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Field Shelters – Providing Horses with Shelter from the Summer Sun

One of the main functions of field shelters is to provide protection from the prevailing winds and rain. However, down here in Texas, especially in areas where there aren’t a lot of trees, shade is an important commodity as well.

When we first moved to our current boarding barn, my friends and I had five horses between us, three of them draft horses. The barn owner, Brody, set us up in the biggest pasture so they all had plenty of room and plenty of grazing. The pasture offered a big, well-built shelter, as did all the pastures and paddocks at the facility although we rarely saw the horses make use of it.  There wasn’t any other shade in the pasture in the way of trees.

My senior gelding, Annapolis, is a slow eater and is on a special senior diet so Brody created a couple of small feeding pens next to the shelter where he could eat without the other horses stealing his feed and my mare, Star, could be next to him while he ate. Even though the feeding pens didn’t offer any shade,  it didn’t seem to be a problem until recently, when Brody added a small lunch time feed for Annapolis in the constant struggle to keep weight on this 33 yr old  hard-keeper.

We began to notice that Star, who is a Percheron and very large and black, was showing signs of heat stress as she stood in the pen next to Annapolis while he ate three times a day. I was really concerned about her, but there didn’t seem to be an answer.  Even though my friends had now either sold or moved their horses, there were still other horses in the pasture and Annapolis wouldn’t eat if he couldn’t see Star, so she had to be next to him at feeding time.

Then last weekend Brody called and told me he had a solution. If I was agreeable, he was going to move just the two of them to one of the smaller pastures. It’s about 40 feet wide and about 250 feet long and has a field shelter. Brody offered to partition off a feeding stall for Annapolis, that could be closed up with a gate when he’s eating and could be opened up the rest of the time, allowing both horses plenty of access to shade whenever they needed it.

My husband and I went to check it out and fell in love with it!

The first thing we noticed was the orientation which meant that it was nice and shady at all times of day.  In the morning when the sun comes in from the east (from the right in this photo), there’s a pecan tree next to the pasture providing shade. It means that Star doesn’t have to stand in the blazing summer sun while slow-poke Annapolis eats. In the evening, as the sun sets, the solid wall on the west side of the shelter blocks the sun’s rays.

Once Brody had put up the partition, he moved the horses into the new pasture.  At feeding time, each horse has their own area, about the size of a regular 12 x 12  stall. One side is closed off with a gate while Annapolis eats, allowing Star to come and go as she pleases.  She seems happy to stand right next to him, munching on hay, but even if she wanders off in to the pasture, she is always in his line of sight so he doesn’t get stressed, stop eating and try to break loose.

Field shelter with feeding stall

In addition to the shelter, there are also little pockets of shade provided by rows of pecan trees on the east and west sides of the pasture. This means that, depending on the time of day, the horses have a choice of locations where they can stand in the shade and also catch some breeze.

Seeing my horses together in the shade of the shelter, or in the shade of one of the pecan trees has been a great weight off my mind.

Thanks to my barn owner, Brody, for finding a solution to a problem that threatened the health and well being of both my horses. Happy horses = happy boarder!

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