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Do Horses Need Stables?

Horses naturally live outside in nature; provided horses have shelter from the elements and food, they can live outside. So, why do horses need stables? In this article, we discuss if horses need stables and why?

Horses are adaptable and live outdoors, but a stable provide so much more than just shelter and are essential to a horse’s wellbeing. Stables provide warm, safe places to sleep, shelter from extreme weather conditions, control diet, and function as a hospital room in case of illness or an injury.

A horse’s instincts are to be outdoors. However, stables offer a lot to horses. We look at why horses need stables and what they offer. Read on to find out what they are.

Why Do Horses Need Stables?

Horses need stables for many reasons. One of the primary reasons a horse needs a stable is to keep it safe during the night. A horse sleeping in a stable at night is safe and protected from predators and the elements, allowing them to sleep peacefully.

A Stable Offers Protection from Extreme Weather

Stables are an essential protection against weather conditions. It offers shelter against wind, rain, snow, and the sun.

Bad weather can affect a horse’s health if left out in the field without protection. Protecting your horse from heat or cold is important. If you don’t have a stable for your horse, you could always provide a three-sided field shelter in the paddock or natural places to shelter.

Trees are a good example of a natural shelter that can help your horse get away from the scorching sun or cold rain where he can rest and keep dry. However, horses are naturally free-ranging animals, and some breeds can tolerate cold weather, but some horses need protection from cold weather.

Specific breeds, like Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and show horses with clipped coats don’t tolerate cold temperatures and should stay in a stable overnight or during rainstorms.

Stables are Safe, Warm, and Comfortable

Most horse breeds can live out in nature and tolerate colder temperatures. However, when the temperatures drop significantly lower, it is important to move your horse to a stable where it is warm and safe.

Stables have straw bedding, hay, food, water, and comfort from snow or rain. Horses know they are safe in a stable. Make sure your stable is well built and cleaned daily to keep your horse healthy and safe.

Stables should be well ventilated to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses. A stable should have good drainage to prevent horses from standing in moist bedding. Always keep a stable clean to ensure the comfort of your horse. 

It is Easy to Control a Horse’s Diet in a Stable

A stable is important when a horse is overweight and needs a controlled diet. Some horses quickly gain weight when constantly grazing in grass fields high in sugar.

A stable helps you control your horse’s diet by keeping him away from grazing all day. A horse owner can control the number of hours a horse is out grazing by keeping the horse in the stable.

Ponies particularly are known to gain weight easily if left to graze all day. Horses that are overweight are susceptible to laminitis.

A stable help restrict grazing and allow horse owner to control their food intake. Control of a horse’s diet is particularly important for show horses. Keeping a racehorse or show horse stabled to control its diet is a good option to restrict overgrazing and gaining weight.

A Stable is Crucial for an Injured or Ill Horse

Some horses that recovered from illness or injury need to be stabled too. They are easily monitored from a stable to ensure weight gain and might need daily vitamins and medication which are easier to give when a horse is stabled.

Horses recovering from illness may require a specific type of feed and a specific amount of hay per day. Keeping them stabled allows a horse owner to watch their appetite and intake. 

A stable is vital to keep an injured or sick horse separate from the other horses. Horses are herd animals, and it can be difficult to keep an injured horse separated in a paddock.

Contagious diseases are another issue that shows how necessary are stable they are for horses. When a horse contracts a contagious disease, you need to isolate the horse from the other horses. A Stable is essential to keep the affected horse separate and for successful treatment.

Some horses easily get injured and might have a muscle injury or wound that needs daily treatment, and a stable is perfect.

It keeps the horse quiet and prevents too much movement, which can cause further injury. A stable is a safe, warm, comfortable place for a horse to recover from illness or an injury.

Stables are Convenient

Another reason a stable is a good idea is that it is convenient. A well-built clean stable is a perfect place to house your horse overnight. Stabled horses generally stay cleaner than horses living out in the pasture continuously. A stable keeps a horse on hand for the morning ride, which is very convenient.

Horses stabled overnight in a safe and warm stable have less risk of injury. Horses left out at night in a field are prone to injuries that can occur during the night. Dogs and other predators roaming around at night could scare a horse and result in an injury when they are not locked away safely in a stable.

A stabled horse is easily accessible in the morning for a ride. A horse owner doesn’t have to go out to the pasture to collect the horse.

Keeping all your horses in a stable makes it easier to care for them. Each one can be fed individually, and their appetites monitored for signs of illness.

Stables are Ideal for Grooming

Most stables have wash areas where a horse can be groomed or washed. Stables are great for grooming duties. Grooming a horse around the stable is easier than doing it out in the field. Cleaning a horse’s hooves or farrier care are easily done around the stable.

