I have always been the kind of horse owner who keeps horses outside with access to a shelter instead of in a stall. I always felt it was necessary that the horses ran "free" for their health. Recently however, I had to move from my 8 acres in rural New Mexico to a house in a town nearby. Unfortunately, there was nowhere at the new house for me to keep my heard of 7 horses.
Obviously, getting rid of the horses was not an option, so I started looking for pasture land to buy or lease. I looked for months with no results. My pastor told me about a barn he knew of that might be for rent. I contacted the owner. He told me he had an eight-stall barn and a small turnout. The price was right and my time was running out. We moved the horses over. I was not totally excited about keeping them in a barn at first.
Problem 1: The horses won't get any fresh air.
Solution: Each stall has a dutch door going outside. I added large pens to the outside of the barn using portable panels. I leave the doors open and allow the horses to freely go in and out.
Problem 2: The horses will not get enough movement.
Solution: I am at the barn twice a day for feeding. My work schedule does not allow me to ride everyday so I had to think of a different way to exercise my horses. I have found that a 10 minute lunging session is great for getting them moving. I am lucky to have some hills around the barn so I can keep muscle on them that way. If I can't get them all lunged, I turn them out and let them run for a bit.
Problem 3: The horses won't have good nutrition without grass.
Solution: Although I would prefer my horses to be eating and moving all day, I have found a good compromise. I feed a mix of bermuda and alfalfa hay in slow feeders. The horse can pick at the hay most of the day. I also throw a bit of straw in each stall to help with bedding. The horses enjoy picking at the straw as well for extra roughage.
Problem 4: Standing in a stall is not good for their feet.
Solution: My horses are all barefoot which helps their hoof health greatly. In addition to cleaning stalls twice daily, I always clean all of their hooves everyday. A couple rides a week on Arizona rocks really keeps their hooves in great shape.
Problem 5: Horse keeping costs will be higher.
Solution: Be smart where you spend your money. Yes, it's true, keeping horses in a stall is more expensive. However, it's easier to keep track of your finances. Make good choices on hay and bedding. Adding rubber mats to a stall can cut your bedding costs way down. Buy hay in bulk and spend your money on good quality.
Although I would prefer my horses be galloping freely across a large pasture, keeping them in a barn hasn't been that bad. Besides, I enjoy the convenience of feeding and just grabbing a horse out of a stall at anytime. There are definitely perks to both methods of horse keeping.
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