How Much Space Does A Horse Need?

How much space do horses need?

If you’re thinking of keeping your horse at home, or are looking to purchase land to keep them on, then it can be difficult to know exactly how much space they need especially when you consider they’ll need a shelter (or stall) as well as some pasture access. 

How many acres do you need to keep a horse?

As a general rule, a single horse will need somewhere between 1.5 and 2 acres (0.6 to 0.8 hectares) but this is only a rough guide. You’ll also need to consider how much of the land is going to be used for grazing, exercise as well as for shelter, if the only forage your horse is getting is through grazing he’ll need a lot of land but if you’re topping his grazing up with hay and exercising your horse elsewhere you won’t need as much.

Don’t forget that if you’re going to stable your horse at night, or even for part of the day, you’ll need to also factor in the size of the stall.

How many acres do you need to keep two horses?

You might think that if a horse needs around 1.5 to 2 acres then two horses will need between 3 and 5 acres (1.2 and 2 hectares) but this isn’t actually the case, for every additional horse you’ll need roughly another acre. 

While horses are social, herd animals and do generally get on with each other, keeping two many in a small space can sometimes lead to them fighting, especially if two horses don’t get on.

How much pasture do horses need?

On average horses will eat around 11 hectares of grass or forage every year and it’s more important they get that rather than having a particular size field. If a horse is getting all of his forage from hay then there is an argument that they don’t need any pasture at all but, at the other end of the scale, if a horse is getting all of his forage from grazing on dry, non-irrigated land then he may need as much as 40 acres.

When determining the amount of pasture your horse needs you need to take the following into consideration:

  • The size and type of the horse – How much a horse weighs will determine how much forage he needs and therefore how much pasture he needs. On average a horse needs to eat 2% of his body weight in forage every day.
  • The horse’s fat score as well as his weight – If your horse is underweight or a hard keeper then he’ll need more forage every day which means that if he’s getting all of it from grazing he’ll need a much bigger pasture. The opposite is true for easy keepers and horses that need to lose weight.
  • How much time they spend at pasture – The more time your horse spends at pasture the more he’ll need. If he’s stabled at night and fed hay regularly he won’t need as much pasture, but if he’s turned out all day long he’ll obviously need more.
  • The quality of the pasture – If the pasture is of poor nutritional value then your horse will need to consume more to get the same value he’d get from better quality grazing and as such will need a bigger area.
  • The number of other animals using the pasture – If other horses or animals are sharing the field then it will need to be bigger to make sure they’re all getting enough good quality grazing.
  • How well managed and cared for the pasture is – If you manage your pasture well, by rotating grazing areas, clearing up manure, removing poisonous plants, etc, the grass is likely to be of a better quality so your horse won’t need to consume as much to get the same value from a poorly managed pasture.
Make sure your horse has enough pasture

How big should a horse shelter be?

If your horse is turned out most of the time he’ll need to have a shelter in the field too, he (and other horses) can use this to take refuge in from the extreme weather regardless of whether its blazing heat or biting winds. There are no set rules on how big a field or pasture shelter should be but I find that if it’s around 12 x 18 feet (3.6 x 5.4 meters) then three horses can shelter comfortably without getting in each other’s way.

What’s a good size for a horse paddock?

While many people will also use a paddock for grazing they’re technically not the same thing, a pasture is primarily used for grazing whereas a paddock is an area where a horse is turned out for exercise, although it can also be used for grazing.

Presuming you’re using your paddock to turn your horse out for short periods of time rather than for grazing it can be as small as a large stall, ie somewhere around 16 x 16 feet (4.8 x 4.8 meters). If, however, you want your horse to have enough space to be able to run (and even gallop) then he’ll need to have an area that’s at least 20 to 30 feet by 100 feet, although if the paddock is your horse’s primary source of exercise you’ll need a bigger area.

How big does a horse stall need to be?

You might think that a stall is a stall and that one size will fit every horse or pony regardless of their size but this isn’t the case at all. If you’re building a stall yourself you can, of course, build it to be any size you want but there are some guidelines you should follow to make sure it’s suitable for your horse.

Loose box or box stall

A stall needs to be big enough to allow your horse to move freely as well as to lie down comfortably if he wants to. As a rule of thumb, the length of the wall of a stall should be approximately 1 1/2 times the horse’s length although its not recommended that they’re less than 10 feet (3m) in the biggest dimension but the chart below should help.

FeetMeters
Miniature Horse / Small Pony8 x 102.4 x 3
‘Average’ Pony10 x 103 x 3
Small Horse10 x 123 x 3.6
‘Average’ Horse12 x 123.6 x 3.6
Large Horse14 x 144.2 x 4.2
Mare & Foal or Stall Bound Horse20 x 12 6 x 3.6

If you’re building a loose box for your horse don’t forget to consider the size of the door, after all, you don’t want to find you can’t get your horse in or out of it. Most stables doors are between 3.5 feet (1 meter) and 3.75 feet (1.1 meters) and suitable for pretty much all horses.

Standing stall

If you’re using standing stalls then they don’t need to be quite as big as a loose box or box stall. They need to be big enough to allow your horse to comfortably lie down and get up again without any problems. Generally, a standing stall that is 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) by 10 feet (2.4 meters) is ideal for an average horse, of course, if you have a pony you won’t need as much space, likewise, you’ll need more if you have a larger horse. If you have a mare and foal you’ll need double the width, but in most cases, this can be achieved by removing the partition. On the subject of the partition it should be at least 7 1/2 feet (2.3 meters), this is to prevent a horse from getting his legs over the wall if he decides to kick – believe it or not most horses can actually kick as high as 7 feet (2.1 meters).

Barn

Regardless of whether you have stalls in your barn or whether the horses are loose inside you need to make sure the ceiling (or lowest item if you have open trusses) is high enough so that there’s no chance of your horse inadvertently hitting his head on them. The minimum height should be 8 feet (2.4 meters) but in most cases, it’s recommended that the height should be between 10 and 12 feet (3 and 3.6 meters), this makes sure the air can circulate properly and your horse won’t catch his head if he rears.

Barns can be great for housing multiple horses

Can a stall be too large for a horse?

As long as your stall meets the minimum dimension for the size of your horse you don’t need to worry about how big it is. That said though, if it’s too big you’ll find yourself spending an awful lot more on bedding.

Further reading

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