Facilities and Housing

Horses, donkeys and mules are successfully managed in a variety of outdoor and indoor environments ranging from extensive range to relatively intensive housing in yards, pens or stables. Attentive management is important regardless of how horses, donkeys and mules are kept.

Pastures and Yards

Horses are highly adaptable to man and weather conditions  - keeping them outdoors or giving them frequent outdoor access is encouraged. Mud management is an important factor in some regions. If horses do not have access to a mud-free site, they can become lame and/or acquire painful skin or hoof conditions. Appendix K provides references on pasture management.

The risk of injury increases when horses are overcrowded in pastures or yards or when there is competition for any resource. The amount of outdoor space horses need depends on many factors. Generally a mimimum space allowance per horse,  is 2 to 2.5 times the height of the horse (at the withers) squared (4). Ideally, there should be enough space to allow horses to canter.

For an open-front shed housing more than one horse: provide 11.1m2 (120ft2) each for the first two horses and 5.6m2 (60ft2) for each additional horse kept in the pasture or paddock.

At a minimum, each horse must have enough space to move easily, walk forward, turn around with ease and lie down in a normal resting posture. There must also be sufficient space for subordinate horses to escape aggression.

In muddy conditions horses must, at a minimum, have access to a mud-free, well-drained area in the pasture/yard on which to stand and lie down.

The application of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and farm manure must be timed to prevent any health risks to grazing horses or contamination of ground water.


a. practice good pasture management (e.g. pasture rotation, weed control, appropriate stocking density)

b. maintain pastures free from equipment, debris and poisonous plants.

      Shade and Outdoor Shelter

Horses can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions due to their physiological and behavioural responses that help them maintain bod temperatures within a normal range. Shelter can be natural (e.g. trees, hedges) or constructed (e.g. shade cloths, stables). Research shows that horses are particularly likely to seek shelter during rain), windy conditions or snowy, windy conditions.

The following equines are more vulnerable to cold, damp weather:

foals and geriatrics 

equines that are injured, sick or have a low body condition score 

equines with a moist or wet coat, due to rain or sweat (a wet coat has reduced insulation capacity)
The hair coat of donkeys makes them particularly vulnerable to cold, damp weather

body clipped equines

equines that are not acclimatized to cold, damp weather.

Blankets are sometimes used to offer protection from weather and insects. However, blankets can lead to sores and heat stress. Blankets can also mask changes in the horse's health, and some of these changes can occur quickly (eg. skin infections, a change in weight or bod) condition score). Therefore, if blankets are used, the condition of the horse beneath the blankets must be examined at least weekly.


Within a temperature range called the "thermoneutral zone" animals do not have to expend any additional energy to maintain normal body temperature. In horses, the thermoneutral zone is between 5 and 20°C. Within the lower or upper temperatures of this range, horses may modify their behaviour without any increased energy needs. In temperatures outside the range, increased metabolic energy is required to maintain normal body temperature.

Shivering is a heat-producing response to cold temperatures. It may be seen particularly when the horse is unable to move around, whether indoors or outdoors. Shivering horses are not thermally comfortable.

Horses should also be monitored for heat stress in hot ambient temperatures. A horse facing heat stress may appear weak or disoriented. Other signs of heat stress include muscle tremors and shallow or rapid breathing.

Refer also to Section 3.4.1-Thermal Impacts on Dietary Energy Needs and Appendix K-Resources for Further Information.


Horses must have access to shelter (constructed or natural) that protects them from the harmful effects of extreme weather conditions.

Promptly assist individual horses that are showing signs of heat or cold stress.

If blankets are used, the condition of the horse beneath the blankets   must be examined at I  least weekly.

Blankets must be appropriate for the weather conditions and not result in heat stress.


a. ensure there is sufficient shelter space to accommodate all horses in a given turnout area or paddock at the same time

b. build or renovate shelters for the easy removal of wastes

c. remove blankets daily to inspect the horse's condition 

d. ensure blankets are well fitted and in good repair. If blankets are used in wet conditions, they should be waterproof and breathable.

       Mixing and New Arrivals

Horses are herd animals and prefer to live in groups. A single horse kept on a farm may benefit from increased human contact or the companionship of other grazing species (e.g. sheep). Donkeys have a particularly strong need for social opportunities and may become depressed or apathetic when separated from a former companion. This can have health implications, particularly if they go off feed.

