Returning to turnout

Looking for some advice on returning my horse to a regular turnout schedule.

For the last 8 months he has been stalled due to health issues. During this time he was ridden daily and often hand walked or hand grazed as well. He adjusted beautifully to being stalled. In the past his turnout schedule was this: turned out first thing in the am alone in medium sized flat grassy paddock with a friend in the paddock next to his. Sometimes he would stay out for just an hour or 2 and then come to the gate or walk the fence line and he would be brought in. Other times he would stay out most of the day. It was up to him.

Anyway, now that he is well its time to get him back out. Horsey lives with my trainer at her facility and the barn manager left several months ago (so I’m kinda on my own here). Trainer is, of course, busy with training but we spoke briefly about a plan to get him back out. I had to get him back on the turnout schedule and I believed it would be best to try to get him in the same field at the same time everyday (trainer was more lax about this and had originally told me to just turn him out in whatever field was open). Consistency has always been key with this horse. At this point I’ve turned him out a few times and it hasn’t gone well. First he canters the fence line, then trots it, and then paces at a fast walk with an occasional jog while staring back at the barn. He gets himself VERY worked up/sweaty. He never takes a bite of grass.

Today I brought him in after 35 minutes and spent the next hour+ cooling him out (hosed him followed by hand walking in the indoor, and then another hosing and a vetrolin bath once he had stopped blowing and then more walking until he was dry). I am concerned that he will hurt himself or get so upset he colics.

Tomorrow I was thinking about taking him out in same field at the same time and just hand grazing him. Does that sound like a good idea?

I’m looking for some advice here please. How would you approach returning this horse to turnout? Suggestions? Thoughts?

If he doesn’t start to relax I guess my next step will be to call the vet and see if there is some sort of light tranq he can be given while he gets used to his new routine (do people even do this? I’ve heard of horses who need to be stalled getting tranqed, not the opposite).

thank you!

We always give Ace for the first week or so of “return to turnout.” It just takes the edge off so they can settle back into the routine with less anxiety (for horse and owner).

We also put a flake of hay by the gate. Some of them will start eating it while they wait by the gate to be “rescued” from turnout - and eventually forget they need rescuing.

Ace or another sedative should help. And yes, a flake of hay.

Can you partitition off a small portion of the pasture by the gate and gradually increase the size? (Use round pen panels? Or electric braid if he will respect it?) The wide open spaces could be pretty intimidating for a horse who is used to being in a stall.

Are there horses that he can see nearby or is there a dead quiet pasturemate he can join? This will sometimes help to chill them out if they are nervous, seeing another horse just relaxed and grazing.

Thank you so much for the responses thus far.

There is a quiet mare in the field next to him and a dead quiet pony in the field beyond that who he can see. All are show horses so I doubt I could turn anyone out with him in his current state (it would make me too nervous anyway).

So I just got off the phone with the vet. He has prescribed sedivet to be given 15 min before turnout. I’ll pick it up tomorrow on my way out to the barn. I’ll also throw some hay in the field. Fingers crossed this helps!

Thanks again!