Yes! Horses prefer to be outside. Their lungs are sensitive to dust and mold and therefore, they are prone to developing respiratory ailments. Fresh air and exercise can make the horse’s life more enjoyable. They were designed to live outside!
There are a few considerations when turning horses out in the cold weather.
Horses generally grow a thick winter coat. This might not be the case if a horse was stabled and blanketed most of its life: it may not grow a winter coat due to that fact that it wasn’t previously allowed to grow a coat. This situation is usually rectified and the horse will grow a winter coat after a few seasons of turnout in the cold weather. Blanketing may be best in the most severe weather for this type of horse, until it grows a winter coat.
For most horses, their first line of defense against the cold weather is their thick winter coat. The hair is dense and protects them from temperatures that we find unbearable. As long as the coat stays dry, horses are usually comfortable in temperatures that dip as low as 8-10 degrees below zero (without the wind chill factored in). Horses will turn their hindquarters into the wind to protect their legs and thighs from the cold. If the coat gets wet, the protection is compromised and alternative measures need to be taken.
Horses have a fat layer that protects them from cold temperatures also. It is important to feed more heat producing feed in the winter to encourage body heat production. Grain and hay provide body heat production. Make sure your horse’s teeth are in good shape in order for the horse to get enough feed to keep up its body heat and nutritional requirements.
Horses must have shelter from the wind and severe temperatures that may be mixed with rain, sleet or snow. Their ability to keep themselves warm is critically compromised if their winter coat gets wet. Horses will naturally seek shelter from these elements. Blanketing can be an alternative to shelter. However, it is best to have shelter available rather than rely on a blanket or turnout rug.