The Scent of Freedom: Keeping Horses in an Open Stable

The open stable can be a paradise for horses. If it is implemented correctly, you can romp, explore, feed, slumber, and have fun with your herd as you wish. You will now find out how group housing works in an open stable and what needs to be considered.

This is What the Open Stable Looks Like

The open stall is a traditional and the simplest type of group free range. It consists of a pasture and/or a paddock with a covered area as protection from the weather. The horses in a herd can decide for themselves whether they want to graze in the meadow or slumber in the shelter.

In addition, the horses are offered feeding stalls, manger, hay racks, and water troughs that they can freely help themselves to. So you can simply enjoy being a horse as you wish.

Disadvantages of the Open Stall

Unfortunately, a purely open stall concept with a permanently open stall is as good as impossible. Due to the constantly changing weather conditions, the ground on the unpaved ground can become too muddy so that the horses have to be fenced in a narrow, paved area. It can also happen that the horses do not want to give up their usual freedom and refuse to be caught before riding. Horses kept in open stalls are sometimes extremely dirty or wet in rainy weather. The open stable demands more from horse owners than the simple keeping of boxes.

Advantages of the Open Stall

The open stable is adapted to the natural needs of the horses. It offers a lot of exercises, sufficient social contact in the herd, an all-day supply of food, and opportunities to rest or retreat. In this way, behavioral disorders and diseases can be effectively prevented.

The horse owner can take a day off without a guilty conscience and does not have to fear that the horse will go crazy in the box. For stable owners, the well-designed open stable is a rational alternative because the working time for mucking out and looking after the horses is much shorter.

What is to Be Considered?

Above all, it is important that the area in the open stable is large enough for the herd. For each adult horse, you should include at least 10m² of lying area, 50-100m² of the weatherproof paddock, and ideally about 0.5 hectares of meadow or pasture area. The pasture does not necessarily have to be openly connected to the stable, but can also be decoupled – then the actual open stable consists of a paddock and a shelter.

In addition, there is an escape-proof fence, sufficient feeding stalls and watering stations for horses of all levels, and a clear separation between resting places and the exercise area. The latter can be characterized, for example, by narrower entrances or differences in the flooring. For example, the lounging and resting areas can be sprinkled with straw, while a paved sandy floor is ideal for the exercise area.

Proper Care

The open stable, like the pasture and the paddock, has to be peeled off on a daily basis. If there is free access to a meadow, it must also be ensured that the meadow is not too muddy so that the hooves are protected. If possible, part of the area should always be spared so that fresh meadow is always available.

Modern Open Stable Concepts

The concept of the open stall has been around for a long time, but it is constantly evolving. The active stable and the paddock trails or the paddock paradise try to get as close as possible to nature and offer rider and horse as much comfort as possible at the same time. New concepts are primarily concerned with how incentives to exercise can be created and how being a horse can be made as beautiful as possible.

The Group Housing in the Open Stable

There are a few things to consider if you want to integrate your horse into an existing open stable herd. The big question that arises is: Does my horse fit the group? In order to check this, a few factors must be clarified in advance.

Is My Horse Healthy?

Old and physically handicapped horses are not accepted at all or only with difficulty by many herds. This is because if they escaped they would slow down the herd. So if your horse is already a pensioner, it makes sense to integrate it into a herd in which other horses of a similar age or with similar complaints live.

Is My Horse a Gelding?

Stallion geldings usually prove to be a difficult addition to a herd. They jump on the mares and often take guarding too seriously. This can be a problem not only for other members of the same species but also for horse owners and the gelding themselves. In this case, it may be better to integrate the horse into a pure gelding group.

What is the Rank of My Horse?

It is important in the herd of horses that a sensible combination of lower-ranking and dominant horses is brought together. Because in a group of exclusively lower-ranking or dominant horses, problems can quickly arise. It is therefore important to ensure that animals of different ranks are brought together – your own horse should occupy a good, appropriate place in the existing hierarchy.

Conclusion: Which Horse Belongs in the Open Stable?

If the open stable is implemented correctly, almost every horse feels right at home here. Of course, there are a few exceptions that should be considered. If the horse’s peculiarities and personal preferences speak against an open stable, it is no shame to prefer a different type of housing. Because the well-being of the animal is always the focus.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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