Group Turnout vs Individual Turnout

Individual vs group turnout in horses. Horses are herd animals, and while we know that as much turnout as possible should be encouraged, many owners are now opting to turn their horses out individually. There’s a number of reasons for this, and what’s best for you will depend on your own individual horse, both in terms of temperament and level of work. 

Unsure whether to turn out individually or with other horses? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons. 

Risk of Injury

Turning your horse out alone – in most cases – will massively reduce the risk of injury. There’s always a chance that a horse might kick or be kicked, which can be catastrophic. Even if your horse is generally very quiet and turned out with other quiet horses, feed time can be difficult. For this reason, most high level competition horses (especially those which are shod) are usually turned out alone. 

On the other hand, some horses may not respond well to individual turnout and may put themselves at risk if they go crazy in the field! However, while the risk of injury is higher in a herd turnout, once the horses are settled you should find there’s very few arguments.

If you have a mobile field shelter, ensure there’s enough space for multiple horses to get in and out to prevent one getting trapped inside and possibly injured. You might prefer a mobile field shelter with more than one entrance. 

Grazing Flexibility

Horses have different needs, and an overweight or laminitic pony will need less grazing than a sharp competition horse! Turning your horse out alone will allow you to manage the grazing they have without needing to accommodate the other horses. You can feed your horse a set amount of hay in the winter and not worry about others eating it, or easily restrict their grazing in the summer. 

Individual turnout also makes feeding times and bringing a horse in/out a lot easier. When it comes to DIY yards, there will be no arguments over whose turn it is to poopick, and you never have to worry about every horse in the field being brought in but yours! 

Herd Mentality

Despite the obvious advantages when it comes to individual turnout, horses are herd animals. The BHS’s official advice is for horses to be turned out together where possible, although this is just a recommendation. 

Horses generally prefer to be out together, and you may find a horse that is used to group turnout struggles to adjust to life on it’s own. They will feel safer in a herd, and generally be happier having company, able to groom each other and shield each other from the flies. While some owners believe individual turnout allows them to bond with their horses more, this isn’t for the right reasons and will be simply because the horse feels more vulnerable in the field alone. Horses should be able to interact and play for their own psychological well being. 

If you do decide to turn your horse out individually, ensure there’s horses around him who he can see; even better if they are right next to each other so that they are able to groom each other over the fence. 

Which Horses Should be Turned Out Together? 

The best way to decide which horses to turn out together is to look at their age, temperament, or level of work. Young horses should be out in groups so that they can interact socially and learn the ropes. This will help when it comes to getting them out and about, as they’ll be used to having other horses around them. 

Temperament-wise, try to turn the kind and gentle horses out together. If your horse is boisterous or aggressive, individual turnout is almost always the better option.

How many Horses Should be Together? 

This really depends, and many owners choose not to have just 2 horses together as they can become very attached to each other. This makes it a bit more difficult if you want to bring one in or take one out for a hack. Management-wise, having 3 together might be the better option. 

When it comes to individual versus group turnout, there’s really no right answer! While most horses will prefer to be out with at least one other horse, valuable competition horses are rarely turned out together, as the risk of injury is simply too high. As long as they can see others, most horses will quickly get used to individual turnout.