What's The Best Horse Shed: Run-In Shelters or Barn Stalls?
Stalls and run-in shelters are the two most popular options for housing horses. Both stalls and run-in shelters have their pros and cons, which many horse owners must consider before deciding on either of these options for housing a horse.
The primary difference between a stall and a run-in shelter is the amount of freedom horses have. However, there is a lot to consider before choosing one over the other for a horse property. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of stalls and run-in sheds to decide which is best for your needs.
Advantages of Horse Stalls
There are many advantages to using horse stalls. By being kept in stalls, horses are much better protected from the elements. They can be kept warm when it's cold outside and cool when it is hot out. Horses that don't have a weather-proof shelter to protect them can experience a range of discomfort and health issues.
Owners can be confident they know exactly what their horse is (and isn't) eating when kept in a stall. Owners can learn their behavior and monitor what they eat with ease. If a horse is kept outside, it may be difficult for the owner to tell when the horse has eaten all of their feed or if they're simply snacking throughout the day on grass and other plants growing in the pasture.
Horses can be fed and watered automatically using in-stall feeding systems. This is usually done through a feeder filled with hay or other feeds and then allows the horse to access the food as needed. Watering systems run on timers, so no effort needs to go into making sure horses have fresh water every day.
Horses with special medical needs should be kept in stalls for several important reasons. First, loose horses can injure themselves and severely reduce their quality of life. Horses don't always see or avoid objects lying on the ground, and they may step wrong and injure themselves. Horses that are lame can be turned out to pasture to enable them to better stretch the tendon or muscle that is bothering them, but too much exercise can aggravate any injuries sustained.
Disadvantages of Horse Stalls
Horses are highly social animals, and some may experience stress when housed alone in a stall. Additionally, the opportunity to exercise is limited with this type of housing. While it might be convenient for owners to keep horses in stalls, it can increase their susceptibility to colic if they are unable to exercise or relieve themselves as necessary. This can be easily prevented by ensuring the horse is exercised and the stall is mucked regularly.
Additionally, many people feel that stalls reduce a horse's quality of life and sense of freedom because they do not have access to green space. Owners can still supply their horses with enrichment in the form of stall-friendly toys.
Advantages of Run-In Shelters
Because run-in shelters are typically placed in pastures, they allow horses time to exercise as they desire. Horses have the option to go in and out as they please, which can keep them healthier than simply being stalled all day.
Horses housed in run-in shelters still have the opportunity to socialize with other horses, which can provide them mental stimulation and lessen their stress levels. Their owners may be able to expand on this enrichment by adding toys or treats to the shelter or surrounding pasture.
Busy owners may also appreciate run-in shelters because they don't need to be cleaned as frequently as stalls. Depending on the size of the paddock, it should typically be cleaned once or twice a week, compared to once or twice a day for stalls.
Disadvantages of Run-In Shelters
While horses may have more freedom with run-in shelters, they don't have the same level of protection from the weather as those in stalls. Owners must be prepared to provide adequate shelter for their horses if there is a chance of rain or snow.
Horses living in run-in shelters can still suffer from colic, ulcers, and gastric impactions; however, the risk is much lower than for horses kept in stalls. Horses kept in pastures with run-in shelters may also ingest things they shouldn't. For example, eastern black nightshade is toxic to horses and commonly grows across North America, despite its name.
Owners may find there are more expenses associated with keeping horses in run-in shelters compared to stalls. Additional resources may be required for fencing, shelter upkeep, or bedding materials. The horse must also be brought into a proper barn or stable before bad weather hits and taken out afterward, which can take up time that owners might prefer to spend elsewhere.
Deciding Which Option Fits Your Horse's Needs
After finding a property in a horse-friendly neighborhood, building a shelter is one of the first items on the list to prepare a property for horses. Overall, it all comes down to what works best for your horse's needs and preferences. It can be helpful to consult with your veterinarian or equine specialist to determine which option will provide your horse with the best care. If the opportunity arises, try changing the horse's housing situation to see how they react. There are benefits to both options that can be capitalized on, and it is essential to find which one meets your horse's needs the most.