though a horse may be "turned out" for the winter because he is not
in active work, he needs protection from wind, moisture and cold. Whether
you blanket your horse or not depends on many factors including his condition,
his activity level, his hair coat, his level of nutrition, and the protection
offered by your facilities.
for winter begins well before the first snow. In August and September, horses
living in temperate climates should be allowed an increase in body weight of about
5%, but not more than 10%. A 1200-pound adult can gain 60-120 pounds in
the late summer or early fall. This extra flesh and fat will provide added
insulation and an energy and heat reserve for when weather is particularly bad.
cold weather, rations should be increased to counteract environmental stresses
caused by wind, freezing rain, snow, sleet, and below-freezing temperatures. Feed
by weight, not volume to know exactly how much is being fed. The hay ration should
also be adjusted to compensate for low temperatures. For every ten degrees
Fahrenheit below freezing, the ration should be increased 10%. When it is
twelve degrees above zero Fahrenheit (twenty degrees below freezing), the a 1200
pound horses normal hay ration of 16 pounds per day should be increased
to about 19 pounds per day (a 20% increase). Horses fed less than is necessary
to combat cold and wind will burn fat and muscle tissue by shivering to keep warm
and they will lose weight.
A horse's shelter requirements are fairly
basic - a place to get out of the wind and wet during cold weather. It is
not necessary or desirable to have an air-tight, heated barn for horses.
In fact, that is one of the unhealthiest environments in which a horse can live.
A cold, but not drafty, barn is healthier.
pastured horse must at least have access to an adequate windbreak. Shelter
can consist of a cluster of trees, a ravine, hill, canyon, or creek bottom as
well as of man-made structures. A simple three-sided shed can be situated
with the back wall to the prevailing winds (often north) and the opening facing
the sun (usually south in the winter).
HORSES NATURAL BLANKET THE HAIR COAT
horses begin shedding their summer hair in August and start growing thicker winter
coats. In order to produce a dense, healthy coat, a horse's diet should
provide an adequate quantity and quality of protein. A normal winter coat
has as much insulating capacity as most top-of-the-line blankets. The downward
growth of the long hair coupled with the stepped-up production of body oils allows
the winter coat to shed water and keeps moisture away from the skin. A dry
horse has a much better chance of remaining a healthy horse.
healthy horse can withstand temperatures well below freezing as long as it is
sunny and the air is still. The winter coat absorbs heat from the sun and
the horse's body and traps it next to the skin. During cold temperatures,
pilo erector muscles make the hair stand up which increases the coat's insulating
potential. Wind separates the hairs, thereby breaking the heat seal which
results in a great loss of body warmth.
showers, sleet, and the freeze-and-thaw typical of many northern areas are particularly
hard on horses. A wet hair coat conducts heat away from the horse many times
faster than a dry hair coat. In addition, wet hair tends to become plastered
close to the horse's body, nullifying the air insulation potential of a fuzzy,
erect winter coat.
A horse with a
long winter coat should receive minimal grooming - a rudimentary "dusting
off" or vacuuming of the hair ends. Vigorously currying a winter coat
can disrupt the natural protective layer of oils which is essential for protection
from moisture. After riding, rub the coat dry with a cloth or gunny sack
or allow the horse to roll in sand or dry snow.
fuzzy winter coat can make it difficult to determine condition by visual inspection
alone. The round teddy-bear look can be deceiving - it makes even an underweight
horse look like it is in proper flesh. Feel the rib area for a moderate
fleshy cover once a week throughout the winter.
may require the use of a blanket during the winter: the show horse, the clipped
horse, the southern horse that moves north during the winter, the old horse, and
the horse in severe weather with inadequate shelter. Blanketing adds expense
and labor to the winter care routine.
horses must be meticulously groomed on a regular basis to minimize rubbing and
rolling. Proper blanket fit is paramount. Blankets that are too small
can rip or cause rub marks and sore spots on the withers, shoulder, chest, and
hips. Too-large blankets can easily slip and twist, possibly upside down
which can cause the horse to become dangerously tangled and the blanket mangled.
Blanket linings should be of a smooth material to prevent damage to hair, such
as the mane near the withers.
can be a problem with blanketed horses, so each horse may need two or three types
and weights of blankets. What is appropriate for low night time temperatures
in a barn is not necessarily desirable for day-time temperatures in a sunny paddock.
Waterproof blankets keep precipitation off
a horse but often do not allow heat and moisture from normal body respiration
to escape. A better choice is a waterproof-breathable blanket which prevents
rain and snow from entering the blanket but allows moisture to escape. A
too-heavy blanket can cause a horse to sweat, become wet, then chilled.
This can sap a horse's energy, lower his resistance, and create an open invitation
for respiratory infections. Check for over-heating or dampness by slipping
a hand under the blanket at the girth and flank areas.