Being a new horse owner is a wonderful but scary time. It’s natural that you’ll have lots of questions to find out the best way to care for your horse.
Depending on where you live, you might have concerns related to your horse and the weather, especially if you live somewhere usually hot, cold, or rainy. So, can you leave horses out in the rain? Let’s investigate.
There’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Factors to consider include your horse’s disposition, health condition, and how severe the rainfall is.
A lot of horses don’t mind a bit of rain and some even prefer it over being stalled, but of course, horses are complex creatures and as we get to know them more, we get to understand their boundaries.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the factors mentioned above to help you decide whether or not you should leave your horse out in the rain.
Can You Leave Horses Out in the Rain?: Health Concerns
Even if your horse doesn’t seem to mind the rain, it’s a good idea to keep a lookout for potential health issues rain can cause.
It’s more likely for horses to develop health issues if they’ve been out in prolonged, heavy rain as opposed to a bit of light or steady rain now and again. That said, vigilance is always the best policy.
Rain rot is one of the conditions rain can cause in horses. It is a bacterial skin infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis. This bacteria lives on horses’ skin but inflammation occurs during wet seasons, according to Brittani Kirkland, author of the article linked above. She writes “These lesions cause small patches of raised bumps which are scabs containing clusters of your horse’s hair.”
Symptoms of rain rot in horses include thick, crusted, and/or matted hair and warm skin that is painful. The good news is that rain rot can be treated by bathing with anti-microbial soap, special shampoos or antibiotics in serious cases. Always check with your vet before attempting to diagnose or treat rain rot by yourself.
Leg and Hoof Conditions
Wet conditions can cause health issues in horses’ hooves and legs. One condition to watch out for is thrush, which is an infection of the hoof. Symptoms include black discharge and a bad smell emanating from the affected hoof.
According to The British Horse Society, poor conditions or being out in muddy or wet pastures consistently can cause thrush. Another condition that can affect a horse’s legs and feet is scratched, otherwise known as “greasy heel”.
A greasy heel can be the result of damp conditions or parasites amongst other causes. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, the mildest being dryness, itching, and hair loss. Horses with severe cases of greasy heels can end up lame.
Rain leads to mud. In severely muddy conditions, horses can slip and end up with tendon or ligature injuries. According to Equus Magazine, horses stuck in mud have to exert a lot of effort to pull their legs free. Overreach injuries and pulled tendons can occur as a result of this.
Is Your Horse Prone to Health Conditions?
All of the above conditions are even more possible in horses prone to or with a history of certain issues. Some horses are more likely than others to get skin or hoof infections. If this sounds like your horse, you might want to perform regular checks if your horse is out in the rain regularly.
Can You Leave Horses Out in the Rain?: Your Horse’s Disposition
Nothing is ever cut and dry when it comes to horses. Hard and fast rules are very difficult to apply and it takes some time to know how your horse feels about different things. While some horses might be perfectly happy out in the rain, others might spook at the sound of thunder and lightning.
This can go both ways, mind you. You might have a horse that gets frustrated or distressed when kept indoors. Add to this a horse spooked by thunderstorms and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
The horse may act out its frustration or fear by kicking the stable doors. The horse then sustains injuries from the persistent kicking. In this case, it’s possible that being kept indoors is more harmful to your horse.
Can You Leave Horses Out in the Rain?: How Heavy and How Long?
Another factor you might want to consider is exactly how heavy the rainfall is.
Two fun facts —
- Horses’ coats are waterproof.
- Horses have a built-in “central heating” system. Their forage helps to keep them warm while they’re outside.
This is why many owners have no issues leaving their horses out in the rain. According to Lucy Robinson in her horse care article, a horse’s waterproof coat ceases to be effective if it is left in heavy rain for prolonged periods. For this reason, she mentions that it’s not really a good idea to leave horses out in heavy rain without shelter, especially for a long time.
Should I Get a Rain Shelter for my Horse?
If you’re concerned about your horse is out in the rain, a shelter might help put your mind at rest. There are a few different types of shelters, including:
- Run-in-sheds: These types of shelters are often used for horses who spent a lot of time outside. They are small, three-sided wooden structures that your horse can go to to get out of the rain or hot summer sun. Run-in-sheds are very popular in the horse community.
- Pop-up shelters: A little less likely to withstand heavy rain, storms or wind, pop-up/fold-away/portable shelters are useful if you’re traveling with your horse. They also make for a quick and easy shelter if you don’t experience very wet or hot weather often.
What Can I Do With My Horse When it’s Raining Out?
If your horse is more the indoor type when it’s wet and windy out, never fear. There are still plenty of things you can do to bond with and entertain them (and yourself).
Pamper Your Horse
What horse doesn’t love a nice pampering session? Get the brushes and trimming tools out and give your horse a little makeover. Grooming is a great way to bond with your horse, especially if you’re a new owner. A nice trim, mane pull or massage will do the trick. You might even get a few thank-you nibbles in return.
Do Some Horsey Yoga
Doing a few stretches is good for improving circulation, muscle health, flexibility and promoting relaxation in your horse. If you’ve got a decently sized indoor space, why not try a few of these? Especially if your horse has been cooped up for a little longer than usual due to bad weather.
Groundwork exercises are another way to keep your horse active while he’s sheltering from the storm. Even if it’s just practicing standing still, moving forward and backward and softening to pressure, it’s good to keep up with this stuff while she’s stalled.
Go For a Short Walk
If it’s not too bad out, try a short walk if possible even if it’s really close to the stables. Even exercising for a short period of time will be beneficial, especially if your horse has been stuck inside for a while.
Spend Time With Your Horse
Sometimes, simply chilling out with and around your horse can be some of the best times you’ll spend together.
Chat to your horse about your day, read a book near them or just hang around at the stables. Your horse will appreciate the company and your bond will grow stronger the more you do this.
Can You Leave Horses Out in the Rain?: Sum-Up
- Horses’ coats are waterproof and their forage helps keep them warm from the inside, so generally, most horses do pretty well in the average rainfall.
- Every horse is different. Some may be susceptible to skin conditions in wet environments, some may love the rain and some may hate it. You know your horse best and are in the best position to decide if being out in the rain is best for them.
- Skin conditions that can be caused by too much moisture or prolonged exposure to wet conditions include rain rot, greasy heel and thrush.
- If you’re concerned about your horse being out in the rain or have a horse who isn’t keen on it, a shelter like a run-in shed might be worth considering.
Can You Leave Horses Out in the Rain?: Final Thoughts
Leaving horses out in the rain is not cruel. That said, there are some impediments that may mean doing so isn’t the best thing for your horse.
Also, the fact that horses generally do well in steady rainfall on account of their interior heating systems and waterproof coats doesn’t mean your horse is invincible. Horses can still suffer from hypothermia in very cold temperatures.
As always, keeping a watchful eye out is the best policy. If your horse enjoys the rain, that’s great! Just be sure to give his hooves, legs, and skin a frequent look over and keep an eye out for potential illnesses. Thanks for reading and happy riding!