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Updated: Dec 11, 2021

by Susan Warnock | Feb 6, 2016 | Education

Holding areas are an extremely important factor to consider in regards to equine management. Whether you’re looking to begin building or adding onto your own infrastructure or are possibly looking to buy a facility that’s already been built, consider holding areas as an important competent.

Barns become the main focus for many when they think of horse facilities. Although barns are convenient for many things they can’t be relied on for every aspect of containing your equines. Horses by nature are designed to travel and forage for the vast majority of their day. It is imperative to your horse’s physical and mental health that he has adequate time outside the barn where he can move, graze, and socialize with others of his own kind.

On the other hand, too much time left out and unattended can turn the most seasoned horses somewhat feral. Like anything, a nice balance in your horse management will produce the best results.

To achieve this you’ll have to consider the goals you have in mind regarding your horses because everyone’s situation is different and unique. For example, I love to see my horses turned out on a fairly regular basis. I don’t even use the barn aside from storing my tack and feed and bringing my horses in for saddling, grooming, etc. It’s nice to have the option of using stalls for the rare occurrence of an injury that requires ‘stall rest’ for healing, but other than that my horses are not stall kept.

Certain times of the year when I’m busy harvesting hay or managing some other seasonal duty, it suits me just fine that my horses are turned out on a constant basis.

However, other times of the year when the weather is great for riding and/or I need my horse to help me with small jobs around the place like riding herd to check calving cows and tagging calves, I want my horse’s kept handy for early morning accessibility and saddling.

I like a corral big enough to ‘hold’ five to six horses comfortably. I don’t like the area too big, because I want them to feel like they are being held up. A little confinement goes a long way, but in this case it’s completely different than keeping them in stalls as they can still move around back and forth from their feed and water, roll, rest, and have access to each other. I find this helps to keep them in a ‘working frame of mind,’ but it doesn’t have them feeling too cooped up either. Some horses that are stall kept can come out in the morning feeling like they’re ready to jump out of their skin. This is not the way I want my horses feeling when we start the day.

When there’s a couple of days I don’t need to ride or don’t want to, I’ll turn my horses back out to a larger pasture for some free time or ‘time off.’ Then early week, when I’m ready to get back to riding or training, I’ll bring them back to the holding area again for the week. Usually the holding area is a big enough area to grow grass, but if I use it on a fairly consistent basis it may turn to dirt, so I feed grass hay or alfalfa when I have the horses up for work. I usually make use of morals during this time to keep my horses happy about being caught in the morning and coming up to the barn to be saddled. See Morrals ~ A Wonderful Training.

I don’t need the horses I’m riding and training to be overweight, and keeping them this way helps manage this too. It’s not healthy for horses to be too heavy, and with too much access energy from unnecessary high protein feeds and forage, I can make my horse hard to physically train and in some cases be dangerous. Even if I’m not riding and training, I may decide to hold my horses up to limit their access to my pastures during times of heaviest growth as laminitis is a very real concern in horses allowed continual access to lush, high protein forage.

This type of scenario may work for you or it may not, but creating some sort of organized working order between you and your horse has many benefits and is extremely important. Your horse’s environment and the way he is kept play a big role in the kind of behavior he’ll have under saddle. Creating routines that keep your horse balanced, healthy, and knowing what to expect is key to having a horse you can enjoy!

© The Horse Match Maker

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