Finding and adjusting the climate of your stable is essential for your horse’s wellbeing. Abrupt weather changes can be stressful and even dangerous for your horse, but there are ways you can safeguard it from experiencing extremes and mitigating them when they occur. Here are some ways you can control the climate for your horse.
One way you can control your horse’s ability to adapt to sudden cold is to make sure they have some fat in them. Fat, in this case, works as a blanket to insulate them from sudden cold, maintaining body heat. The fiber in forage will also convert into body heat. Generally, the thicker the skin and coat, the more a horse will be able to adapt to cold weather.
Therefore, it’s very important to pay attention to your horse’s diet when you are expecting the weather to turn cold all of a sudden. More high-fiber hay and water is recommended to help your horse adjust to this shift. At the same time, it’s always better to introduce diet changes gradually, so that when you are heading into winter, you can plan accordingly by adding a little more hay as the weather changes.
It’s also important to have the water be room temperature, as your horse is unlikely to drink cold or frozen water. Ensuring the water trough doesn’t get too cold may be a challenge, but there are ways to keep it under control. To start, you can place it where it’s most likely to get warmed by sunlight and insulate it with a Styrofoam or plywood board or even use foil. If all else fails, you can heat the trough by placing manure under the trough or use a heater.
One way you can ensure that your horse has a reprieve from sudden winds and temperature changes is to install a windbreak or an open-faced shed. This would give your horse a place to turn to if it’s suddenly faced with adverse conditions.
A body-clipped horse or one that is likely to experience a prolonged period of cold weather will benefit from a blanket that is clean, dry, and appropriate to the weather conditions. If the horse goes riding with a blanket, that blanket should be waterproof since a wet blanket can be much worse than no blanket at all. On the same note, a blanket should only be placed on a horse that has dried off.
In general, horses are quite adaptable to cold and generate their own thermal control. They can withstand cold as long as they are healthy and have a good winter coat resulting from good nutrition and care. However, a storm in the spring can be damaging under prolonged exposure. Even though your horse’s coat has a waterproofing oil that makes liquids slide off before it reaches the skin, depending on the amount of time the horse experiences wetness, their coat may lose its insulation capacity. This can become especially problematic for horses that are clipped, as they will need shelter and blankets to counteract the effect of both the cold and the wetness.
Heat and humidity can be especially harmful to your horse, as they need a place to stay cool. After taking your horse out for a ride in hot weather, make sure it cools off properly with proper ventilation and water. If your horse is suffering from heat exhaustion, it’s advisable to cool him off with a water hose. Rubbing alcohol mixed with water will also aid the cooling process, helping your horse feel refreshed sooner.
While a horse may need more fiber for cold weather conditions, the opposite is true in hot weather. Under these conditions, your horse needs just enough to aid digestion but not so much to generate heat. It’s very important that your horse’s diet is well-balanced regardless of the adjustments made to account for climate conditions.
For horses that suddenly have to adjust to hot weather conditions, keeping their space well-ventilated is vital. Ventilation can take the form of fans and air conditioning or a barn that gets plenty of breezes with natural ventilation. Fans can be beneficial for not only aiding the cooling-off process but also keeping insects at bay, which can be a nuisance to horses in hot, humid weather. One way to avoid problems with adjustments to sudden, extreme weather changes is only to transport your horse when the place it is going to is only mildly different. This will help avoid undue stress to your horse, and the need to provide many necessary adjustments to counteract the effect.
A horse that has been body clipped to face hot weather conditions may develop skin problems as a result of exposure to the sun, to an allergic reaction to new bedding, and/new bacteria. This is due to skin abrasion during clipping, which makes your horse more sensitive to exposure.
If your horse is showing signs of exhaustion, refuses to eat, or shows other signs of stress related to weather conditions, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian to come and check out your horse. It’s better to get an expert’s opinion than wait for conditions to worsen.
As you can see, horses are adaptable animals in their own right, but they need a little extra help from us to counterbalance domestication and extreme weather changes. To ensure that your horse has the best life possible, be mindful of the climate they are facing and make any necessary adjustments to see them through it. With extra care and attention, you can help your horse adapt to adverse weather conditions and other sudden climate changes. Keep a Happy Horse!
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