Saturday, December 29, 2012

How do horses stay warm?

Horses stay warm much better than people do, and they are quite comfortable even when you and I might be reaching for a jacket. In short, you can’t determine a horse’s need for a blanket by how chilly you feel.

The primary way a horse gets or stays warm is by digesting hay. Digestion is really a fermentation process, and one of the by-products is heat. When your horse is facing a cold night, the first consideration is to provide him with plenty of hay to keep that furnace burning. And in order for that digestion process to work well, he needs water. Ideally it won’t be ice cold.

The horse’s bulk is a great help in keeping warmth in. Think of how thick a horse’s body is, relative to the slender frame of a human. Just as a large block of ice takes longer to thaw than a smaller chunk, a large, warm body stays warmer longer than a thin one.

On top of that, a horse’s winter coat has the ability to fluff up, the hair literally standing on end, thereby creating a warm layer of air around the horse. Long “guard” hairs create an additional layer and fend off light rain or snow.

Even though it’s cold out, an average horse in good condition, eating plenty of roughage, and wearing his own hair coat is probably going to stay warm—as long as he can stay dry and isn’t in direct wind.