Within a herd structure, horses interact on a dominance hierarchy. Some horses are more aggressive and may not be suitable for group turnout. When forming new groups, the introduction of new animals brings a risk of injury to horses.

Aggression can be reduced by increasing the space allowance (initially or permanently) and/or allowing horses to become familiar with an existing group by first keeping them in an adjacent area (but separated by a strong fence or stall wall). Refer to Section 4-Health Management £ot information on disease: pransmission, an important consideration when mixing animals, especially new arrivals.


Horses kept in groups must be managed in a way that minimizes the risk of injury.


a. get advice from a knowledgeable and experienced horseperson on the first          introduction of horses

b. segregate horses into compatible groups. Where necessary, take into consideration the nutritional needs, age, sex and size of the horses

c. ensure newly formed groups are monitored frequently and checked for injury

d. separate animals that prove to be incompatible.

       Fences and Gates

Several types of fencing materials are suitable for horses, including wood, metal pipe, mesh and electric. Page wire, barbed wire and narrow gauge, high tensile steel wire are used in extensive grazing settings but should be avoided in closely-confined paddocks. These types of fencing can cause severe injury to horses, especially if in poor repair.

Unless horses are effectively contained through strong, well-maintained fencing and gates they may leave the property, which brings a significant risk of injury to that horse (e.g. road accidents) and the safety of other horses and humans. The strength and height of fencing is particularly important for stallion enclosures.


Fences must be constructed and maintained to minimize the risk of injury and must be strong enough to contain horses. Refer to municipal fencing by-laws, if applicable.

Electric fences must be installed according to the manufacturer's specifications. All power units for electric fences must be designed to prevent short circuits and/or stray voltage.

  Temporary electric fences used for strip grazing or pasture rotation are not an acceptable permanent perimeter fence for horses.


a. introduce horses to unfamiliar fenced areas during daylight hours to reduce the risk of injury

b. mark smooth wire and other hard-to-see fencing in such a way that it is more visible to horses (e.g. tie flags to the fencing)

c. supervise horses when they are first introduced to electric fencing (and avoid mixing new horses at the same time as the group is first introduced to electric fencing)

d. ensure gates used by horses are at least 1.22m (4ft) wide.

Facilities for Special Needs


Foaling can take place in stalls, paddocks or pastures. The foaling area should be large enough to accommodate the ambulator movements of the mare/jennet during foaling and allow her to comfortably lie down on her side during and after foaling. After foaling, the area should provide ample space for the addition of the foal. If box stalls are used to house the mare/jennet and foal (up to two months of age) they should be at least 30% larger than the average box stall.

If foaling takes place in a fenced area, the fencing should be constructed to prevent the mare's/jennet's legs from becoming entangled when she lies down to foal and to ensure the foal cannot become entangled. Stalls used for foaling should have solid walls for safety. It is also important to ensure the foaling area offers protection from predators.

Every effort should be made to ensure foals are thermally comfortable. Foals are sensitive to adverse weather conditions and can also lose body heat if they are wet, lie down on cold surfaces or are kept in drafty environments. Keeping warm requires energy - letting a newborn foal become chilled is an immense drain on a foal's already modest energy reserves. Weak, premature or sick foals are even more vulnerable to chilling, and the loss of body heat in these foals can substantially reduce their chances of survival.

Heat-tamps or space heaters are sometimes used to warm the stall. However, unless used with caution, such heaters can be a fire hazard and can lead to overheating, particularly if the foal is not able to move away from the heat source. Using a foal blanket is often the most practical option and is effective. Any foal requiring an additional heat source or blanket should be monitored frequentiy.


a. provide a dry, sheltered foaling area

b. allow the mare/jennet to become familiar with the foaling area by moving her to that site on the farm several days before the expected foaling date

c. keep a familiar companion near the mare/jennet if she is to foal in an area isolated from herd mates

d. if foaling coincides with adverse weather conditions or for any weak, premature or sick foal, ensure the foal is dried off promptly and that there is supplemental shelter and other means of keeping the foal warm (e.g. extra bedding, foal blankets).


