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cold weather no blanket

This is a discussion on cold weather no blanket within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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        12-15-2008, 03:45 PM
    As long as the horse has shelter, and doesn't appear to be loosing weight from shivering, his naturally fuzzy coat should be good enough.

    I was worried about this too back when I moved my horse from Sunny Tennessee to Temperamental Missouri. I asked my Equine Care professor if I should get my horse a blanket. He had never worn one before and always grew a thick coat in the winter. She told me that as long as I wasn't going to clip him, and as long as he had shelter, he would be fine. She said that the stress of having a blanket put on him for the first time would probably do more harm then leaving the blanket off.

    I think you're horse will be fine. Just watch him and see.

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        12-15-2008, 04:45 PM
    Green Broke
    So I went out this afternoon around 12 and all the buckets were frozen!! I kicked his in and he was drinking like a mad man. I'm going to make another trip closer to sunset and check him again and add more water. Also his tail was frozen!!! He had pooop mixed with snow frozen and some strands were completely straight!
        12-15-2008, 05:05 PM
    Sorry if its that cold I would blanket
        12-15-2008, 10:02 PM
    We don't blanket. It was 5 this morning around 9 am. The wind chill was -11 at that time. The horses here are furry little creatures.
        12-15-2008, 10:05 PM
    Green Broke
    I talked to the BO and she said that she would keep an eye on him and if he looked cold, she has a bunch of blankets, she could throw one on him. I don't think I like that idea too much, but I trust that he will be ok. I did bust his water and told her about that. I'm going back tonight on my way home to check again. Thankfully it has been dry since sunday.
        12-16-2008, 09:10 AM
    I blanket more for my peace of mind ha. We do have some horses who don't get much of a coat since we are in florida, but it does get cold here on occasion. Some people blanket some don't we have one appy who does not get a winter coat at all, she gets blanketed for sure if its 40 or below
        12-16-2008, 09:15 AM
    There is an old expression that the definition of a sweater is what a mother makes her kid put on when she's cold.

    I think that is why many of us blanket a horse that doesn't need one.
        12-17-2008, 12:26 PM
    This is an interesting article that my friend sent me:

    How Horses Cope With Cold
    By Heather Smith Thomas

    Horses readily adapt to winter weather. Cold temperature in itself is
    Not a problem for a horse if he's had a chance to prepare gradually
    By growing a winter coat as fall temperatures drop. Wind and wet
    Weather are the factors that can chill a horse. In windy regions,
    Horses need some type of shelter to protect against the wind chill
    That can whip away body heat.

    Horses handle cold weather better than humans do; equines evolved in
    The cold climates of northern Europe and Asia. Their natural "comfort
    Zone" (energy-neutral temperature zone, in which they don't need to
    Expend extra energy to maintain normal body temperature if weather is
    Not wet or windy) is from about 15 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The
    Horse's body is better at creating and conserving heat in cold
    Weather than dissipating it in hot weather.

    As fall changes to winter, the horse's body undergoes a series of
    Physiological changes, some of which actually begin long before the
    First frosts. As soon as the days start to shorten in midsummer, the
    Horse begins to grow a new hair coat, more dense than his summer
    Hair. As you brush and groom him in late summer you'll notice he's
    Shedding some of his short summer hair. His metabolism begins to
    Change also, enabling him to store more fat for insulation and for
    Energy reserves. A layer of fat under the skin makes it more
    Difficult for heat to escape from the body, and protects against cold
    Weather. The layer of fat needs little energy to maintain, and has
    Few blood vessels. The surface vessels that radiate heat in summer
    Draw back deeper in winter.

    As soon as nights start getting cold, his body begins to change, even
    If the days are still quite warm. If you are working a horse hard,
    You will notice that he does not dissipate heat as well as he did
    Earlier in the summer; he may sweat more, and his sweat may start to
    Have some smell to it, more like the sweat of an unconditioned horse.

    He grows thicker hair as part of his protection against winter cold,
    But if he is blanketed to prevent this extra hair growth, or clipped,
    He won't do well outside during winter storms. Clipping makes it
    Easier to cool out and groom a horse that is being ridden or worked
    In winter, but it's not wise to clip a horse that will have to spend
    Time outdoors. If he does have a good winter coat, don't blanket him
    Or bring him into the barn just because of foul weather. Horses
    Prefer being outdoors even in the coldest weather and do fine if they
    Have some kind of windbreak, or a run-in shed to get out of driving
    Snow or rain. A horse in good condition with a good hair coat is
    Usually better off outdoors. Make sure horses go into winter with
    Adequate body condition. A thin horse won't winter as well as a fat
    One. Horses should never be too fat, but they need enough for a good
    Insulating layer under the skin.

    Long winter hair traps a layer of warm body heat between the skin and
    The cold air. When it's cold, tiny muscles in the skin make the hair
    Stand up fluffy, increasing the insulating effect, and blood vessels
    Near the skin constrict, conserving body heat by keeping the blood
    Closer to the warm interior of the body, not allowing heat to escape
    From blood vessels near the skin surface.

    A normal winter hair coat is much more insulating than most horse
    Blankets. Adding a heavy blanket or piling on several light blankets
    Can actually make a horse colder because it flattens out his hair and
    Destroys the insulating effect. Blanketing may be necessary, however,
    For a clipped horse, or for one moved north during winter without a
    Chance to grow a heavy coat, or a horse forced to stand outside in a
    Winter storm without a windbreak. If a horse becomes so wet and cold
    He has to shiver to maintain body temperature, he'll burn more
    Calories and need extra feed, or he'll start losing weight. Under
    Those conditions, he'd be better off indoors or blanketed.

