What does the Code of Practice say about shelters for horses?

Icon of a book The Code of Practice on Shelters


  • 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. Advice on aspects of welfare should be sought when new buildings are to be constructed or existing ones modified.
  • Shelter areas should be located to avoid adverse effects of predictable natural occurrences, such as flooding.
  • [Pastures and paddocks] 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 lie down in a normal resting posture, stand with their head fully raised, walk forward and turn around with ease. 
  • 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. 
  • Stall size should be calculated to ensure an appropriate space allowance, which is 2 to 2.5 times the height of the horse (at the withers) squared. This allows for normal movements of the horse.
  • Floors in a horse stable should be properly designed, constructed and maintained to provide good traction, proper drainage, comfort and prevent injury. 
  • The design of housing facilities and the materials used in their construction should permit thorough cleaning. 
  • Wiring and electrical panels should not be accessible to horses and must be installed in accordance with applicable electrical codes.
Photograph of clean well-lit horse stall
Figure 4.2: Clean Horse Stable
Photo Credit: eXtensionHorses

Stable Maintenance

  • Stalls should be cleaned frequently and thoroughly to keep the stable clean, dry and free from noxious odours, i.e., ammonia. Adequate amounts of suitable bedding material should be provided.
  • The ventilation should be effectively maintained to ensure good indoor air quality and prevent the buildup of dust and moisture.
  • When a deep litter system is used, the manure pack should be well drained and enough bedding should be added regularly to ensure a dry lying area. The deep litter system is not recommended for enclosed barns. Over winter, soiled bedding and manure are not removed. Instead dry, fresh bedding material is added at a rate which provides a clean, dry place for resting. The accumulated “pack” provides insulation from the cold and is called a deep litter system. 
  • Manure should be handled and stored with a minimal negative impact on the environment. 
  • Equipment and services, including feeding utensils, waterers, ventilating fans, heating and lighting units, fire extinguishers and alarm systems should be cleaned and inspected regularly to ensure that they are working properly. 
  • Proper storage facilities should be provided for all equipment so as not to obstruct or endanger horses.


  • Properly maintained pastures may provide all or most of the nutrient requirements of horses. Supplements should be provided, when necessary, to offset shortfalls in pasture quality and quantity. Pasture grazing has behavioural benefits. Horses are strongly motivated to forage (eating hay, grazing pasture) and when given the opportunity, will exhibit approximately the same feeding patterns observed in free-ranging horses. Horses without available pasture or free-choice forage (i.e. round bales) should be fed at least twice, daily.
  • To prevent digestive and health problems, horses should be gradually introduced to pasture, especially in springtime. 
  • Horses on pasture should be inspected regularly, paying particular attention during high-risk periods (e.g., seasonal change, foaling, introduction of new animals to the herd). 
  • Application of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and farm manure to pastures must be timed and conducted to prevent any risk to grazing animals and the environment. 
  • Pastures and yards should be inspected regularly for poisonous plants. Environmental conditions, including flooding and air pollution, can contaminate pastures. 
  • Horses on pasture should have access to a well-drained resting area and to a natural or constructed shelter for protection from adverse weather conditions. 
  • In muddy conditions, horses must have access to a mud-free, well-drained area in the pasture on which to stand and lie down.

Fencing & Safety

  • Yards and pastures should be properly fenced to safely confine horses and minimize the risk of injury Fences should form both a physical and a visible barrier to minimize the potential for injuries. 
  • Fences should be maintained in good repair. Fences and gates should be maintained to prevent horses from gaining access to roadways; perimeter gates should be kept closed. 
  • Barbed wire and narrow gauge high tensile steel wire, because of their cutting, nonstretching and non-breaking properties, can cause severe injury to horses. These materials may be used for fencing in extensive, pasture grazing situations. In closely-confined paddock situations they should be avoided. 
  • Horses should be introduced to unfamiliar fenced areas during daylight hours to reduce the risk of injury. 
Large pasture with fences in excellent repair.
Figure 4.3: Large pasture with wood fencing in good repair.

Electric Fencing

  • Electric fencing units must be CSA approved and must be installed and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specification. 
  • All power units for electric fences must be effectively grounded to prevent short circuits and/or electricity being conducted to unwanted places, i.e., gates and water troughs. 
  • Horses should be supervised when first introduced to electric fencing.

Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals – Horses (© 2018) have been used with permission, Equine Canada™. https://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine

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