Should I Leave My Horse Out in the Rain?

by Matt

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.

53 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.

    • Janet gill says:

      my horse’s have rain rot should they not be left in the rain until that heals

      • Matt Johnson says:

        As a best practice, horses recovering from rain rot should be kept dry until the issue is resolved. If it does not get better, or you see signs of it getting worse you should contact your veterinarian.

        • Linda Hickman says:

          I have. Three year old gelding who stands near shop door in the rain even though his feeding area covered. He gets soaking wet. Why won’t he stand under pavilion?

          • Matt Johnson says:

            It is sometimes hard to understand why horses would behave differently than what we would consider ‘natural’ (i.e. seeking shelter during rain), but the fact is that they are much better equipped to handle cold and damp weather than we are, and most would prefer to be outside in the rain. If your gelding chooses to stay out, you can find comfort in knowing that he has the option of seeking shelter. However, if you notice signs that your horse gets cold (shivering, losing weight, or not growing a proper coat in winter), it may be worth contacting your veterinary and/or seeking solutions (perhaps increasing forage supply, providing a shelter or blanket, etc).

      • Lindsay Lang says:

        Idk what is that

    • Ashley says:

      This has been extremely helpful to me. I would love to know if there is a way to subscribe or receive emails with more useful stuff. I am always open to learning new things and more options for things I already know. My horse is like my child and I want him to be as happy and comfortable as possible. Knowing how horses think, feel, and what they prefer is the only way to know how to achieve.. Not what we would like if we were them. Thank you for this info.

  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…

      • Rhonda says:

        My neighbor just got a white horse and I keep crying cause it’s in the rain and alone and I can’t take it .
        This made me feel better.

      • Dylan says:

        Horse survived millions of years of evolution out in the open. For them rain, snow, wind is just another day. What is more concerning is no shadow. This they definitely need.

    • 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!

      • Colette Higgins says:

        I am in England, it is very much the same here, I have 3 horses, 2 Welsh sec d cobs and a, Gypsy vanner, they are out 24/7 from March to November in all kinds of weather, then from November through winter they will be out from 7am to 9pm all without shelter or coats, horses produce there own heat from grazing and moving around which helps there gut as well as there mental health and I have only had one serious illness which was through keeping her in a dusty stable with poor air circulation causing a throat and chest infection, I found out then that they are best out as much as possible, recently we have had 100%f plus, thunder and lightning and now torrential rain all in one week, it is very heart warming though to read comments from people who are concerned and worried, the world would be a better place with people like you in it x

  6. Melissa says:

    We just got two ponies yesterday. We tried hurding them into shelter but they won’t go. They aren’t used to us yet so we don’t want to push them where they won’t trust us but we also don’t want them to get sick. What would be out best bet?

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Congratulations on the additions to your family. It sounds like it may be best to give the ponies a way to freely access their shelter until you can gain their trust. A run-in stall would be a simple fix to this. With time, you can get to know the ponies and work on catching them. Be sure to consult a trainer if you need help with this.

  7. Shelley Beals says:

    I live in South Fl and my neighbor has 7 horses on only 21/2 acres. Stable only fits 4 and their goat, donkey. 3 of the horses have no shelter, since they are new but our weather in Swfl is very dangerous. Infact the week’s forecast has a tropical depression, lightening, thunderstorms.
    They have too many horses and not enough room. Right?
    Thank you.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Different states, counties, and towns have different regulations when it comes to the minimum amount of land you need to keep different numbers of horses. The regulations about shelter also vary from area to area. Your neighbor may be within the legal requirements to keep her animals. If you’d like to find this out for a fact, you can contact your local town hall or animal control agent.

    • Stephanie says:

      In south Florida it is simply not unusual to keep a lot of horses on two acres. Only 7? If they are pasos they need less space and benefit from no grass. There are people who keep expensive horses on small lots it’s the culture, land is expensive and there is a centuries old horse tradition there. As long as they are fed, be happy they have a home.

  8. jlynn says:

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

  9. Gamikia says:

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Cindy says:

    I live in central florida and just got a mini horse. It rains a lot here and we just had a storm roll through and the mini remained laying down in the rain. I ran out and showed her the shelter but she wasn’t upset at the rain. I’ve never had a horse in florida so I’m wondering if I should be concerned that she doesn’t go in the shelter herself. There’s a hay rack in there full of hay so it’s not like she doesn’t have anywhere to go to get out of the weather. Just worried and want her to be OK.
    Thanks for any info

    • Matt Johnson says:

      We understand your concern, and would check on them too to make sure nothing else is wrong. Please see our responses above to other concerned writers, keeping in mind that most horses prefer to be outside even in the rain.

  17. Juana Norris says:

    Horses do not melt. I am confused as to the risk involved in turning him out.

