For horses that are turned out 24/7, it is nice to have shelter options. This can be done in a natural way by trees or by placing a man-made shelter. This gives the horses the chance to shield themselves from different weather conditions.
In the Netherlands, it is not mandatory by law to provide a shelter, but it is recommended to ensure the animals’ well-being. In Sweden, they do have rules for this. It is mandatory for horses that are turned out 24/7 to have a shelter during the winter. In summer, however, this is not mandatory. This prompted Swedish researchers to investigate the extent to which horses use a shelter in summer and what factors influence this.
They looked at the behaviour of eight warmblood horses during two weeks in the summer. The horses all had dark coats. Two types of shelters were used, one with a roof and three solid walls and one with a roof only. At the beginning of the study, the researchers expected the horses to seek shade primarily in the roof-only shelter on sunny days. This was because there was airflow and the horses could keep a watchful eye on their surroundings.
The horses’ behaviour was observed and their body temperature and skin temperature was measured at 3 different times. In addition, influential factors such as air temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed were measured every 10 minutes. The presence of insects could also influence behaviour. An insect trap was hung in the stables to give an indication of the type and number of insects.
The results show that horses do use a shelter in summer. Contrary to what the researchers had predicted, five horses preferred the closed shelter. During the observations, some stayed there for up to 2,5 hours at a time. Especially the insect repellent behaviour (tail swishing, skin twitching) occurred less when horses were in the closed shelter. Although no fewer insects were caught in the closed shelter, it could indicate that they were less bothered by the insects there. When there was a higher wind speed, or fewer insects, the horses were less likely to be in the shelter. If horses stayed in the shelter for thirty minutes, it did not affect their body and skin temperature. They were dealing with average summer temperatures during the study and no extreme heat, perhaps in that case the study would have showed a different outcome.
Are you planning to create a shelter for your horse(s)? Please check if it is allowed on your land. Is it not allowed? Then you can make use of natural elements such as trees and bushes or choose various mobile solutions. A mobile solution was also used in the study. By means of three fences, a roof skeleton and plastic sheeting you can create a shelter. There are also so-called portable stables, these are movable stables with wheels or gliders that make them easy to move.