in and be in their stall, away from all the summertime elements. Night turnout is a great way to ensure your horse enjoys what he should enjoy – being a horse.
- Your horse is inside during the most bothersome parts of the summertime days. Intense heat; bug infestations; severe thunderstorms; etc. You can show up at the barn and know your horse is ready and waiting to be ridden (of course, weather permitting). You don’t have to trek out into the field and get him or her to tack up.
- Your horse has something to look forward to in the evening. We all know that during the spring, most of the fall, and the winter, a horse looks forward to being brought inside and eating dinner. Now, your horse can look forward to being turned out after eating dinner.
- Your horse will spend a lot more time outside on night turnout than he or she does on day turnout. At my old barn, night turnout began anywhere from 4 – 7 pm, and the horses weren’t brought in until around 7 or 8 am. That means a full 12 hours of grazing on fresh grass, walking around, stretching, socializing. During day turnout, this usually isn’t the case. Your horse really can be a horse.
But, as we all know, there are cons to night turnout, and those seem to be what I am stuck on the most.
Night turnout cons:
- If you are at a barn that does not do night check, your horse is outside, unsupervised, most likely in a group, for 12+ hours a night. A lot of things can happen and go wrong in that time. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable – I don’t know what will. In fact, my horse’s severe kick injury occurred on night turnout, and I just happened to be lucky that the barn staff was still there doing turnout when he got kicked. Otherwise, she would have left for the night, and his kick wound wouldn’t have been discovered until the morning when it was way worse.
- Some disagree on this, but I do not feel comfortable with a horse being turned out in a big field during a severe thunderstorm, especially if a run-in shed is not available. There have been stories of whole fields of horses being killed due to one lightning strike. If your horses are out during the night, odds are they aren’t coming in if a severe thunderstorm hits. I’ve actually been at barns where I’ve driven up at night during severe thunderstorms only to find my pony outside in it, and even worse, he was unable to get in the run-in shed because the older alpha was keeping him outside of it. Obviously, the odds of getting hit by lightning are very slim. But, those things do happen. In fact, if you have mortality insurance on your horse, a loss due to a natural disaster such as lightning is not covered. That is definitely something you should consider.
- There are other ways to avoid the nasty part of the summer that you are trying to avoid by engaging in night turnout. Buy your horse a fly sheet; invest in some good, effective fly spray; invest in a feed-through bug supplement (I highly recommend SmartBug-Off Ultra. Editor’s Note: That is me & my pony recommending SmartBug-Off Ultra on the website. I am not sponsored, endorsed, or paid by SmartPak to promote their product, but I have experience amazing success with it, especially with my fly-sensitive pony who used to get a bloody sheath all the time from having flies bite it all the time); invest in Fly Predators. All of these things can cut down on the discomfort your horse can experience due to parasites outside. Of course, it is impossible to get rid of all flies and pests at a barn. I mean, you’re at a barn. Barns are synonymous with flies. But, you can take steps to prevent issues and make it more comfortable for your horse to be on day turnout.
- Your horse cannot be monitored on night turnout, unless someone is being paid a ton of money to stay up all night and do a constant check on how the horses are acting and whether they are okay. A horse can get sick, injured, etc. I just am not comfortable with this risk. While I understand it is rare, it can happen, and I know I’ve stated this many times, but I feel it’s important to emphasize.
- You don’t know how often a horse has gone to the bathroom, whether it ate overnight, how much water it drank, etc. On day turnout, or while a horse is in its stall, you can look at its water in-take, its food in-take, and how much it has gone to the bathroom. During night turnout, this becomes more difficult – unless you really are the horse whisperer. In which case, more power to you. But, given that food and water in-take are very important to a horse’s health and manure output is very telling of a horse’s well-being, sacrificing being able to monitor these vital signs is a red flag to me.
Day turnout to me is the best option. You are able to monitor your horse for any sicknesses or injuries. There are options to control for issues such as parasites, heat, etc. Of course, some horses despise being turned out during the day during the summer. Other individuals may have found a system that works for them when it comes to night turnout. And, if you have, that is amazing! I will say that I would probably be a lot more comfortable with night turnout if I was at a facility where someone was on the property 24/7. At least I know that if a really severe storm hit or if a horse got severely injured, someone would be there to pick up the pieces if need be.
So what do you prefer? Day or night turnout, and why? Let me know in the comments below!