When the cold winter winds blow, you are concerned about your animals. Did you know that horses have a build in regulation system that keeps them comfortable regardless of the temperature? It’s natural for you to worry about your equine, but they can stay toasty warm in or out of the barn. Most owners have no clue how their body works to keep them warm, but it’s quite fascinating.
A New Coat Protects from Harsh Weather
Keeping warm starts with the coat. The fur on a horse helps to trap the heat inside. They can get quite a thick winter coat to help protect them. The Yakutsk Pony is known for its long mane. They can get an additional eight inches in cold weather. A horse that is kept in a barn more than outside won’t get as much hair. Nature has a way of getting them ready for extreme temperatures.
Hindgut Fermentation Aids in Warmth
You may assume that your horse chews their food like a cow. However, their digestive process is unique, and they are nothing like cattle. A horse can heat themselves from the inside out. The large intestine has symbiotic bacteria that work to break down their food. The process of digestion creates a considerable amount of heat, and this heat helps them to keep warm in the most brutal weather.
Instincts Keep Them Safe
With snow and rain becoming a frequent occurrence in winter, the key is keeping their hair dry. Horses have an instinct that helps them find shelter. They will look for a grouping of trees, or if none are available, then they will go to the end of a mountain looking for something to break the wind. Gathering in a heard is helpful as their body heat keeps their temperatures stable. Even though they are savvy, there is nothing that can keep the moisture off them when Mother Nature unleashes her fury. Thankfully, they have Lanolin build into the hair that helps keep the water on the surface. It won’t penetrate the inner layers, and they can shake it off.
I remember when I was first getting acquainted with horses. One of our equines had snow all over him. I was worried because I thought for sure he would freeze to death. The fact is snow on their bodies is not a bad sign. It means that no heat is escaping, and their internal system is working. The snow was all surface moisture, and they can shake it off if it is bothering them. If they were losing body heat, there would be no snow as it would melt. Have you ever touched a horse’s coat in the winter? It’s cold to your hand, but that means they are warm on the inside.
Pilo Erection Regulates Body Temperature
You have experienced goosebumps a time or two. When your body is cold, the hair follicles are standing up to warm you. The same thing happens with an equine. They can raise and lower the hairs to cool or heat their body. The only difference is their hair is a lot longer. Raising and lowering these hairs is called Pilo Erection. Did you know that you can mess with this process by putting a horse rug on them all the time? The mats flatten the hairs and don’t allow them to raise and lower as needed.
Blanketing a horse is something that makes the owner feel better, but it doesn’t have to be done. We often transfer our emotions to our pets. Have you ever seen a dog with shoes and a coat? It’s all unnecessary costs. These rugs can impair the circulation, which causes tension in the shoulder area. Often, these blankets don’t fit properly and are left on for longer than necessary. Just because it’s a bit chilly outside doesn’t mean that they need to be covered.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. If the equine is sick or elderly, then they may need the extra help that a horse rug can provide. Also, extra food, not grains, can help to keep their weight on during the harsh months. Any horse that has been clipped or cannot grow a good coat should also have a blanket.
Horses Thrive Naturally
Many people talk about how expensive it is to own a horse., but many of the costs are unnecessary. An equine doesn’t require a heated barn, fancy blankets, and piles of wood shavings. They have instincts that let them know to seek shelter and a body that is meant to stay warm. Many things that are done can disrupt their natural process.
Here at Oak Haven Acres, we cater to older horses and some with medical needs. When a horse gets up in years, just like a human, things don’t always work as they should. Still, the intricate design of their internal thermometer is fascinating.