3. Shelter, etc…

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What Every Horse Needs Every Day…

Shelter, Light, Fresh Air and Room to Move

Horses need a clean, safe and spacious area in which to live. Horses do very well in both hot and cold environments if they are given time to adapt. Horses kept outside require a shelter from wind, rain, snow and sun.

The best type of shelter for horses:

  • Can be trees, a three-sided shed or an enclosed building.
  • Should have enough space for all horses.
  • Should be clean and dry.
  • Must be free of hazards that can cause injuries. Some people choose to keep their horse in a barn or stable for part of each day.

The best type of barn or stable has:

  • A clean, dry area for lying down.
  • Enough space to stand up or lie down comfortably.
  • Natural light sources and work areas that are well lit.
  • Ventilation systems that keep dust, gases and humidity from building up but don’t create drafts or excessive noise.
  • More than one way out of the building in an emergency.
  • Adjacent pens or pastures so horses can be turned out for exercise.

An appropriate space allowance (in m²) is
2 to 2.5 times the height of the horse (at the withers) squared.
This allows for normal movement,
including lying down comfortably.

About Pastures & Pens

Photo of horse in large fenced grass pastureHorses are most at home in a pasture or range with access to enough food and water. A well-maintained pasture will provide most of the nutrients a horse needs. If forage quality does not meet the energy or nutritional requirements for horses, then concentrates can be provided.

When horses are on pasture, they should be inspected regularly, especially during high-risk periods, such as springtime, when mares are due to foal, or when new animals are introduced to the herd. Horses should have access to a well-drained resting area and a natural or built shelter to protect them from bad weather. In pastures, there should be sufficient space for horses to escape aggression and express normal movement. 

If horses are blanketed during winter months, the condition of the horse underneath the blanket should be inspected at least weekly, and horses should be monitored for signs of heat stress.

To prevent digestive problems,
a horse needs to be
gradually introduced to pasture,
especially in spring.

What does the Code of Practice say about shelter, stables, light and ventilation?


  • The design and use of shelter facilities should promote the health, well-being and good performance of horses throughout all stages of their lives. Natural or constructed shelter areas must offer adequate protection from adverse weather conditions.
  • All shelter areas should be structurally safe for horses and personnel.
  • Shelter design should facilitate easy and safe handling.
  • Shelter areas should be located to avoid adverse effects of predictable natural occurrences, such as flooding.
  • Pastures, paddocks and feedlots used during cold seasons must have adequate windbreaks to reduce the effects of wind chill.


  • Housing facilities should be designed and constructed to provide for the horse’s welfare.
  • Horses should be provided with a clean, dry area for lying down. In all types of housing systems, horses should be free to stand up or lie down comfortably at all times.
  • Alleyways and box stalls should be constructed to permit easy access for both horses and attendants. Horses and attendants should be able to move about safely.
  • Non-slip flooring should be installed in stalls and alleyways to prevent horses from slipping or falling.

Lighting & Ventilation

  • Horse stables/housing should be lit to permit the effective observation of all horses.
  • Natural light sources should be utilized as much as possible in the design of the facility.
  • Ventilation systems in horse stables/housing should be capable of maintaining an air change rate to prevent excessive heat and moisture levels and to remove major dust and gas contaminants that can be damaging to the respiratory system of horses and humans.
  • Mechanically ventilated stables should be equipped to introduce and uniformly distribute fresh air and/or to exhaust foul, moisture-laden air.
  • Stables may be adequately ventilated through the use of air intakes and exhaust openings and/ or in combination with the use of window and door openings to give reasonable air exchange without creating drafts.
  • Air movement should not cause discomfort to horses in the stable.

Excerpts from the recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals – Horses (© 2013) have been used with permission, Equine Canada™.

The process for the development of updated Codes can be accessed through the National Farm Animal Care Council.

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