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Are Horses Cold In The Winter

author
Maria Garcia
• Friday, 04 December, 2020
• 10 min read

After all, we get cold when temperatures drop, and unlike humans, horses can’t go to the store to buy a thick winter jacket. Horses can get cold depending on terrain, availability of shelter, coat length, age, weight, and health.

horses cold weather senior horse winter caring older does equine very coat companions affects younger knowledge planning than health
(Source: thehorse.com)

Contents

This weight won’t be burned off quickly in domesticated horses, and can help them to “ready up” for winter. Horses metabolisms also go up in the winter time, allowing them to burn calories fast; which, we know, produces heat.

Burning calories isn’t the only thing a horse digestive tract can do to produce heat, however. When horses eat fiber-rich foods (like hay), the microbes in their cecum, and large colon product heat.

This heat helps to maintain their core temperature, so it is essential that you provide your horses with plenty of fiber-rich foods. The coat hairs stand out, which keeps wind, and moisture off of their skin.

Some horses have trouble gaining weight, or a digestive issue which prevents them from eating. Furthermore, if your horse isn’t accumulated to cold weather, this can be another reason to take extra measures in winter.

Shivering Tucking their tail between their legs They feel cold to the touch Absence of body fat Absence of a winter coat Moisture on skin, or in coat A great way to prevent your horse from ever getting too cold is to regularly check their temperature.

horses cold snow standing winter
(Source: www.dreamstime.com)

A normal body temperature for an adult horse is around 99.6 – 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If it drops significantly below this, your horse needs immediate care, and possibly even medical attention.

Keep the blanket clean, and make sure it isn’t too itchy, or uncomfortable for your horse. If your horse is sweating: get them to shelter (like a barn), remove the blanket, dry, and then clean their coat.

Turnout blankets are made of materials much like the ones we used to make weatherproof clothing. They’re waterproof, windproof, and will end up being your go-to blanket for keeping your horse warm.

Quarter sheets are great for people who still ride in the winter time. Also called quarter blankets, these cover the lower back, and hind legs of your horse while riding; enabling their muscles to warm up to exercise a lot more quickly in the cold winter months.

Stable blankets are typically not weatherproof because they are not intended to be worn outside a barn. This is designed to add just a thin layer for the horse during the warmer parts of the day.

horses horse winter preparing hay belly cold weather body fat need snow hard temperature underweight keeper normal farm weight supplements
(Source: stablemanagement.com)

During very cold winters, some day sheets can be used as a blanket liner for added warmth. In very cold climates, a heavy blanket might be used at night but swapped for a turnout sheet in the morning.

Whatever region you may live in, rain sheets are a great investment for any horse farm. They cover most of the body of a horse; and they’re made of absorbent materials (usually wool or fleece).

The cooler absorbs moisture from your horse’s body, whilst also cooling them off. It’s good to keep in mind that healthy horses can withstand temperatures below 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

A good standard is to blanket these horses if the temperature drops below 30 degrees. So, when the temperature drops to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, switch to a medium blanket for unhealthy, clipped, or compromised horses.

In healthy horses, switch to a medium blanket when the temperature hits 10 degrees Fahrenheit. So long as the blanket is made of sturdy material, clean, and it won’t feel itchy and uncomfortable to your horse; it will do just fine.

winter horses horse thinking snow weather file animal animals commons prep tips tail mane cold wikimedia ready another cooler casie
(Source: horsenetwork.com)

But, if you simply wish for your four-legged friends to be extra cozy in the winter months, there’s no real reason why you can’t blanket your horses either. A horse that is left outside for most of the day through the fall months will slowly develop a heavy coat that will see it through most winter weather comfortably.

It’s critical that you add hay or other feed to compensate for the calories required to maintain body heat. When temperatures drop very low, you may need to bring vulnerable horses into the barn even if they have access to a shed.

One aspect of horse management that poses particular challenges in the winter is maintaining a supply of clean unfrozen water. With proper planning, your horse can weather the winter months comfortably without a lot of extra care.

If you’re ready to create a shed or barn to carry your horse comfortably through the seasons, Conestoga can help. Have a plan in place to keep your horse’s water from freezing and routinely check it.

Freezing can limit your horse’s access to water, which can lead to health issues. Snow and ice are not adequate water sources for horses A few studies show that horses acclimated to winter weather can meet their water requirements from snow.

snow horse brown cold preview
(Source: www.dreamstime.com)

Length of adjustment period as horses learn to ingest snow. Individual factors that can affect a horse’s lower critical temperature include hair length and body size.

A horse with short hair exposed to cold, wet weather will have a higher lower critical temperature than that of a cold -weather-acclimated horse with a thick hair coat and fat stores. A weaning may reach their lower critical temperature before a mature horse.

