Horses out in the pasture during a rainstorm is a common sight. But do horses actually enjoy being out in the pouring rain? If you’ve ever wondered whether horses like the rain or would rather stay dry inside the barn, read on.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most horses do not mind being out in the rain and some even enjoy it. However, extremes of hot or cold temperatures combined with rain can cause health issues.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore why horses don’t seem to mind the rain, examine factors that impact their comfort in wet weather, look at potential downsides, and provide tips for keeping your horses healthy and happy during spring showers.

Why Horses Are Comfortable in the Rain

Coat and Skin Adapted to Weather Extremes

Horses have evolved over millions of years to thrive in a variety of weather conditions (The Horse). Their coats and skin are well-adapted to withstand both hot summer days and frigid winter nights. When it rains, a horse’s waxy coat causes the water to bead up and run off, keeping their skin dry underneath (much like a duck’s feathers).

The oils in their coat also help repel light rain. If caught in a downpour, once back inside the barn a horse will shake vigorously to shed excess water.

Rain Brings Relief from Bugs and Heat

Horses find rain refreshing after hot, muggy days. The drop in temperature is a welcome relief, and horses may even begin grazing more once the rain starts. In addition, rain washes away pesky flying insects like horse flies and mosquitos that constantly nip and annoy.

With fewer insects dive-bombing them, horses can relax and enjoy the cleansed air.

During summer heat waves, horses sweat to stay cool. But this depletes their electrolyte and nutrient levels. Rain allows horses the chance to replenish fluids and restore electrolyte balance (KER Equine Nutrition). Their mood seems to improve once rain has rinsed away the sweat, heat, and bugs!

Natural Herd Animal Instinct

As herd animals, horses maintain an instinct to stick together in threatening situations from their days roaming grassy plains. Stormy weather sparks this herding tendency. At the first crack of thunder or flash of lightning, horses may cluster closer together and become more alert.

However, they usually remain calm overall since they feel safety in numbers.

Their fight-or-flight response translates into jittery behavior mostly if a horse finds itself isolated in bad weather. But even solitary domestic horses today typically have access to shelter. So as long as they can duck inside the stable, barn, or run-in shed, most don’t panic in storms the way their wild ancestors may have when exposed.

Storm Reaction Reason
Herd together Instinct for safety in numbers
Seek shelter Get out of vulnerable open spaces
Remain calm overall Feel protected by herd or shelter

The herd mentality also means horses tend to follow the lead of the most dominant member. So if the lead horse stays calm or continues grazing, the others likely will too.✨ Overall horses tolerate rain quite well thanks to physical and behavioral adaptations!

Considerations for Horse Comfort

Extreme Hot or Cold

Horses can become uncomfortable in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Their comfort zone is between 45-75°F. In very hot weather exceeding 90°F, horses can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. Providing shade, misters, electrolytes, and plenty of fresh water is important.

In bitter cold below 45°F, horses burn extra calories to stay warm and need extra food, shelter, and blankets. Pay attention to your horse’s behavior to see if they are too hot or cold.

Wet Conditions and Hooves

Wet ground and rain can make horses’ hooves soft and prone to infection. Try to provide a dry shelter or stall where horses can get out of the rain and mud. Check hooves frequently in wet weather and pick out debris. Apply hoof dressings to keep hooves from getting too soft.

Limit turnout time in very muddy conditions which can cause thrush and other hoof problems. Rotate pastures to give muddy areas time to dry out.

Shelter Availability

Horses always appreciate access to shelter from rain, wind, snow, and other inclement weather. Run-in sheds in pastures give horses the choice to come and go as needed. The shelter should be large enough for all horses in the field and have good drainage so it doesn’t get waterlogged.

Natural shelters like trees help too but aren’t a substitute for sturdy constructed shelters. Blankets can add warmth but are not enough by themselves to protect from rain. Ensure all horses have a dry place to lay down and stay warm.

Individual Factors

Consider the age, condition, and needs of each horse when evaluating their comfort. Older horses may need extra protection from temperature extremes. Horses with health conditions like Cushing’s disease also have a harder time regulating their body temperature.

Skinny horses and those with little winter coat get cold more easily. Blanketing, feeding extra hay, and providing shelter helps horses like these stay comfortable. Monitor individual horses closely in bad weather and take steps to support their needs.

Their behavior will tell you if they are distressed.

Potential Health Issues

Rain Scald

Rain scald is a common skin condition that affects horses exposed to wet weather. It occurs when moisture gets trapped under a horse’s coat, causing bacteria and fungal infections. Symptoms include hair loss, skin irritation, scabs, and oozing sores.

Rain rot often starts at the horse’s back, shoulders, rump, and hips. Treatment involves keeping the area clean and dry, medicated shampoos, topical ointments, and antibiotics if needed. To prevent rain scald, make sure horses have access to shelter during rainstorms and thoroughly dry their coats afterwards.

Mud Fever

Mud fever, also known as rain rot, is a bacterial skin infection that afflicts horses exposed to wet, muddy conditions. It causes painful scabs and lesions, usually on the lower legs. If left untreated, mud fever can progress to cracked skin and swelling. It is highly contagious among horses.

