I used to look down upon pasture board. I viewed it as the “cheap” option for people who did not want to spend the money for stall board. Granted, this may be the case in some situations, but the point I’m making is for the longest time I fully believed stall board was equivalent to providing the best care for my horses.
I grew up learning about riding and horse care at a farm which only offered stall board. It was a farm with 30 stalls and limited turnout options. The horses were rotated in and out of the turnout lots throughout the day with each horse getting only a few hours of turnout each day. On weekends most of the horses were not turned out at all due to it being an active lesson barn and needing the turnout areas for other activities. So, this is how I learned to care for horses as a child. I’m in no way saying the horses at this farm were not well cared for...they received hay feedings four times a day in addition to two separate grain feedings per day which is almost unheard of in stall boarding situations (most stall boarding options only hay/grain twice per day with the occasional facility offering lunch hay). I’m simply sharing this story to illustrate where the roots of my belief in stall board being superior were established.
Since my childhood at this farm I have been exposed to all sorts of different boarding situations. Unfortunately, the pasture boarding situations I witnessed only confirmed my belief in stall boarding being superior. Most often the pasture boarded horses were kept in overcrowded, overgrazed, and in general very poorly managed pastures/lots. Many times the pasture boarded horses received lower quality grain and hay as well.
While I did eventually seek and find stall board situations that offered more turnout for my horses (stalled for half the day and turned out for half the day), I continued to keep them on stall board every time I had to board them. It wasn’t until I moved to Virginia that I ended up in the first boarding situation where my horses could be turned out all of the time.
My horses were still on “stall” board at this farm, but it was not your typical stall board. The owner of this farm kept her boarding operation small, keeping around 10 horses, despite having more land than many of the farms I’ve been that kept 30+ horses. The farm had copious pasture space for turnout which meant despite being on “stall” board my horses could be turned out all of time. The pastures were unlike any I had ever seen, so lush and green. Talon was on a huge amount of grain when we moved there and despite all of this grain was still struggling to maintain his weight...within a month of living there he was only on a ration balancer and in the best weight I had EVER seen him. I had never seen my horses so happy, healthy, and vibrant.
Needless to say, I will never keep my horses any other way from this point forward. I am now fortunate enough to have my own farm and can continue to offer this type of lifestyle to all of the horses that live there. My horses are outdoor horses now :) ...they live outside 24/7 in large pastures in small groups. I work hard to maintain the quality of the pastures for them. Each pasture has a shelter which the horses can use anytime they choose. In the winter months the pastures are supplemented with free choice hay. The horses need very little grain to maintain their weight living in this way–most are only on a daily ration balancer...even the OTTBs! Not all pasture board situations are created equal, but I no longer believe stall board is equivalent to the best care. Horses thrive when they have freedom...Freedom to move. Freedom to forage. Freedom to choose if/when they want shelter. Freedom to socialize.
Always be open-minded enough to question your beliefs and be willing to change your mind for the sake of your horse.