Cold weather can slow growth because calories go from weight gain to temperature maintenance. To lessen a growth slump during cold weather, you should feed additional calories to young horses.

For every degree below 18° F the horse requires an additional one percent energy in their diet. The best source of additional dietary energy during the cold winter months is forage.

But digestion, absorption, and utilization of grain doesn’t produce as much heat as the microbial fermentation of forage. We recommend regular body condition scoring to gauge weight and assess horse health.

winter horse cool cold exercise weather cooling feb meadows
(Source: www.grandmeadows.com)

If your horse starts to lose body condition, increase its feed. If a horse starts gaining excessive body condition, reduce the feed.

Most data suggests that other nutrient requirement don’t change during cold weather. Horses need access to shelter and should be fed additional hay during adverse winter weather.

Free access to a stable or an open-sided shed works well, as do trees if a building is not available. In the absence of wind and moisture, horses tolerate temperatures at or slightly below 0° F.

Researchers examined daytime shelter-seeking behavior in domestic horses housed outdoors. They studied the relationship of temperature, precipitation, and wind speed with shelter-seeking behavior.

Shelter usage ranged from a low of less than 10 percent in mild weather conditions, to a high of 62 percent when snowing and wind speed were greater than 11 miles per hour. Don’t blanket before December 22 or you will decrease your horse's natural winter coat.

snow horses brown horse winter pasture flames preview cold dreamstime campfire
(Source: www.dreamstime.com)

The hair coat insulates the horse by trapping and warming air. Wet or muddy hair can reduce its insulating value and increase heat loss.

As little as 0.1 inch of rain can cause cold stress by matting the hair and reducing its insulating value. As expected, a horse with a thicker hair coat can retain more heat.

Blanketing a horse is necessary to reduce the effects of cold or inclement weather when: Poorly fitted blankets can cause sores and rub marks along the straps.

Confinement and limited exercise can lead to lower leg swelling (stocking up). Take caution when riding in deep, heavy or wet snow to prevent tendon injuries.

Leaving a hot, wet horse standing in a cold barn can lead to illness. Clipped hair won’t grow back rapidly in the winter.

yakut horses horse cold raising stand weather winter hair temperatures pictured survives freezing photographs cgtn protecting nomadic historically income worst
(Source: www.dailymail.co.uk)

If you clip your horse, use appropriate shelter and blankets throughout the winter and into the early spring months. Routine care Horse hooves generally grow slower in the winter.

These balls of packed ice or snow make it hard for the horse to walk, increases the chance of slipping and falling, and may put stress tendons or joints. Don’t feed horses near spread sand as the may accidentally eat it.

Straight salt can speed the melting of the ice if temperatures aren’t too cold. Spreading a thin layer of wood ash or fresh manure can help.

Other options like shavings, hay, and straw tend to slide over ice and provide little traction. Small rocks can provide traction, but can become lodged in the hooves or accidentally eaten.

Snow with manure, bedding, and soil can pollute streams and wetlands. Moving snow is expensive, so keep distances and travel time to a minimum.

blizzard winter horses cold shutterstock
(Source: www.shutterstock.com)

Removing snow helps the paddock drain and dry faster in the spring. Facility upkeep Barns and shelters should have truss certificates of at least 30 pounds per square foot of snow load.

If concerns arise about a barn structure under a snow load, examine the trusses and joints to see if there is movement, cracking, or dry rot. In enclosed barns, snow blowing into attics and wall spaces can melt and cause wet conditions suitable for mold and rotting.

Wood will generally give warning sounds before complete failure. Ventilation helps control temperature and humidity levels and improve air quality.

Marcia Hathaway, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Krishna Martin son, Extension equine specialist; Chuck Clinton, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Carey Williams, Rutgers University The goal should always be to maximize the amount your horse drinks to help prevent dehydration and colic.

During the summer months, lush pastures contain 60 to 80 percent moisture and can contribute to your horse’s water requirement. In contrast, dried winter feed stuffs such as grain and hay contain less than 15 percent moisture.

horses horse winter cold care
(Source: backontrackproducts.com)

If your horse doesn’t drink enough water during cold weather they may eat less and be more prone to impaction colic. Even if you offer quality feed, horses will consume less if not drinking enough water.

Water intake maintains a horse’s fecal moisture level. If fecal material becomes too dry, intestinal blockage or impaction may occur.

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Sources
1 www.horseforum.com - https://www.horseforum.com/threads/lameness-over-at-knee-buckling.566785/
2 aaep.org - https://aaep.org/horsehealth/understanding-lameness