Clipping a horse around the stable is easier away from the elements out in the open.  Keeping a clipped and groomed horse in a stable before a show is also useful.

The barn is also useful to house your horse after being groomed to ensure it remains clean before competitions. Horses like to roll after a shower or a clip, so keeping them in the stable for a while after grooming is a good idea.

Horses living at pasture all the time tend to have sun-faded coats, slightly chipped hooves, and are a little overweight. Bring your horse in from the cold and let him enjoy the comfort and warmth of a safe stable. 

It is challenging to keep horses in perfect coat and body condition when they live out at pasture all the time. Show horses benefit from a stable most significantly.

Horses Need Deep Sleep

It is a typical misconception that horses are not affected by sleep deprivation. Horses need at minimum four hours of sleep every 24 hours.

When a horse doesn’t get enough sleep several days in a row, he could suffer from exhaustion that can affect his health. A stabled horse can safely lie down and get a good night’s sleep without fear of predators. Horses are flight animals and always alert; providing a safe stable for your horse at night allows him to lie down and sleep undisturbed.

Stables are Important for Behavioral Issues

Horses are individuals, just like humans. Every horse is different; they all have their own personalities, likes, and dislikes, and some horses don’t get along with other horses.

Some horses respond differently when stabled. Some horses don’t get along with other horses and need to be stabled separately. Horses have a hierarchy, and lower-status horses can be bullied and threatened by dominant herd members; these horses need to be fed and stabled separately.

If a horse living with the herd out at pasture is constantly bullied and pushed away from hay, feed, or grass by more dominant herd members, they will become malnourished.

Horses that other horses dominate should be fed separately in a stable where they can still see and hear the other horses.

Some horses prefer their own quiet space; stabling a horse with behavioral issues helps him relax and eat in peace. Stables are perfect for these horses with unique needs.

A Stable Facilitates Socialization

Horses are herd animals naturally that enjoy the company of other horses. Stabling horses next to each other facilitates socialization within the stables.

Horses that are not socialized benefit from this system as it teaches them that other horses are around and should be accepted.

Always choose horses compatible with each other to be stabled next to each other. If a horse shows signs of stress or aggression, moving that horse to a stable further away is best.

When horses are kept on their own, they often require more human supervision and contact. When a single horse needs to be stabled on its own, it is good to play a radio around the stable to provide some comfort.

Some horses fight, and a stable is a perfect way to keep fighting horses separated. When a mare is in the season, a stable is also a safe place for her to stay to prevent unwanted injuries or breeding. A stable also gives a mare time to bond with her foal soon after birth before going out to the pasture.

Not all Horses Need Stables

Some horses with thicker coats can live outdoors safely, provided they receive food and supervision. Not all horses need a stable if they have access to a field shelter that provide shelter from rain, snow, and sun. Always use a fly spray for horses that live out at pasture. Donkeys don’t have thick waterproof coats and will always need shelter. 

Stables are Short Term Housing

A horse should not live in a stable permanently. Confining a horse to a small space with restricted movement is not good for their mental health.  Horses kept for extended periods in a stable will not thrive because it directly contradicts their natural behavior. Keeping a horse in a stable for long periods will cause behavioral issues that can be difficult to correct. Try to avoid stabling a horse for extended periods. 

Horses are happiest and benefit from several hours of turnout time each day. Turn your horse out every day to exercise and stretch its legs. Stabling a horse at night and turning a horse out during the day provides all the health benefits of a stable without the disadvantages. 

The dimensions of a stable should be as big as possible to allow movement. A stable’s size depends on the horse’s size; a 1,000-pound horse will be comfortable in a 12′ x 12′ stable, and smaller horse breeds will be happy in a 10′ x 12′ stable.

Miniature horses and Ponies will be comfortable in an 8′ x 10′ stable. It all depends on the size of the horse and breed. Stables should have adequate space for a horse to stay in comfortably. 

Field Shelters For Horses

If you don’t have a stable on your property, you can provide a field shelter for your horse in the paddock or pasture. Field shelters are perfect for horses living out at pasture. They provide open access allowing a horse to choose when they need it and provides shelter from rain, snow, and sun.

Field shelters can be built, bought, and easily installed in a pasture or paddock. Providing shelter for your horses is essential to their health and care.


Horses need stables to keep them safe and protect them from the weather. Stabling a horse keeps them clean before a show or race. Ill or injured horses need stables for recovery and care. Horses should not be stabled for extended periods but always turned out daily for exercise and grazing. Stabling keeps horses safe; therefore, horses need stables.


Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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