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Many horses do just fine in the rain, and spending as much time turned out as possible is usually good for their health. However, there are some situations where you will want your horse to be in a barn during a heavy rain, such as if you’re expecting a storm that could bring down trees. If you have a senior horse or a sick horse, keeping them in during a freezing rain may be a good idea, especially if you’re trying to keep weight on them and don’t want to risk them shivering after a cold rain. Horses recovering from rain rot should also be kept dry until the issue is resolved.

      • Stephanie says:

        The greatest enemy of the horse is the stall. Some people are finally just putting up sheds, and investing in more turn out space. Stalling is unnatural and will go out of style someday.

      • Susan says:

        Matt: We are thinking of getting a Gypsy Vanner to live in Washington state, where it gets very rainy. Wrong breed? Also I have a 6 year old 800 lbs. quarter horse. Ok for him too? Both horses used to mild climates.

        • Matt Johnson says:

          In general, horses are well equipped for living outside in winter and rainy conditions. Gypsy Vanners are solid-built: this breed originally come from temperate and humid climates (Ireland & UK), so they should have no problem adapting to the climate in Washington State. As for your Quarter Horse, there should not be any issues either as temperatures in that area seldom drop much below freezing. It may take a little adjusting, but ensuring they have a shelter to go to if they choose should provide you reassurance. If you notice signs that either of your horses are cold (shivering, losing weight, or not growing a proper winter coat), it may be worth contacting your veterinary and/or seeking solutions (perhaps increasing forage supply, providing a shelter or blanket, etc).

  18. Jane Gregory says:

    We have a 4 year old gelding who has a high and dry covered carport outfitted with his hay and water, and floored with rubber mats. It’s adjoined to the house where he can get plenty of love and attention–he eats his meals there, gets treats in there, and gets groomed in there–everything happy that we can think of to make him want to hang out in the space. Whenever bad weather hits (which is a LOT, we live in Florida)–he leaves the shelter and stands under a big tree in the middle of our yard. I feel bad for him getting wet and looking like a pitiful drowned rat, but it seems to be what he likes best, so that’s how we roll. 🙂 When the rain ends, a good drying off with clean towels and a thorough grooming later when he’s dry helps us both feel better LOL.

  19. Jenna Hunter says:

    My cousin lives up in Oregon and they get really cold weather and lots of rain. I’ll be sure to tell her that she should keep her horse inside if the rain turns into a storm or gets really bad. It would be helpful if she could just get a horse shelter so that if the horse doesn’t want to be in the rain it can go under the shelter.

  20. Becky says:

    I have always had goats but a few months ago I fell in love with an older pony that had been abused and locked in stall for a long time and was scared and skittish. She has come a long way since she has been with us but other than going into her little barn to eat she refuses to stay inside which is understandable. When I tried shutting the barn door during a storm she panicked and tried to jump over the door so I have never tried to shut her in again. She stands out in the pouring rain and I am still very worried about winter but you have made me feel a little better with all these posts. Thank you everyone for your input.

  21. J Scott says:

    My husband dose it sometimes with our 5 year gelding but he is all OK all time. May it is not fit with all.

  22. Britni Nelson says:

    We just got a welch pony that’s 11 years old. It’s pouring rain and we built her a little walk in shelter in the back of our shop that she has access too. She won’t go in there. It’s 20 mph winds and about 40 degrees. Is she okay in the rain ya think??

    Also another question she hasn’t warmed up to us. She’s pretty stubborn it’s been about 5 days. I know it can take weeks. Any advice ? We have two little girls who will be riding her

    • Matt Johnson says:

      The Welsh breed originally comes from a very humid and temperate climate – they are strong-built and very much used to staying out in the rain. There shouldn’t be any particular concern if she chooses to stay out, but you can find comfort in knowing that she has the option of seeking shelter if need be. As for bonding with her, you could start by spending more time with her when she is relaxed and happy, taking her out on the property with a lead rope, grooming her, and working on positive associations (perhaps introducing small treats as rewards). For ‘stubborn’ horses, it may take more time, but it is always important to be confident and assertive, while showing them a positive experience when spending time together.

  23. Jenny T says:

    Thanks. The info is perfect yet after a long time.

  24. Hot Horse says:

    Thank you for sharing this informative post about leaving horses out in the rain. It’s important to assess the individual horse’s risk factors and behavior, as well as the severity of the weather, when making a decision. For some horses, being out in the rain is no big deal, while others may be more prone to certain ailments or have stable vices that make being indoors just as dangerous. I appreciate the mention of “hot horse” behaviors, such as weaving or stall-walking, as these can also impact the decision to leave a horse outside during bad weather. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and prioritize the safety and health of our equine friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *