Friday, September 30, 2011

To Wear or Not to Wear .... ?

Jeff and Grant in their winter wonder wear at the Adirondack Equine Center :)

There is a debate on whether healthy horses should be wearing blankets. To be honest, there is nothing nice about having a wet back, during a wet winter storm - so this is one of the reasons for which horses should be wearing "weather protection". Many horses also lack the common sense to realize that they may always come into a run in shed or an outside stall, and keep themselves dry and warm - so what do we do ? Make them wear blankets ! The coats usually have between 400g and 500g of polyfil and an outer shell of 1200 to 2000 denier (same denier as used by the military in 1940's)breathable and virtually waterproof. I personally had never seen nor heard of a horse blanket harming a horse (tying of blood flow, etc), if a horse rips it, it usually falls off without major consequences. It is suggested that blanket wearing horses should not be turnout out into large paddocks or pastures where they cannot be checked on several times a day.

PRIOR to winter... once horses transfer from Summer to Fall, their digestive systems change  as well. Horses usually pass on in the spring or late fall seasons. Why ? They are more susceptible to the changing seasons, as most grazing mammals are, as their digestion changes

Horses are not susceptible to cold temperatures, even in the  -30's, as long as their backs are dry, the coat is long, they have protection from the wind and elements, and most importantly, they are well fed. Hay, as opposed to grain and oats, provides the most long-term energy burn to keep the body warm. 

With the added insulation of a winter blanket, the horse will preserve its energy longer, thus saving the horse owner $ on hay,(in which this economy demands) and the horse will be more comfortable during the drastic temperature drops. The following Purina Mills Horse Newsletter will explain how a warm-blooded animals' critical temperature will change from season to season and how we, horse owners, need to assist our equines to weather the winter days ahead - Winter Care for Horses    For even more physiological reference you can read The Horse Magazine article: Formidable Frostbite.

When the -30's and -40's finally DO come along, we double blanket and we place heat lamps in the stalls to increase the temperature of the stable. Now.. you definitely do not want to allow to keep your indoor arena or your equine facility at a much higher temperature than the outside (unless you have show horses, and you turn them out only an hour or two a day, with having the additional in stall, uva/uvb lighting available), due to the fact that horses will become susceptible to the winter high's and low's. The ultraviolet light dictates the growth of a horses' hair coat. If your horse does not shed easily in the spring/summer, there may be another reason for it, such as Cushing's Disease

When feeding horses in the winter, you want to ensure to increase their caloric intake. This can be done by adding additional fat as a supplement to the feed, or look for pellet that already includes a higher percentage of fat - usually between 8%-20%. 
Horses have also been known to prefer warm water during winter months, there has been a study done by the Michigan State University that horses should drink equally as much in the winter as in the summer - Winter Dehydration in Horses
Think: Would I drink a cold beverage in the middle of winter, provided I am outside and not inside my 75-80 degree home? No, I would not. Cold drinks cool you down in the summer, for am moment, that is why when we sweat or feel hot, we drink more cool water = hydration. When we go through winter, we drink more if the beverage is warm or hot, as it warms us up for a little while. Granted, this is not the same as caloric intake and keeping your body functioning during winter months, it is simply a way to remain hydrated and thus, have heat delivered to your extremities.

How many people do you know, who enjoy cold drinks in the winter? Good article about the effects of warm water on the body as it dilates your blood vessels - Hot and Cold Myths

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