Horses require both shelter from natural elements like wind and precipitation, as well as room to exercise. Worldwide, horses and other equids usually live outside with access to shelter for protection from the elements. In some cases, animals are kept in a barn or stable for ease of access by managers, or for protection from the weather for various reasons. For horse owners who do not own their own land, fields and barns can be rented from a private land owner or space for an individual horse may be rented from a boarding farm. Horses that are not on full-time turnout in a field or pasture normally require some form of regular exercise, whether it is being ridden, longed or turned out for free time. However, if a horse is ill or injured it may need to be confined to a stable, usually in a box stall.
As equines are herd animals, most have better mental behavior when in proximity to other equine company. However, this is not always possible, and it has been known for companionship bonds to develop between horses and cats, goats and other species. There are exceptions. Some horses, particularly stallions are often kept separated from other horses, particularly other males they may challenge for dominance. For safety and monitoring, Mares may be separated from a herd prior to foaling.
Horses require access to clean fresh water at all times, and access to adequate forage such as grass or hay. Unless an animal can be fully maintained on pasture with a natural open water source, horses must be fed daily. As horses evolved as continuous grazers, it is better to feed small amounts of feed throughout the day than to feed a large amount at one time.
In the winter, horses grow a heavy hair coat to keep warm and usually stay warm if well-fed and allowed access to shelter. But if kept artificially clipped for show, or if under stress from age, sickness or injury, a horse blanket may need to be added to protect the horse from cold weather. In the summer, access to shade is well-advised.
If a horse is kept in a pasture, the amount of land needed for basic maintenance varies with climate, an animal needs more land for grazing in a dry climate than in a moist one. An average of between one and 3 acres (12,000 m2) of land per horse will provide adequate forage in much of the world, though hay or other feed may have to be supplemented in winter or during periods of drought. To lower the risk of laminitis, horses also may need to be removed from lush, rapidly changing grass for short periods in the spring and fall (autumn), when the grass is particularly high in non-structural carbohydrates such as fructans. Horses turned out to pasture full time still need to be checked frequently for evidence of injury, parasites, sickness or weight loss.
If the terrain does not provide natural shelter in the form of heavy trees or other windbreaks, an artificial shelter must be provided; a horse's insulating hair coat works less efficiently when wet or when subjected to wind, horses that cannot get away from wind and precipitation put unnecessary energy into maintaining core body warmth and may become susceptible to illness.
Horses cannot live for more than a few days without water. Therefore, even in a natural, semi-feral setting, a check every day is recommended; a stream or irrigation source can dry up, ponds may become stagnant or develop toxic blue-green algae, a fence can break and allow escape, poisonous plants can take root and grow; windstorms, precipitation, or even human vandalism can create unsafe conditions.
Pastures should be rotated when plants are grazed down to avoid overgrazing or deterioration of pasture quality. Manure management is also improved by pasture rotation; horses will not eat grass that contains too much of their own manure and such areas are a breeding ground for parasites. Decomposition of the manure needs to be allowed while the horses are kept in an alternative paddock.
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