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StormCloud 04-21-2013 07:24 PM

Horsey seasonal colour change - how does it work?
2 Attachment(s)
As a novice horse owner, I've still got a lot to learn. A lot of it I'm picking up through reading, talking to other horse owners, from practice. But there are occasional small things that continue to baffle me. Like, seasonal horse colour changes. How do they work?

My horse Dubbin's black, allegedly. We're just coming out of a hot Australian summer and heading toward cooler weather, but it's still quite pleasant, temperature-wise. Since my partner and I purchased Dubbin a couple of months ago, he's been more of a lovely mahogany brown colour than anything I'd call black. In overcast conditions he looks pretty black, in clear sunlight, he's been looking more like this:
Attachment 163897

But over the last few weeks, as the weather's shifted gear and started getting a little cooler, he's gotten darker, and is now looking like this (excuse crappy cellphone pic taken last weekend):
Attachment 163905

The difference is pretty dramatic. Even in direct bright sunlight, he's now looking more black than brown. Why is this? Could he have completely shed and regrown his coat in the darker autumn tones in the space of a few weeks? Is it some odd optical trick due to the intensity of the light being a little less now than during high summer? Or is there some other reason for this? (Perhaps he's doing chameleon impressions?)

Who can shed some light on this phenomenon?

Poseidon 04-21-2013 07:27 PM

Does your hair change over the course of the year? Mine sure does. I'm very light brown/blonde in the summer with the amount of extra sunlight. We have about half the sunlight in the winter and my hair starts growing back out a medium brown.

Same with horses: winter coats grow in thicker, which make them appear darker and there's less sunlight for less sunbleaching.

StormCloud 04-21-2013 07:34 PM


Originally Posted by Poseidon (Post 2302761)
Same with horses: winter coats grow in thicker, which make them appear darker and there's less sunlight for less sunbleaching.

See, sunbleaching was my first thought. But there are problems with that... firstly, look at the first pic again. Dubbin's coat's relatively pale *under his belly*... which doesn't tend to get a lot of direct sunlight, by and large.

Also, the change has been pretty quick... faster, I think, than the change in weather. There's still lots of sun during most days; the temperature's maxing out in the mid-20s (Celsius) rather than mid-30s (with spikes a bit higher now and then) as per earlier in the year. But Dubbsy's colour change has taken maybe three or four weeks at most. Is that how long it normally takes for a horse to change to a winter coat from high-summer conditions, if the weather starts to cool a bit?

I think it's the speed of the change that is surprising me most. I'd have thought that if it was a sunbleaching issue, it'd be a gradual change, over several months perhaps. Do horses really shed and regrow their coats this quickly?

Poseidon 04-21-2013 07:39 PM

Their hair really isn't very long. Mine has switched into her spring coat rather quickly, during which time she grows many dark hair that make her look filthy. Pictures of her color changes are here:

And he honestly doesn't look brown to me. He does look black, just severely sunbleached.

StormCloud 04-21-2013 07:44 PM

That series of pics in the post you linked to is really interesting! So it's quite usual for colour changes to occur over a space of a few weeks, then? Colour me Edumacated! Thanks. :-)

GallopingGuitarist 04-21-2013 07:55 PM

Yep! He's just bleached!

I own a black gelding. He doesn't bleach as bad as some that I have known/ridden, but he still gets a reddish hue in the summer/fall.

Late summer.


And this spring (except it's not spring yet) he is black as black can get

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