If you are keeping your horse at home you will need to provide some sort of shelter. This could be in the form of a stable or a run-in shed. A safe, roomy shelter is a necessity if you are keeping a horse. If you have no shelter, you should have stabling with either roomy standing stalls or box stalls. Whether you chose to have a run-in type shelter, or have a stable with stalls there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of housing.
Advantages of Loose Housing, Loafing or Run-In Sheds
- Less work for the owner. Sheds may only need periodic cleaning that may be done with a tractor.
- Horses choose when they are in the shed.
- Better ventilation, therefore, healthier for lungs.
- Less risk of fire.
- Can be built relatively inexpensively.
- Can be bought in kits with minimum assembly required and with size and engineering in compliance with local building bylaws.
- Some designs are portable and can be moved according to weather, drainage or to another pasture to allow the grass to recover in one area.
- Relatively low maintenance costs.
Disadvantages of Run-in Shelters
- No way to contain a horse that needs stall rest due to injury or sickness.
- Not able to monitor how much horse eats and manure production as accurately. (Horses should produce approximately eight piles of manure a day, less can be a sign of a problem.)
- Horses may have to be separated if concentrates are fed.
- Handling such as grooming and saddling not as convenient.
- A horse may not choose to come out of bad weather when they should.
- Depending on wind direction, horses can still be exposed to drafts.
- Dominant horses may not allow lower status herd members into the shelter.
Advantages of Stables and Barns
- Horses requiring stall rest easily accommodated.
- Grooming, saddling, training may be easier.
- Complete shelter from wind and weather.
- Lower status horses not threatened by dominant herd members, and horses can be moved if threatened.
- Horses may stay cleaner (i.e., stabling before a show the horse can't roll in the dirt).
- Feed consumption and manure production are easier to monitor.
Disadvantages of Stables and Barns
- Higher costs for building and maintenance.
- Stalls need daily mucking out.
- Greater risk of fire.
- Higher dust levels, ammonia, and poorer ventilation.
- Horses can become bored and develop vices more readily in stalls.
- Horses must be exercised daily.
Sometimes the ideal combination is providing the horse with a shed during most weather, and bringing it in during very severe weather, such as hard cold rain or wind. Your horse will likely be content if the weather is still and cold, and your barn may not be much warmer than outdoors unless there is heating or lots of horses inside. You might find that your shed gets used more in the summer as horses escape the sun and bugs. Some horses will never go inside a shed during the winter, preferring to find still spots out of the wind around trees. Some may object to the sound of rain on the roof in a small space. So your horse, whether stabled or left out with a shed 24x7 still needs daily monitoring to ensure it's comfortable.