The provision of shelter may improve quality of life, helping working equids maintain weight, gain relief from harassment and hazards, and work more efficiently (lessening physiological responses to sun, heat, cold, wind and rain).


  • Shelter provision may be by means of natural features, man-made materials or a combination of both.
  • Effective shelter should be provided both in resting and working environments against adverse weather conditions, predators, aggression, nuisance and injury, offering good ventilation and a comfortable place to work and/or rest.
  • While at rest, animals should be permitted free access to shelter and the ability to move unrestrained in preference to being tethered or hobbled.
  • A resting space should be:
    • Dry: roof and walls (preferably three-sided) should be weatherproof. Floor substrate and bedding should be clean and dry with the provision of drainage.
    • Clean: floor should be cleaned regularly of dung and urine, preferably at least once daily.
    • Free from hazards such as sharp edges and obstacles.
    • Provided with more than one entrance/exit to provide an escape route for injured/ill/vulnerable animals.
    • Large enough: it should provide enough space for all animals present to comfortably turn around, lie down and easily access food and water.

Protection from excessive heat:

  • Protection from heat stress should be provided for working equids, particularly if working in hot, humid environments.
  • Behaviours which indicate heat stress include increased sweating, respiratory rate and effort; incoordination; flared nostrils; lowered head carriage/increased head movement and lack of response to the environment (1).
  • As timely veterinary assistance may not be available, equid owners and handlers should be aware how to both:
    • prevent heat stress (provide shade along with sufficient drinking water (2) and avoid working during the hottest period of the day), and
    • treat heat stress effectively - by ceasing work, providing shade, blowing air via fans (if available) and applying cold water.
  • Direct sunlight can also cause uv-solar burns, in particular where coat pigmentation is lacking e.g. on the nose or ear tips.

Protection from excessive cold:

  • Protection from cold stress should be provided when environmental conditions (cold, wind, rain and snow) are likely to create a significant risk to equine welfare, in particular neonates, elderly animals and others that are physiologically compromised.
  • Behaviour which indicates suffering from cold stress includes huddling and shivering.
  • Care must be taken that, in an attempt to protect against the cold and excessive wind, ventilation and air quality are not unduly compromised.
  • Animal handlers should also ensure that equids have access to adequate (in particular high-fibre) feed and water (that is not frozen over) during cold weather (2).
Donkey Donkeys’ coats have poorer water-proofing qualities than other equids: they are thus more susceptible to cold stress in wet conditions in the absence of adequate shelter.

Predators, nuisance and injury:

  • Working equids should be kept safe from predators and vehicles, especially if left free to roam or tethered/hobbled.
  • Working equids should not be tethered or hobbled continuously and should be free to lie down and move without risk of injury.
  • Building and tethering/hobbling materials must themselves not create a hazard or risk of injury to the animals.
  • If housed alongside other animals, particular care should be taken to protect them from injury by aggressive companions or horned cattle (2).
  • Insects, particular winged species, may present a nuisance and hazard e.g. infectious disease spread particularly if no escape is possible (3).
  • It is sometimes necessary to provide segregated accommodation to protect against the hazard of injury or illness e.g. quarantine against infectious disease threats.
Donkey Donkeys are more likely than horses to display masking behaviours (stoicism) in the face of aggression by group-housed companions leading to reduced feeding/drinking, weight-loss and apathy.

Due to the prevalence of bonding, shelter areas for donkeys should provide adequate space for bonded animals to share the same space.
Donkey If forcibly separated for extended periods from companions, e.g. due to injury, equids may exhibit repetitive stereotypic behaviours


Consequences include:

  • Heat stress:
    • dehydration, lethargy, inappetence and the inability to work effectively.
  • Cold stress:
    • shivering, lethargy, weight-loss and the inability to work effectively.
  • Predators, aggressive companions and nuisance species:
    • physical injury, skin lesions, infectious disease, avoidance behaviours, distress.
  • Exposure to environmental hazards from seeking inappropriate shelter:
    • sharp/hanging/insecure objects causing injury e.g. to eyes;
    • noxious chemicals causing skin and respiratory disease;
    • vehicles (especially if moving) and equipment causing injury..
  • Inability to rest including lie and sleep comfortably:
    • reduced work efficiency, distress.
Donkey Donkeys appear more stoic and signs that they are suffering poor welfare are typically more


