Why doesn't my horse like being turned out in the field?

Does your horse stand at the gate waiting to come in? Here, horse trainer and behaviourist Ben Hart explains what's going on.

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Q: My horse hates being turned out and is always standing at the gate waiting to come back to his stable. How can I get him to enjoy turnout time and integrate with the rest of the herd?

A: It's hard to answer this question without knowing the history of your horse.

You need to establish if this is something he's always done or of it's happened because of a certain situation that made him afraid of being turned out.

Check the environment where you turn him out in. Horses will see, smell and hear things we won't generally pick up on, so make sure you consider everything that could have an effect.

For example, there may be a dog kennel nearby for the local hunt that he doesn't like the smell of. 

Get his eyesight checked out by your vet as if he has limited sight, he may feel vulnerable in open spaces. 

Make your horse comfortable

One thing you shouldn't do is force your horse to cope in this situation, he's obviously stressed about something so you need to try and find out what it is.

Find out where he's comfortable - does he still want to come in when you go in the field and hand feed him or when you're walking him out in hand?

Try him in a different field or with a different herd, he may not get on with one of the horses so this could be the cause of his stress.

Explore the situation so you can identify what it is he doesn't like about it. 

You can also make the environment a more pleasurable place to be, if he gets his favorite feed when he comes into the stable, try giving this to him in the field so he starts to associate being out with this.

Take small steps in changing where he's turned out so you can identify where the problem lies. 

If the situation still isn't improving, employ the services of a behaviourist. 

This isn't normal behaviour for a horse so identifying the cause is key in solving the problem.