    Horses have a normal body temperature of about 100 degrees Farenheit
    (38 degrees Celcius). They maintain this temperature in cold weather
    With the help of several mechanisms which include shivering, changes
    In hormone levels, increased body metabolism, increased digestion of
    Fiber (adding more fiber or more protein to the diet can help a horse
    Keep warm, since digestion of these nutrients produce heat), growing
    Longer and thicker hair which can stand up on the skin to make a
    Layer of insulating air pockets, increased feed consumption, and
    Increased activity. Cold horses on a frosty morning often run and
    Buck to warm up.

    A well fed horse can manage at temperatures down to 30 or even 40
    Below zero Farenheit if there's no wind and he's not wet. Wind
    Ruffles the hair and destroys its insulating quality. The downward
    Direction in which the hair grows (along with the oil glands that
    Waterproof the hair) help keep a horse dry in rain and snow. The
    Density of the hair coat and the directions in which the hair grows
    Make such a good overcoat that snow can form ice on the outer surface
    Of this coat without the skin becoming chilled.

    It takes a lot of moisture on the hair coat before the dampness soaks
    Through to the skin, since most of the water runs off. Once a horse
    Gets wet, however, he may chill. A wet horse loses body heat up to 20
    Times faster than a dry horse, because the moisture flattens out the
    Hair and eliminates the air spaces between the hairs, greatly
    Reducing the insulating effect. Even a warm winter storm (rain
    Instead of snow, or snow that immediately melts) can be hard on a
    Horse, if he gets soaked and then gets chilled by dropping
    Temperatures before he has a chance to dry off.

    His best defense against cold are a long coat and a layer of fat just
    Beneath the skin; both of these help reduce loss of body heat. Most
    Wild animals go into winter fatter than they are at other times of
    Year; this is nature's way to protect them against cold and give them
    Some reserves for energy and body heat. Long winter hair is the first
    Line of defense, but its insulating quality is lost if the horse is
    Wet or covered with mud.

    It's important that a horse have shelter during wet weather. A horse
    Will rarely take shelter from cold, but he will try to get away from
    Rain or driving snow. Horses prefer the warmth of winter sun to a
    Shady shed. If an outdoor horse's coat gets muddy, groom him to keep
    It from being matted down.

    Humans tend to get frostbitten toes and noses in severely cold
    Weather, but horses rarely suffer frostbite. The horse's blunt muzzle
    Is so richly supplied with blood that it can withstand extreme cold
    Without freezing. His long nasal passages with their bone spirals and
    Air pouch (which he also uses for snorting and whistling when he
    Blows air through it) help warm the cold air before it reaches his

    A horse's feet and legs are constructed in such a way that they can
    Withstand extreme cold without discomfort or damage, even when
    Standing in deep snow. His slender legs are just bone and tendons
    Below the knees and hocks, requiring much less circulation than
    Muscles, and are thus less susceptible to frostbite. This allows them
    To handle extended exposure to cold and snow with no ill effects. The
    Cells in bones and tendons need less blood for maintenance and they
    Also lose less heat. The horse is able to shunt most of the blood
    Away from his feet and still have a very functional foot. When the
    Feet start to get cold, the shunts open up so that the blood flows
    From the smallest arteries directly into the veins without having to
    Pass through the smaller capillaries.

    If the horse gets cold, the blood vessels in his skin constrict to
    Minimize heat loss, and the hair shafts stand on end for better
    Insulating. If he continues to be cold, he starts to shiver, with his
    Muscles rapidly contracting and relaxing--which quickly raises his
    Metabolism rate and amount of fuel burned in the muscles. With his
    Large blocks of muscle, the horse can shiver much more readily and
    More comfortably than a human. Since most of this muscle action is
    Being converted to heat, this is a very effective way to warm
    Himself. It takes a great deal of energy, however, to shiver for a
    Prolonged period; this can use up his energy stores.

    The horse has several other unique features that enable him to cope
    With winter. He is less vulnerable to snowblindness than a human,
    Since his horizontal pupils can close more tightly than our round
    Ones, filtering out more of the damaging ultraviolet light. His thick
    Eyelashes protect his eyes from winter wind and extremely cold
    Temperatures. If the wind blows, he instinctively turns his back to
    It. This protects his thin-skinned face and neck, which have more
    Surface blood vessels. His rump and back have thicker skin and hair,
    And less surface blood vessels, and can withstand the wind better. He
    Uses his tail to protect his more delicate underparts. His mane and
    Forelock give waterproof protection for head and neck. Horses in
    Groups stand close together to block the wind, and thus benefit from
    Each others' body warmth. With a chance to prepare himself for cold
    Weather, the horse can be quite comfortable and happy outdoors in
        12-17-2008, 12:47 PM
    Karley thanks for that...

    I don't like blanketing, my girls grow a lot of winter hair and never seem to struggle with weight or anything. They always have some form of wind break though (either stall or run-in). I don't like blankets because it seems like once you start using them you should keep them on all winter to avoid them from getting chilled.

    I will blanket if Im trying to shed my horse for spring shows or to avoid hair growth for fall shows, but it doesnt take long for them to get it growing
        12-17-2008, 04:23 PM
    Green Broke
    Hey thanks for posting that!! Ya I went out there and he is doing just fine. Only problem is that he LOVES to stand in the rain/snow, so hopefully he will be smart enough to go in his stall when he feels cold lol.

    Thanks again everyone for all the advice!

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