Mud fever thrives in filth, so keep paddocks clean. Preventative measures include washing legs after turnout, applying protective ointments, and prompt treatment. To treat, gently wash and dry affected areas. Apply antiseptic and anti-fungal ointments.

Severe cases may need oral antibiotics prescribed by a vet.


Thrush is a common bacterial infection of a horse’s hooves, often caused by exposure to wet, muddy, or unsanitary conditions. It typically occurs in the cleft of the frog (triangular area on bottom of hoof). Symptoms include foul odor, black discharge, and shriveling/rotting of frog tissue.

If left untreated, thrush can cause lameness and penetrate deeper structures of the hoof. Prevent thrush by maintaining clean, dry stalls and paddocks. Pick out hooves daily to remove manure and debris. After riding in mud or rain, wash and dry hooves thoroughly.

Treat mild thrush with medicated hoof cleaners. More advanced cases may need oral medications from a vet.


Colic refers to abdominal pain in horses, and has many potential causes. One colic risk factor is weather changes, especially sudden cool snaps or storms. The exertion of running and playing in wet conditions may trigger colic by slowing down normal intestinal activity.

Additionally, horses reluctant to leave shelter and water sources during rain or winter weather may not drink adequate amounts, leading to impaction colic. Prevent weather-related colic by providing shelter, encouraging exercise on non-slippery surfaces, and ensuring access to clean water sources.

Know the signs of colic, including restlessness and rolling. Call a vet immediately if colic is suspected.

Tips for Healthy Horses in Wet Weather

Provide Free Choice Shelter

Horses thrive when they have access to free choice shelter during rain storms or overly damp conditions. A run-in shed, stall, or simple three-sided structure allows equines to get out of the elements when needed.

Ensure the shelter is well-drained and bedded deeply with straw to soak up excess moisture. Authoritative sites like KER Equine Nutrition recommend shelters be available 24/7 for free access.

Check Hooves Frequently

Frequent hoof care is essential in rainy or muddy conditions which can lead to loose shoes, thrush, abscesses, and other problems. Aim to pick out hooves daily, checking for issues like foul odors or heat indicating inflammation.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, hooves should also be trimmed every 4-8 weeks year round, but especially in wet weather.

Groom to Dry Coats

Regular grooming keeps equine coats clean, distributes natural oils, and increases circulation. But it serves another key purpose in wet weather – drying out coats. Use sweat scrapers, absorptive towels, shedding blades, or curries to efficiently remove excess moisture from the coat and skin after turnout.

The SmartPak Equine team notes thoroughly drying horses helps prevent conditions like rain rot, a bacterial skin infection prevalent in damp climates.

Adjust Feed Rations if Needed

Inclement weather often means horses burn extra calories trying to stay warm. Their nutritional needs may increase 10-20% during cold, wet, or windy conditions. Observe body condition score and increase hay, concentrates, or supplements accordingly to maintain ideal weight.

The Colorado State University Extension provides helpful winter feeding guidelines for horse owners.

Condition Hay Feeding Recommendation
Healthy Weight Provide ad lib hay continuous access
Underweight Increase hay ration 1.5-2% of body weight
Overweight Decrease hay ration 1-1.5% of body weight

The Bottom Line: Horses Can Enjoy Rain

When it comes to horses and rain, the bottom line is that horses can actually enjoy the rain in many cases. Here’s an in-depth look at why horses don’t mind the rain and often relish a good downpour:

Rain Brings Relief from Bugs and Heat

For horses living outdoors, rain provides sweet relief from two common nuisances – bugs and heat. Horse flies, mosquitoes, and other flying pests tend to disappear when it rains. The rain also cools things down nicely for horses with thick winter coats or on hot summer days.

The sound of falling rain can be very soothing and relaxing for horses too.

Rain Slakes Thirst and Cleans Coats

Horses get thirsty just like humans, so rainwater gives them a chance to slake their thirst easily. Catching raindrops in their mouths or finding fresh puddles to drink from is an treat for many horses.

The rain also functions as a free bath or shower for horses, helping to get dust, dirt, and sweat out of their coats and keep them clean.

Frolicking in the Rain Can Be Fun

Horses kept alone or confined frequently exhibit playful, frisky behavior when turned out in the rain. The novelty and sensory experience of rain motivates many horses to run, buck, roll, and play together. Young foals and feral horses are especially known to delight and frolic in the rain.

Their natural curiosity and excitement make rainstorms a form of entertainment.

Some Potential Downsides of Rain

While most horses don’t mind the rain, there are some potential downsides horse owners should keep in mind:

  • Excessive rain can make pastures muddy, increasing risk of injury
  • Non-sheltered horses exposed to heavy rain may get overly chilled
  • Wet conditions require extra hoof care to prevent softening
  • Rain followed by sun can increase humidity and discomfort


As herd animals evolved to withstand all types of weather on the open plains, most horses tolerate rain quite well. A healthy horse with adequate shelter rarely minds getting wet and may even playfully run and buck in a rainstorm.

However, extreme hot or cold temperatures paired with rain can cause problems. Plus muddy conditions present health hazards for hooves and skin. By providing free-choice shelter, grooming help, and attentive care, you can keep your equine friends happy and healthy whether the forecast calls for sun or showers.

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