Stallions need specialized management and should only be handled and cared for by experienced horsepeople. While stallions ma}' not be suitable for turnout with other horses, efforts should be made to meet their social needs and/or provide environmental stimulation.


a.    ensure fencing and stall materials for stallions are particularly safe and strong.

   Sick or Injured Horses

Sick or injured horses benefit from facilities (constructed or natural) that minimize stress and provide protection from environmental extremes. Appendix K provides references on preventing the spread of disease.


Owners must have the ability to segregate sick or injured horses for treatment.

If sick pens or stalls are used, they must be equipped with a source of feed and water and be cleaned between uses.


a. have sheltered, segregated and well-bedded sick pens/stalls for horses that are sick, injured or recovering

b. when dealing with a contagious disease, situate sick pens/stalls such that contact is not possible between horses in adjoining pens

c. build sick pens/stalls that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.

Indoor Housing

Dependingmt' the region, horses may not need indoor housing. Horse welfare should be prioritized when constructing or renovating facilities. The main considerations are the safety and comfort of the horses, ease of access, and adequate drainage and ventilation. If poorly designed or managed, stabling can contribute to the spread of disease and the risk of injur: Appendix K provides references on preventing the spread of disease.


Facilities must be designed and maintained to minimize the risk of injury.


a. build or renovate facilities so that horses have contact with other horses via sight, sound and smell

b. inspect equipment regularly to ensure it is in good working order

c. avoid having sharp corners and projections and ensure facilities are free from dangerous objects

d. build facilities that can be easily cleaned and disinfected

e. when building new facilities, consider factors such as drainage and manure removal when determining where on the farm to situate the facilities.

    Indoor Space Allowance

An appropriate space allowance, in main, is 2 to 2.5 times the height of the horse (at the withers) squared (4). This space allowance allows for the normal movements of the horse, including lying down.

Sample calculation based on the above formula for a horse that measures 15 hands at the withers: (Step 1) 15 x 4in = 60in, which converts to approx. 1.5m; (Step 2) 1.5m x 2 = 3m; (Step 3) 3 x 3 = 9m


For indoor facilities: each horse must have enough space to lie down in a normal resting posture,, stand with the head fully raised, walk forward and turn around with ease. For tie stalls, each horse must have enough space to lie down in a normal resting posture, stand with the head fully raised and step forward in comfort.

For group housing, there must also be sufficient space for subordinate horses to escape aggression.


a. ensure ceiling or support beam height allows a minimum clearance space of 61cm (2ft) above horse head height when standing (ideally, the clearance space should exceed lm [3.3ft]). Ceiling height is important for horse comfort, safety and ventilation.

b. ensure alleyways in indoor systems are wide enough to allow a horse to turn around comfortably (3m [9.8ft] is a suggested minimum width)

c. ensure doorways used by horses are wide enough to allow easy passage (e.g. 1.22m [4ft] wide).
Doorways that may need to accommodate two horses at once should be twice this width. The use of doorways built for human passage is not ideal for horses and is discouraged

d. ensure entrances used by horses are at least 30.5cm (1ft) above head height when the horse is in a normal standing posture.

Indoor Lighting

Lighting in indoor facilities should provide uniform illumination and permit effective observation of horses. lighting is important for normal reproduction, seasonal endocrine rhythms and seasonal adaptation (e.g. hair coat).


For horses kept indoors without natural light, artificial lighting must be provided during the day. Keeping horses in continuous darkness is not acceptable.


a. ensure light fixtures are safe and not accessible to horses (e.g. avoid the use of exposed light bulbs)

b. provide horses, and especially foals, with a period of darkness (to encourage sleeping).

       Indoor Flooring

The ground or flooring in stalls and alleyways should be well-drained and must provide non-slip surfaces to reduce the risk of horses slipping or falling. Examples of non-slip surfaces include sand, dirt (but not mud), rough cut planked floors, rubber mats, and stamped or grooved concrete. For shod horses, the addition of rubber mats or epoxy flooring to concrete helps avoid slipping. Ideally, stall flooring will be reasonably level but designed to move excess moisture away from horses. Soft ground surfaces (e.g. sand, earth) should be routinely maintained by leveling out any holes. Refer also to Section 2.3a


Provide non-slip surfaces in stalls and alleyways to reduce the risk of horses slipping or falling.


a.    ensure flooring is maintained as dry as possible and free from standing water or urine.

