Time out in a paddock for a horse has a lot of benefits. The combination of fresh air, light and exercise improves a horses’ well-being and generally makes a horse more content and happier.
However, turning a horse out into a new paddock can be a stressful event if not done properly for some horses. When you turn a horse out in a new paddock, there is always a risk of injury or stress. Injuries sustained when turning a horse out into a new paddock are often a result of the horse not being comfortable or familiar with its new surroundings. Things such as unfamiliar and uneven pasture surfaces, deep footing, slick surfaces, obstacles or fencing all pose a risk to an unsuspecting horse.
Here are some dos and don’ts that you can follow when turning your horse out into a new paddock:
- It is a good idea to hand walk the horse around the fence line of a new paddock to familiarise them with the fencing materials and the paddock boundaries.
- Introduce the horse whilst in hand to where the water source is in the new paddock and its feed tub location.
- Ensure that the fencing is in good repair, is easily seen, and that the corners are not so tight that a horse could become trapped.
- Be sure there are no unnecessary or dangerous obstacles that could cause injury. Things such as stand-alone posts, low hanging branches or other structures that may cause injury should be removed or clearly highlighted for the horse.
- Have some hay or feed on hand to give to your horse if it becomes excited and runs around excessively. Often food can provide a good distraction and can allow time for your horses’ adrenaline levels to decrease.
- If possible, ensure that any other horses in surrounding paddocks are in a calm state, so as not to increase your horses’ levels of excitement.
- Allow time for you to monitor your horse until you are comfortable that it has happily settled into the new paddock.
- Do not turn an overly excited horse out into a new paddock if it has unfamiliar uneven pasture surfaces, deep footing, or slick surfaces etc.
- Do not turn your horse out into a pasture where it is not familiar with the style of fencing material. For example, a horse that is used to solid style wooden fences may not acknowledge or respect simple wire fencing and may need to be familiarised with such fencing first.
- Do not simply turn your horse out into a new paddock and then walk away. It is always best to monitor your horse and be close by if things were to not go to plan.
- Do not turn your horse out into a new paddock where it may be harassed, intimidated, and thereby spooked by neighbouring horses. Socialise or familiarise your horse with its neighbours in a more controlled way such as in hand to ensure your horse is not spooked by them.
- Do not turn your horse out into a new paddock with it wearing any fly veils/ blinkers/ hoods etc that may inhibit its vision. It is also a good idea to consider the rugs (if any) it has on, if they pose a risk of being caught, or if the horse may become overheated if it runs around.
Just like humans, each horse is an individual and therefore will behave differently when turned out into a new paddock. Whilst some horses may take it all in their stride and remain as cool as cucumbers, others may find the whole experience overwhelming. It is important to be guided by the behaviour that your horse displays and take the appropriate precautions and actions based on that individual behaviour. Whilst they are turned out or when you are bringing them in, remember to regularly check your horse over thoroughly for things such as: are any shoes missing? are there any wounds or swelling? is your horse sound?
Check out Ranvet’s Calming Supplement range here