Do Horses Legally have to have Shelter?

Dec 19, 2022

Horses are a companion for life. They can bring so much joy and happy memories, but when you decide to become a horse owner, you also take on a lot of responsibility. One of the main things to consider when owning a horse is what kind of shelter they will require. 

Horse Paddock Shelter

Pictured above is a Homestead Relocatable Paddock Shelter from Outpost Buildings. Click here to find out more about this product >

Owners of domestic horses legally need to provide adequate shelter. Horses require access to shade and shelter from extreme weather conditions to keep them healthy and happy. In addition, horse owners must comply with the minimum standards for animal care and management in the Codes of Welfare. 

Although horses seek shelter in the wild, domesticated and bred horses that are housed in confined paddocks rely on their owners to provide them with the shelter they need. So what do you need to think about when planning a shelter for your horse?




Why does my horse need shelter?

Just like any animal, a horse is sensitive to the elements. We all find ways to adjust to the weather and climate. But if we’re left outside for a long period of time in the heat, the wind or the rain, it causes stress to our body and can be detrimental to our health. In cold weather, our muscles tense up and our metabolism slows down to preserve energy, while in the heat, our bodies lose water and expend energy to cool us down. 

Wild horses that are left to run free have the ability and the instinct to find their own shelter. However, domestic horses that live in enclosed areas need shelter to be provided for them. Some domestic horses have been bred to have fine coats which means they are especially susceptible to the elements and may even experience sunburn which can lead to cancer. Even horses with thick coats will require a shelter to escape any exposure to strong wind or rain.

From a physiological standpoint, horses need shade from the sun as the large body of a horse takes longer to cool down than that of a smaller bodied animal. The same goes for the freezing weather. Too much exposure to the extreme elements can cause sickness and ailments in your horses. 

Horses in the rain

Do Horses Legally have to have Shelter?

The Animal Welfare Act 1999, states that animals need shelter to protect them from any weather related problems that could affect their health. 

You need to protect your horses from heat stress and cold stress. These stresses can lead to increased susceptibility to disease and ultimately a shorter life span. Of course, the severity of the weather is a significant factor. Whether it’s hot or cold, if a horse is outside, they can shelter under trees or in vegetation. But once the weather becomes less hospitable or even more extreme, they will likely seek out more protected shelters such as stables or barns.

Codes of Welfare

As stated in the Horses and Donkeys Code of Welfare, the minimum standards of shelter are:

  • Horses must have access to shelter to reduce the risk to their health and welfare caused by exposure to cold or wet weather conditions.
  • Horses must be provided with the means to minimise the effects of heat stress. 
  • Covers must be used to protect horses from climatic extremes where other forms of shelter are not sufficient to maintain the horse’s health and welfare. 
  • Where used, covers must be fitted correctly and inspected regularly to ensure that they are providing suitable protection and are not causing the horse discomfort. 
  • Where horses develop health problems associated with exposure to adverse weather conditions, priority must be given to remedial action that will minimise the consequences of such exposure. 
  • Additional measures must be taken to enable clipped horses to keep warm in cold weather.

There is additional information within the document such as recommended best practices and specific example indicators that might be helpful to you when determining the level of shelter for your horses.

Paddock shelters for donkeys

Can horses live outside without shelter?

We’re very lucky to have wild horses that thrive in New Zealand and are protected and managed by the Department of Conservation. They are known as the Kaimanawa and roam the Kaimanawa region in Northern New Zealand. In the wild, these horses instinctively seek shelter under tree canopies and overhanging rocks. 

Although considered wild, these horses descended from the British Military stock of the 19th century and were released or escaped from sheep stations and cavalry bases.

Horses will make the most of what they can find in the wilderness. They may huddle together to preserve warmth and shield each other from the wind and rain. While wild horses have the opportunity to be resourceful, domesticated horses survival skills are less adept so they are very much in need of shelter. When they are kept in enclosed paddocks with little options for finding protection, the need for shelter is all the more important..

How big should a horse shelter be?

Outpost Buildings have a number of horse shelters in different sizes and designs to ensure your horse is fully protected from the elements, while keeping them safe and comfortable in their resting area. 

Your shelter should be at least 3m x 3.5m for one horse and 3.5 x 4.8m for two horses. An open front can allow for your horses to come and go as they please while providing enough space for both to stand or lie down inside. Read more about the size of your horse paddock shelters for different horse sizes, as well as how to house horses that don’t get along in our post here.

Horse Shelter with Tack Shed

Horse Shelters at Outpost Buildings

Horse Paddock Shelters - a come-and-go shelter to have in your paddock to enable your horse to take shelter during bad weather. You can also add gates and stall rails to make a holding stall that is great for grooming and cleaning.

Shelter With Tack Room - you might find a shelter with a tack room attached is a no-brainer for additional storage of all your horses' needs throughout the day. Our lockable tack rooms provide a safe and secure place for your equipment.

Custom Horse Stables - You decide what design will best suit your space and your needs with our custom built horse stables. Add gates, doors, tack room, height for larger horses, covered yards and number of stalls.

Reach out to us today for all your horse shelter needs.

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