How Long Should Horses Stay in Stalls?

Many equine professionals believe that horses should not be confined to stalls for extended periods of time. However, the decision to keep a horse in a stall depends on several factors including the stall size, number of stalls, and other stable necessities.

Ideally, stalls should have windows that open and provide ample fresh air circulation. This reduces dust and stale air that can aggravate respiratory problems such as heaves.

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Size of the Stall

Horses are creatures that are designed for movement, and they need to be able to stretch their muscles to keep them healthy. They also need to interact with other horses and their handlers. If a horse is confined to its stall for too long, it can develop health and behavioral problems.

Stalls should be large enough for a horse to stand up, lie down and roll in. The walls should be tall enough to prevent a horse from hitting its head on something when it rears, which can lead to fractured limbs or lacerations. Stalls should be well-ventilated and clean. Ideally, portable horse stalls should have a window that opens for ventilation and eave and ridge vents to ensure fresh air is circulated in the barn. Stalls should have a ceiling that is lower than the walls to allow for air circulation and to avoid storing hay or bedding over the top, which will trap dust and other allergens.

The floor of the stall should be made of concrete or a solid material that is easy to clean and will not trap manure or urine. It should be non-slip to prevent injury and should have a surface that can be raked, swept and hosed down frequently. It should also drain well so that moisture does not become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

Number of Stalls

Horses are social herd animals that need plenty of space to move and exercise. They do not thrive when they are confined for 24 hours or more; in fact, it can make them physically and mentally sick and may lead to vices such as cribbing. Ideally, horses should be allowed to roam a paddock or pasture, and be ridden or given moderate healthy exercise at least once daily.

The standard stall size is twelve feet by twelve feet, which fits most domestic horse breeds up to about fifteen hands and a thousand pounds. However, a larger horse will require more room to walk, roll and lie down.

Ideally, the stall should have a door that opens to allow access for feeding and water. This provides fresh air and reduces the risk of a horse getting hit in the head by the solid wall of the stall when they turn to drink or eat. A sliding door is the best option for many situations, because it can be closed when not in use, but still provides a clear view of the stall and horse to prevent theft of feed or water.

A window that opens for each stall and eave and ridge vents are also important features to increase fresh air circulation in the barn. Storing hay and bedding over the windows or ridge is not recommended, because it can carry allergens and inhibit air flow, which can cause respiratory conditions in horses.

Stall Design

Ideally, horses should not be stalled more than a few days a month at most. Horses need movement and interaction with other horses and humans to stay healthy and happy. However, stalls are necessary at times for reasons like sickness, surgery, lamenesses, travel, showing and horrible or dangerous weather. The good news is that horses can be trained to accept stall rest and still enjoy their daily enrichment activities.

A well-designed stall can help horses feel more comfortable during a stalling period. It should have a soft, drainage-friendly base that is made of wood shavings, expanded pellets or other material that allows water and urine to flow freely. This will reduce the risk of thrush and unhealthy ammonia vapors, which can be irritating to respiratory tract tissues.

It also should be constructed to provide good ventilation. Horses should be allowed at least a few air changes per minute to reduce dust levels and other irritants. It’s important to minimize the activities that stir up dust, such as sweeping and raking, if possible.

Stall confinement can be stressful for horses, and long-term stall confinement can lead to behavioral problems, respiratory ailments, digestive diseases and other health issues. It isn’t cruel to keep horses in stalls when necessary, but it’s best for them to have access to plenty of lands that they can roam in and socialize with other horses.

Stall Flooring

Horses are designed to move and should ideally have access to large, grassy areas. Movement not only helps keep muscles and joints supple but also provides fresh air to the respiratory system (as the lungs expel carbon dioxide and bring in oxygen). If horses are confined to stalls for more than 12 hours a day, they can develop a variety of health problems.

Stall flooring is a big consideration because it can have a significant impact on your horse’s comfort and well being. The type of floor you choose should be able to absorb urine and feces as well as provide a firm base for walking, turning, and grazing.

Concrete is a popular choice as it is sturdy, long-lasting, and easy to clean. However, concrete is cold and hard on the feet and legs of a horse, especially when they are lying down to rest. Concrete floors need to be covered with thick pine bedding or rubber mats to prevent abrasion and injury to the animal’s feet and legs.

Another option is a dirt or clay floor that has been compacted. A layer of gravel mixed with sand is often added to promote drainage and help maintain a level surface. A common problem with this type of floor is that it becomes wet and breeds bacteria, which off-gase ammonia into the stall and can be harmful to the respiratory system of a horse.