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How Long Can a Horse Stay in a Stable?

When your horse doesn’t have access to an outdoor pasture, and you are not sure how long your horse can stay in a stable at a time, look no further.  Everything about stabling your horse is explained in this article.

Horses should not be stabled more than 10 hours at a time. Sometimes, under a veterinarian’s order for stable rest in cases of illness or injury, it’s acceptable to keep your horse in a stable for an extended period. A stable is not a natural environment for a horse to live in, and the longer the horse is in the stable, the worse it is for the horse’s mental and physical health.

Let’s look at what is needed for good stable management for your horse.

How long should your horse be stabled?

Horses naturally want to walk and run around outside. That’s what horses do.  Horses can cover large distances in a day, grazing out all day in pastures.  When horses are stuck in a stable, they can’t do this, nor can they socialize with other horses. Socializing with other horses is necessary for a healthy, happy horse.

Horses are herd animals who live in the company of other horses.  When you keep your horse alone in a stable for extended hours on end, you deprive your horse of your horse’s basic needs to live a happy life.  

You should never keep your horse in a stable for longer than overnight.  Unless your horse is recovering from an injury or illness, your horse should not be in his stable for longer than a maximum of 10 hours at a time.  Horses should be stabled at night, though.

Horses that are confined to their stables for extended periods will start to display undesirable behaviors.  Horses staying in their stables are also at risk of developing respiratory, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal problems. For that reason, it’s essential for your horse’s physical and mental wellbeing that you allow your horse some time outside.

Why are horses stabled?

There are many reasons horses are stabled from time to time for extended periods, these include;

  • Horses are stabled when there is not enough pasture grazing available in winter.
  • In adverse weather conditions like heavy snow, cold, or rain, horses should be stabled.
  • Horses are confined to a stable when they are ill or recovering from an injury.
  • Quarantine is another reason why a horse is stabled for an extended period.

What to do to keep your horse happy while he is being stabled

It is preferred to let your horse spend as much time as possible roam around freely outside in a pasture or paddock. However, there may be occasions when your horse needs to be confined to the stable. 

Here’s how to you keep your horse happy and healthy for when he’s stabled for extended periods.

  • Provide enough hay for your horse to eat throughout the day.  Food for your horse in the form of grass or hay is your horse’s primary need. Though he may demand his grain, keeping enough roughage working through your horse’s gut is instrumental to his health and happiness.
  • Freshwater should always be available to your horse.  Your horse will need to drink at least 20–55 liters of water in 24 hours to digest all that roughage.  Without adequate water, the hay your horse just ate begins to compact, and trouble follows.
  • A companion will help your stabled horse if he has to stay in the stable for an extended time.  Horses need companions; they are herd animals living in groups.  The companion animal doesn’t have to be another horse; it can be a goat.  Goats make great companions for horses.
  • Provide toys and environmental enrichment.  Many toys are made for horses available on the market that can entertain your horse while he is in his stable. Providing environmental enrichment toys, slow feeders, or rotating neighboring stable buddies will all help alleviate boredom for your stabled horse.
  • Spend time with your horse.  Even if you can’t be with your horse all day, stop by the stable during the day to groom your horse and spend some time with him.
  • Exercise.  If your horse had to be stabled in the past due to an injury, you would know how much your horse needs to exercise to stay happy.  Moving not only keep your horse’s body in shape, but each step helps their hooves get a good blood supply.  The movement also aids your horse’s digestion.  If you have to keep your horse inside for any reason, see if you can let your horse walk, even if it is up and down the barn aisle.

Do horses like being stabled?

At night some horses like being in a stable.  Specifically, older horses enjoy being inside a warm stable with deep bedding they can lay down on at night.  Being inside at night helps horses feel safe, safe enough to lay down and get a good sleep. They don’t have to be on the lookout for any predators.

If you live in an area where the winter climate is very cold and the ground freezes at night, your horse will be more comfortable in his stable during the night.  A warm stable with water and plenty of hay makes for a happy horse.

If your horse has to spend extended time in his stable, you should ensure that your horse’s stable is comfortable and hygienic.

Keep your horse’s stable clean by taking out any droppings and removing wet bedding several times in the day.  Wet bedding underfoot can cause thrush, and the ammonia from the horse’s urine can irritate his lungs and upper airway.

Can a horse stay out all the time?

Letting your horse stay out full time is likely to make your horse more prone to injury and accidents like scrapes, bumps, thrown shoes, and chipped hooves.  However, horses are naturally adapted to live outdoors in most weather conditions.  These risks are something all horse owners should consider.  The time your horse spends outdoors will help your horse maintain good mobility.

Most owners find allowing their horse to remain turned out all the time is beneficial for the horse’s mental health. The extra freedom your horse has led to fewer behavioral problems related to boredom from being stabled for long periods.

When you keep your horse out all the time, make sure to provide your horse with an adequate outdoor shelter.  Many horses can make just fine living outside, even during the winter, as long as they are metabolically healthy and receive enough calories.  Most horses will develop a long winter hair coat as protection. 

If your horse has an appropriate shelter, your horse can happily stay out.  Ensure to keep your paddock and pasture well maintained, free of holes, dangerous plants, trip hazards, and broken fences.

Do horses get bored in a stable?

Boredom can create many issues for horses while stabled.  The natural nature of a horse is to be moving around freely in grasslands grazing up to eighteen hours a day. Keeping your horse in a stable for a long time will indeed cause him to be bored.

Behavioral issues caused by boredom found in horses

Horses can develop many behavioral issues related to boredom from being in a stable for a long time.  These include;

  • Chewing on doors or frames.  This behavior is believed to be caused by keeping horses in an unnatural environment for extended periods. Horses are wild animals living without any enclosures.  Some horses can feel restricted and trapped in their stable. Many bored horses will start to chew at the wood of their stable door as simply’ something to do’.
  • Cribbing.  Some horses start to crib or wind suck due to boredom.  This bad habit is tough to break as it quickly becomes addictive.
  • Stall walking.  Some horses show boredom by continuously walking around in their stable.
  • Weaving.  Some horses will stand still while weaving from side to side when they are bored.


Horses should not stay inside their stables for long periods unless they are recovering from an injury or illness.  The maximum time a horse should spend in a stable should not exceed 10 hours.  However, keeping your horse in a stable at night is recommended. 

Horses that are being stabled for long periods can develop respiratory problems, like COPD, especially if they are kept in a stable with poor ventilation. Boredom and behavioral problems are other issues that can arise if your horse has to spend long periods alone in his stable. 

Also, when your horse is left standing on damp bedding in his stable for long periods, your horse may develop thrush. Provide a happy, healthy life as close to your horse’s natural ways with enough time outside the stable to exercise and socialize with other horses while grazing in the pasture or paddock.

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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