   Indoor Bedding

Well-managed bedding provides comfort, warmth, dryness, traction and protection against abrasions. Examples of bedding include straw, shavings, shredded paper and peat moss. Each type of bedding has (advantages and disadvantages. The Scientific Committee report for the equine Code, listed in the References, provides more detail.

Horses prefer to lie down in bedded areas in the stalls; therefore, providing ample clean bedding also helps ensure horses get enough rest, which is important for their well-being and performance.


Ensure stalls are kept clean. Horses must be provided with a dry lying area. The area must also be of a design or texture that will not bruise, cut or otherwise injure the horse. Concrete or hard rubber mats without bedding are not acceptable surfaces.

Bedding must be non-toxic.


a. ensure stalls have a depth of bedding sufficient to absorb urine and encourage the horses to lie down

b. remove wet and soiled bedding at least once a day. For deep bedded systems, add clean, dry bending daily

c. provide disposable bedding on top of stall mats to help absorb urine and              extra cushioning

d. use bedding that is as dust free as possible

e. where possible, remove horses from the building when cleaning stalls and allow airborne particles to settle before letting horses re-enter the stalls.

       Indoor Air Quality and Humidity

Respiratory problems can be created or made worse by poor bedding practices and poor indoor air quality. The concentration of ammonia and airborne particles, such as dust and mould, are of particular concern. The concentration of fungal spores, the main component of dust in stables, is determined by the rate of release from feed and bedding and the rate of clearance, mainly by ventilation. Keeping facilities and bedding clean helps maintain good indoor air quality.

Excessive ammonia concentrations can pose a health threat to humans and animals. The concentration of ammonia should ideally be less than lOppm and must not exceed 25ppm. When a human observer can detect ammonia (by smell or irritation to the eyes) it is likely to be at a concentration of 20ppm or higher. There are also several tools for measuring ammonia concentration, including litmus paper, detection tubes and electronic devices.

A good ventilation system will remove stale air, maintain ideal ambient temperature, bring in fresh air (without causing drafts, especially at horse level) and remove excess heat and moisture (a factor in mould development). The horses' respiration can be a significant contributor to indoor moisture.


Air quality in barns must be maintained to prevent the buildup of noxious gases, dust and moisture.

Ventilation must effectively maintain good indoor air quality.

The concentration of ammonia in the air must not exceed 25ppm. Refer to the above information on options for assessing ammonia concentration.


a. strive to maintain good indoor air quality at all times (see Appendix K-Resources for Further Information)

b. avoid exposing horses to drafts when housed indoors.

Safety and Emergencies

Emergencies can necessitate the need to urgently release horses from a housing facility (e.g. in the case of a barn fire) or urgent evacuation from the farm (e.g. due to a flood or forest fire). In the case of a fire, horses should be secured in a safe location as they may return to a barn that is on fire. Refer also to Section 8.2.1-Training to Load and Appendix K-Resources for Further Information.

Toxic materials must be securely stored. Serious health consequences can arise if horses gain access to such materials.


Develop an emergency action plan for emergencies that may occur in your area. Toxic materials must be securely stored such that horses cannot gain access to them.


a. consult a local fire department for specific advice on fire prevention, particularly before renovating or building a new facility

b. ensure your emergency action plan includes evacuation procedures and emergency contacts.
Appendix K provides references on how to develop a plan and local fire authorities can perform a site visit to review emergency preparedness.

c. ensure staff are familiar with your emergency action plan

d. have fire extinguishers (Class A,B,C) located at various points in any facility and ensure staff know of their location and proper use

e. do not store combustible materials near where horses are kept

f. check electrical equipment regularly for stray voltage and ensure wiring or electrical panels are not accessible to horses

g. use non-toxic paints or wood preservatives, especially on fences or stall doors

h.  maintain a perimeter fence to prevent horses from leaving the property

i.  ensure stalls and equipment that restrains horses have quick release mechanisms. A halter and lead rope should be available at each stall front to facilitate the rapid removal of horses

j.  build or renovate facilities for the rapid removal of horses (e.g. a door leading to a secure, fenced runway where horses can be released rather than haltering each horse).