Should I Leave My Horse Out in the Rain?

04.2.2014
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by Matt
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22 Comments
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There’s nowhere you’d rather be during wet weather than indoors…

preferably someplace warm and comfortable, right?

Many horseowners assume their horse feels the same way. And, truth be told, some horses do feel that way. But for the most part, the average horse really doesn’t mind a little wind and rain. They’d just as soon be left out to enjoy their pasture time during a storm as during a bright sunny day.

Of course, horses can pick up all sorts of ailments from wet weather, too: skin fungus, hoof infections, even injury from blowing debris or hail. So what’s a horseowner to do when the forecast calls for wet?

Assess the risk factor: the individual horse

Every horse is different. It might be their physiology: some horses are very susceptible to skin fungus like rain rot. It might be their psychology: some horses have stable vices that make spending time indoors just as dangerous as time outdoors during a storm. Assessing whether it’s safe for your horse to be outside in a thunderstorm or just a rainstorm depends very much on the individual horse.

Does your horse develop chronic skin or hoof conditions as soon as the first spring showers roll through? You can try to address it with feed supplements, therapeutic shampoos, or even a waterproof sheet. But very delicate horses might just be best off inside, out of the rain.

Does your horse weave, stall-walk, crib, or get stiff and creaky when kept in a stall? Or, worse, panic and spook during storms? A horse who kicks the walls until he’s damaged a leg is no better off than a wet horse out in the rain.

Assess the risk factor: weather severity

A gentle or even a steady rainfall likely won’t jeopardize a horse’s health. A cold rainfall would probably call for at least a run-in shed. A chance for severe lightning or winds could be life-threatening.

Lightning can be a killer in bizarre ways: horses have been electrocuted while standing under trees or even just touching a metal gate along a fence-line struck by lightning. Horsemen living in areas with severe, frequent lightning often choose to bring their horses in — while acknowledging lightning can strike the barn as well.

Severe wind or a tornado threat, however, nearly always makes the barn the most dangerous place for a horse — or anyone. Barns flattened by tornadoes are an unfortunate byproduct of severe weather outbreaks, while horses left turned out often seem to have an uncanny ability to avoid injury.

Deciding whether to keep your horse in or out during rain or severe weather is often an intensely personal decision. On either side there are stories of how it could have gone the other way, if the horse had just been in the barn or in the paddock. As the spring storm season approaches, take a look at your horses, your equine facility, and your area weather patterns, and start making those decisions now.

But if it’s just a little rain shower, your horse probably just wants to roll in the mud.

22 responses on “Should I Leave My Horse Out in the Rain?

  1. JUAN says:

    Thx for the info, it was helpful.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      You are welcome. We try to cover a range of topics that are relative to the current news, events, season, etc. but if there is something you think we should cover, please let us know.

  2. Geri says:

    Thank you so much. I am a first time owner and couldn’t get Precious to stay in her shelter. You even gave info on things i never would have thought of. You have made me a better owner

  3. Daniel Miranda says:

    Just got my horse, he’s an 8 yr old gelded quarter horse and has a bit of aggressive side to him. Also he likes to knip at me for no reason , what could this mean

    • Matt Johnson says:

      It sounds as if you and your horse might need a little help getting to know each other. If you have a good trainer in your barn, ask them for help with teaching your horse good ground manners. Best behavior from your horse starts with respect and personal space, but it has to be taught. We would look into ground manners training and get help from a professional to make sure you and your horse have a respectful relationship moving forward.

  4. Shirin says:

    Horses by my house are outside all the time, they are very well feed. But the weather is 30 degrees, windy and cold rain and these guys are outside with no shelter. I’ve talked to the owner and he says they are fine. Also they are in the hot 112 degrees summer heat with out shade. I have no knowledge on horse care and the owner of this ranch assures me they are okay. Help me understand if that is the case. I live in Southern California.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      We understand it can sometimes be hard to understand what’s good for a horse when you’re on the outside looking in. We’re not in a position to judge the condition of your neighbor’s horses, but we can assure you that horses do live outdoors in a broad variety of temperatures and climatic conditions around the world. If you’re seeing clear cases of neglect: extremely thin horses, for example, then it should be brought up with your local authorities or ASPCA for further research by professionals.

  5. Marla says:

    Thanks and I understand but its still frustrating to see them outside in the pouring rain wind and ice when they have what seems to me as better options … ugh horses !

    • Laura says:

      My neighbor does the same thing, no shelter from the rain storms, and no shelter from the 100+ heat! I would also like to know the answer. I am googling this morning as 2 of them are penned in an open stall in a fairly big storm with no shelter…

    • Matt Johnson says:

      We work so closely with our horses that sometimes we forget they’re not humans! Of course, if you feel like your horse is really making bad decisions – for example, staying out until they’re soaked through and shivering with cold – you can take control and make that decision for them!

  6. jlynn says:

    Check with your state or local government. Many areas require that if horses are left outside they must have shelter provided.

  7. Gamikia says:

    Thank you very much for this awesome information Matt! Keep up the good work!

  8. Jeana says:

    Both my horses seem to prefer being out in the elements. They have access to a barn plus their covered paddock area but still stand out in all weather. I put them up at night if they’ve been wet all day just to dry out plus will put them up if the storm is particularly bad as far as wind or hail. But honestly, if I don’t PUT them in their shelters, they won’t go in.

  9. Sharon says:

    This horse has been outside with no shelter in constant rain now for two days, I can see it from my apartment in Spain

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Please see our response above to another concerned writer. Most healthy, well conditioned horses prefer to be outside. The oils on their skin and hair coats keep the rain away, but if you’re seeing clear cases of neglect: extremely thinness, for example, then you should follow up with your local authorities for further inquiry.

  10. Shelley says:

    Thank you! This was helpful. I grew up with over 30 horses and I remember the majority of them were pastured almost exclusively. However, now as an adult getting my own for my children, I seem to think I can get one without bringing her home to the Taj Mahal?! Our fence is up so I think I may just bring the horse we’ve bought (and are boarding) home and keep her pastured until the barn is up.

  11. Olivia says:

    We have a high flood risk in york and my horse is outside I dont know if he could get rain rot should I bring him in or leave him out

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Flood waters can cause all sorts of problems for horses, including injury from debris and fungal infections. If you can get your horse up out of flood waters, that’s best, but make sure that someone is around to evacuate your horse from the barn if the barn starts to flood, too.

  12. Olivia says:

    My horse is outside in pouring rain and we have a high flood risk should I bring him in or leave him out

    • Matt Johnson says:

      It can be tough to decide what’s best for your horse in a flood situation. If your barn is positioned on higher ground, then your horse may be safer in the barn. Keep in mind, though, that if the barn floods your horse will not be able to escape, so make sure that someone is nearby to monitor the situation and evacuate horses if needed.

  13. Nyomi says:

    We have severe monsoons and my horse only has a roof for its stall no walls exept a shed wall, this is very helpful.

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