The Risks And Benefits Of Turnout For Dressage Horses
Dressage Today|November 2017

Proper turnout for dressage horses can be a difficult and often scary topic for discussion. Many dressage facilities don’t allow extensive turnout. Some top dressage horses get almost no turnout. The financial investment in these horses can make turning them out into a larger field terrifying for the owner, who fears the worst. Will the horse come back in one piece? Will he still have all his shoes?

Ciera Guardia

Turnout for a horse has a lot of benefits. Just as for us humans, fresh air, light and exercise improve well-being. It generally makes a horse more content and happy. Many top dressage riders have discovered the benefits of turnout, including the mental break it offers the horse, especially when he is in stressful training or frequently traveling during show season. I always tell my clients that the horse needs time to be a horse. Just like you need time to decompress after a stressful day at work or need a soothing shower after a hard workout, horses need their time in the paddock to roll, gallop, snort and whinny. Rolling, bucking, kicking out and all other acrobatics your horse may display in his field can make you hold your breath as you watch (or cover your eyes), but these natural movements help him stretch sore, tight muscles, re-align his spine and help his respiratory Turning out your horse promotes healthier, system clear arena dust. All more regulated digestion. of this promotes healthy muscle repair after exercise. It’s important that horses are still allowed to be horses when the time is right.

Turning out your horse promotes healthier, more regulated digestion, as it allows the stomach to produce less gastric acid and decreases the production of gastric ulcers. The digestive system of all mammals is different and is designed to function based on the animal’s natural diet and environment. Before domestication, horses roamed free and grazed continuously for 24 hours per day. Their stomach is relatively small, as they are designed to ingest small meals throughout the entire day. Most horses who are managed in a stalled facility are fed two to three times per day, as this is what is feasible for management. This results in larger meals to ensure the horse’s nutritional requirements are met.

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