If you’re like me, then you probably prefer warm weather over cold weather. At the barn, cold weather usually means more work—putting out hay, blanketing, breaking ice, and often more stall mucking.
But what about our horses? How do they feel about cold weather?
We tend to anthropomorphize our horses, meaning we attribute human characteristics and behavior to them. This means that we usually assume they dislike cold weather as much as we do. But one thing I’ve learned is that most horses are actually well equipped to deal with cold weather—much more so than we are, anyway!
Horses are well-adapted for cold weather for two main reasons: 1.) they have the ability to grow in thick winter coats that insulate their bodies, and 2.) they can maintain body heat by eating hay. Because of this, what feels cold to us and what feels cold to a horse are two different things. However, don’t discount the importance of having shelter for your horse in winter. Horses can keep warm much easier if they have a place to get out of the wind, rain, and/or snow.
One way that cold weather can cause problems for horses, however, is that it can lead to decreased water consumption which can, in turn, lead to impaction colic. To promote drinking, always provide a non-frozen water source (45-65 degrees is best) and add a little loose salt to your horse’s feed ration.
Here are a few other equine related cold weather facts and tips:
- Horses living in temperate climates should be allowed to increase their body weight by 5-10% before the onset of winter;
- Horses acclimated to cold weather can tolerate temperatures around 5 degrees Fahrenheit;
- If horses have access to shelter, they can tolerate temperatures as low as minus 40 degree Fahrenheit; and
- Increase the amount of hay fed by 1.4% for each degree below 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember, if your horse has a winter coat, shelter, continual or increased access to hay, and access to water that is not ice-cold, he will likely be fine during even the coldest temperatures. Horses are much tougher than we give them credit for!
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