Horses who must live in boarding stables, confined for many hours a day to small stalls, obviously need to get out and exercise.
Unfortunately, as urban sprawl encroaches on ever-dwindling equine-friendly land, even some barns cannot provide space specifically for turnout (play) time.
If there are riding arenas, those are meant for – you guessed it – riding! Sure, they can sometimes be available for brief turnout sessions. However; if anyone shows up to ride, your horses have to be removed immediately.
Round pens are another possible short-term solution, but those are also designated for working and training a horse. Round pens are not available as a turnout pen if any boarder needs the area to play with their horse.
So, what can city-dwelling horse owners do to help their metropolitan horses get the exercise they need?
First of all, it may be helpful to remember this Parelli advice; When you exercise a horse’s mind and emotions, his body will get a workout too (apologies to Pat and Linda is that quote didn’t quite come out verbatim).
Even in the smallest of areas, with the proper training equipment (12 – 15’ lead line, correctly fitted halter and a guiding stick) you can ask your horse to move*, create games and exercises to engage his body and brain, and help reinforce your connection.
*This may actually prove to be a more effective and gainful means of locomotion, in comparison to unsupervised turnout. If you observe a horse in a turnout paddock, while they might run and buck for 5 minutes, thereafter they’re likely to saunter about or just stand in a corner. The boredom and lethargy that set in in the stall may travel with them to the turnout pen, unless you step out and help them engage.
Does the property where you board have any outdoor obstacles (logs, barrels, trees , hills or bushes)? If so, you can take the horse out for a lead-line excursion and use those items for some playful exercise. Ask him to hop over a log, walk across a piece of plywood, turn around a tree, etc.
Some facilities will permit lunge-line work in the arena when others are riding, IF you can do so with control and safety. Make sure you know that your horse will behave on line before you take him into the riding arena amidst other boarders.
A few stables along the Wasatch front do offer turn out facilities and some even provide turn out services (Bella dressage stable on the east bench of Sandy, and Rockin E in West Bountiful are two such examples; although both have lengthy waiting lists). Universal Equestrian in Bountiful offers a few turn out pens where boarders may put their horses for up to 45 minutes. Kaysville’s Sunset Equestrian offers large and nicely maintained turnout pens and Vista Farms (located in West Jordan) has three sizable turn out areas that are available to its boarders.
While a stall environment is preferable for horse owners who ride often and appreciate that convenience, those who are only able to ride once a week or so may want to consider a home that is better suited to their horse’s natural preferences.
There are a couple of local barns that are designed specifically for those who want a quality, natural horse-haven setting for their animals, even if they are not able to spend several days riding and training each week. Both Lynn Feulner (Idyll While stables in West Valley, phone 801-250-1532) and her next door brother, Scott (801-971-6172), offer boarding on wide open pasture and regular turn out in in large, lush green fields! They’re quite affordable, too (Idyll While has care options, call for availability and information; Scott's farm is self-care and less than $200 per month - no kidding!)
While there is not an indoor arena on the Fuelner’s property at this time, they do have a good-sized, safely fenced outdoor arena with pristine sand footing. Boarders may also ride their well-mannered horses around the lovely grounds. Roomy, well-maintained lockable tack lockers give boarders plenty of space to keep their tack secure and well-organized at this peaceful facility.
For approximately $200 per horse per month you can also board your horse out west in Grantsville, at the vast Pegasus event center (phone 435-830-7365). Boarding options include very spacious outdoor paddocks, either in a group setting or in individual covered runs, when available.
Pegasus has a large and well-maintained covered indoor arena (excellent footing!) plus two nicely fenced outdoor riding arenas, a perimeter trail and acres of pastoral space. This Eventing mecca offers training options for those interested in hunt seat, jumping and western, with on-site trainers and frequent, fun events - including the popular and exciting Extreme Cowboy challenges!
If your inner city stable does not provide designated turnout areas, you can still offer your horse exercise and on-line play time - with a little imagination! Get creative to come up with games that will stimulate your pony’s mind, along with his spirit and body.
Should you deem that regular turnout is essential, it’s easy to find boarding options that allow your horse to frolic in the fields, be it close to town (the Fuelners are located near 3500 South, 6800 West) or a short jaunt out west to scenic Grantsville (just 37 minutes and an easy trek out 201 or I-80 from Salt Lake).