By considering resource-based factors such as:

  • Shelter dimensions, construction and materials.
  • Location, elevation and orientation regarding sun, wind and rain.
  • Bedding dryness and cleanliness.
  • Ventilation and air quality.
  • Water and feed provision.
  • Environmental temperature and humidity.

By assessing animal-based indicators such as:

  • Dehydration.
  • Body condition score.
  • Feeding and drinking behaviours
  • Stance and lying behaviours.
  • Grooming behaviours – self and others.
  • Injury and illness.
  • Response to the environment.
  • Current reproductive status (for example; suckling a young foal).
  • Ability to work.
All equines Equids should not be confined to shelters for long periods without adequate daily exercise, unless under specific veterinary advice.

Equids are social animals and shelter should be constructed such that they are able to visualise other animals, where possible

There should be provision for animals to be released and evacuated quickly in the event of an emergency (such as fire or flooding).


  • Horses must have a period of recumbency in each 24-hour period in which to sleep.
  • Unsuitable shelter, that prevents horses from lying down can result in horses that are sleep deprived and at risk of falling, injury, and not being able to work safely

This section may not be relevant to all topics, but this is a space to list and signpost any useful materials that make compliment the topic. Look at water document for examples.

For example, I may refer to and reference a scoring table that is relevant to my topic here, signposting it as if it were an appendix.

Factsheets and publications. ICWE

  1. Pritchard, J.C., Barr, A.R.S., Whay, H.R. (2006) Validity of a behavioural measure of heat stress and a skin tent test for dehydration in working horses and donkeys. Equine Vet. J. 38 (5), 433–438.
  2. Brooke, WEVM, 2013. See
  3. Christensen, J.A., Andersen, A.G., Skovbo, K.N., Skovgård, H. (2022) Shelter use by horses during summer in relation to weather conditions and horsefly (Tabanidae) prevalence,Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol 253, ISSN 0168-1591, Accessed 03/04/2024 at:
  4. National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC, UK), Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines Compendium for Horses, Ponies and Donkeys (Third Edition), updated 2009. Accessed 03/04/2024 at:
  5. Department for environment, food, and rural affairs (DEFRA, UK), Code of practice for the welfare of Horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids (updated 2017). Accessed 03/04/2024 at; horses-welfare-codes-of-practice-april2018.pdf (
  6. Camie, R.Heleski, McLean, A.K. and Swanson, J.C. (2015) Practical methods for improving the welfare of Horses, Donkeys and Mules and other working draft animals in developing areas. In: Improving Animal Welfare, 2nd edn: A Practical Approach. Grandin,T. editor .pp 328-348.
  7. Holcomb et al., 2013
  8. Heleski, C.R., Murtazashvili, I. (2010) Daytime shelter-seeking behavior in domestic horses. J. Vet. Behav. 5: 276-282. doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2010.01.003
  9. Hartman, E., Hopkins, R.J., Blomgren, E., Ventorp, M., von Brömssen, C., Dahlborn, K. (2010) Daytime shelter use of individually kept horses during Swedish summer. J. Anim. Sci 93: 802-810. doi:10.2527/jas2014-8598
  10. Hartman et al., 2015
  11. Medjell, C.M., Bøe, K.E. (2005) Responses to climatic variables of horses housed outdoors under Nordic winter conditions. Can. J.Anim. Sci. 85(3): 307-308.
  12. Minka, N.S., Ayo, J.O.(2007) Effects of shade provision on some physiological parameters, behavior and performance of pack donkeys (Equinus asinus) during the hot-dry season. J.Equine. Sci. 18(2): 39-46.