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Are Horses Ok In Cold Weather

author
Ava Flores
• Friday, 30 October, 2020
• 7 min read

They grow an excellent winter coat that insulates them and keeps them warm and dry down to the skin. In the fall they put on extra weight, so they have fat reserves to burn to keep warm in the winter.

suess matt cold horse weather photograph teton grand national park 10th which september uploaded
(Source: fineartamerica.com)

Contents

This is the reason our domestic horses (dogs, cats and humans, too) always seem to get fat in the fall. In winter the main food available is roughage, dead or dormant grasses and weeds.

Most have plenty of hay to keep them warm on a cold day and most have shelter from the wind and rain (either in the woods, shed or barn). It is good to give them more hay on a cold night, or at least the choice to eat more.

But if your horse is in and the barn is closed up and it's 40 degrees inside, he does not need extra hay. His body heat is not escaping; if his fur did not work the snow would melt immediately.

The blanketed horse has the same amount of unrelated snow on his back as the blanketed one. Eventually since the horse is warmer than the frozen ground the snow will melt on both of them.

The problem we humans have when we pat our horses in the winter is that they feel cold to touch, but this is because their fur has insulted them and is keeping all the warmth next to the skin. Horses can have icicles hanging off their fur and be perfectly warm underneath.

cold horses weather ice dangers horse ponybox tweet
(Source: www.ponybox.com)

In nature those old horses would have been eaten by a mountain lion, so they would not need a blanket. Horses who have been sick, are too thin, have been rescued or have any other health problems may need blankets.

Some individuals of any age are cold featured and really do need to be blanketed, as do horses who have no shelter. You can stick your hand under the blanket and if it is toasty and warm, it is heavy enough for the weather.

Please do not get a great fitting outer blanket and add an old-fashioned design sheet underneath. The sheet does not add much warmth, and it usually rubs the shoulders and causes a lot of pain.

If you choose to blanket and start early in the season you will need to keep it up, since the horse will adapt to wearing it, and his temperature regulation will be accustomed to it. A vet friend of mine visiting early one December from Vermont remarked that the horses she saw in Virginia had many more layers of blankets on in December than her clients' horses had on in Vermont in January.

Vermont's owners are accustomed to the cold, so they expect their horses to be adapted as they are. Horses who are cold tend to huddle up in a sheltered place and may not be willing to go out into the pasture area even to eat hay to keep warm.

horse winter horses cold weather rugs health warm keep blanket haarlem rug oil conditions blanketing effects gut michael posted there
(Source: lvperformance.com)

Wet cold weather is harder on horses than dry cold, and a rainy 35-degree day will cause a lot more shivering than any other weather condition. Horses really appreciate some sort of shelter on those wet days, so they can dry off a bit and get warm.

Sweat adds moisture from the skin out, which means the dry fluffy fur cannot work. Heavy winter coats do not dry easily, since the fur is very dense and is designed to not let water penetrate (so that the horse can stay warm when it is raining).

Some horses, especially those with a partial clip, will sweat anyway under a blanket if not totally cool and dry. There is no perfect answer, but unclipped horses can end up with rain rot and skin infections when they sweat for hours and do not properly dry out.

There are some weather conditions in the far north where the freezing makes it very uncomfortable for man or beast to go out, but mostly that is because our pastures do not have enough space for natural wind breaks of deep gullies and forest, which would be present out on a 10,000 acre range. They grow an excellent winter coat that insulates them and keeps them warm and dry down to the skin.

Horses are healthier if given plenty of outdoor time which allows them to adjust to the temperatures and helps them breathe fresh air (read my article about fresh air). In the fall they put on extra weight, so they have fat reserves to burn to keep warm in the winter.

horses care cold weather sine
(Source: www.sineinsurance.com)

This is the reason our domestic horses (dogs, cats and humans, too) always seem to get fat in the fall. In winter the main food available is roughage, dead or dormant grasses and weeds.

In nature, horses stay warm by moving around, since they often have to travel to get unfrozen water, and we all know how much exercise keeps us warm--just clean your barn and sweep your aisle to find out. Most have plenty of hay to keep them warm on a cold day and most have shelter from the wind and rain (either in the woods, shed or barn).

It is good to give them more hay on a cold night, or at least the choice to eat more. But if your horse is in and the barn is closed up and it's 40 degrees inside, he does not need extra hay.

His body heat is not escaping; if his fur did not work the snow would melt immediately. The blanketed horse has the same amount of unrelated snow on his back as the blanketed one.

Eventually since the horse is warmer than the frozen ground the snow will melt on both of them. The problem we humans have when we pat our horses in the winter is that they feel cold to touch, but this is because their fur has insulted them and is keeping all the warmth next to the skin.

weather cold horses blanket horse robin duncan blanketing
(Source: www.horsejournals.com)

Horses can have icicles hanging off their fur and be perfectly warm underneath. In nature those old horses would have been eaten by a mountain lion, so they would not need a blanket.

Horses who have been sick, are too thin, have been rescued or have any other health problems may need blankets. Some individuals of any age are cold featured and really do need to be blanketed, as do horses who have no shelter.

You can stick your hand under the blanket and if it is toasty and warm, it is heavy enough for the weather. Please do not get a great fitting outer blanket and add an old-fashioned design sheet underneath.

The sheet does not add much warmth, and it usually rubs the shoulders and causes a lot of pain. If you choose to blanket and start early in the season you will need to keep it up, since the horse will adapt to wearing it, and his temperature regulation will be accustomed to it.

A vet friend of mine visiting early one December from Vermont remarked that the horses she saw in Virginia had many more layers of blankets on in December than her clients' horses had on in Vermont in January. Vermont's owners are accustomed to the cold, so they expect their horses to be adapted as they are.

melanoma cold weather horse equine winter center bolton vaccines equestrians tips penn owners riding equimanagement travel research
(Source: stablemanagement.com)

Horses who are cold tend to huddle up in a sheltered place and may not be willing to go out into the pasture area even to eat hay to keep warm. Wet cold weather is harder on horses than dry cold, and a rainy 35-degree day will cause a lot more shivering than any other weather condition.

Horses really appreciate some sort of shelter on those wet days, so they can dry off a bit and get warm. Sweat adds moisture from the skin out, which means the dry fluffy fur cannot work.

Heavy winter coats do not dry easily, since the fur is very dense and is designed to not let water penetrate (so that the horse can stay warm when it is raining). Some horses, especially those with a partial clip, will sweat anyway under a blanket if not totally cool and dry.

There is no perfect answer, but unclipped horses can end up with rain rot and skin infections when they sweat for hours and do not properly dry out. There are some weather conditions in the far north where the freezing makes it very uncomfortable for man or beast to go out, but mostly that is because our pastures do not have enough space for natural wind breaks of deep gullies and forest, which would be present out on a 10,000 acre range.

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. Horses that are kept clipped or blanketed for show purposes or other reasons will not have that protection and will need further measures to stay warm through the winter.

cold weather horse winter caring tips durkin mike flickr horses ihearthorses via source optimal keeping weight hay plenty provide cc
(Source: ihearthorses.com)

The rule of thumb is that horses require 25 percent more intake during the coldest winter months. 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.

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