Horses May Prefer Cold Pasture Over Warm Shelter
 By Winniefield Park   •   18th Mar 2016   •   1,322 views   •   0 comments
Horses May Prefer Cold Pasture Over Warm Shelter

A study published in the fall of 2015 may confirm what many of us have observed in our own backyards: horses are often happy to stay outside in the cold than stand inside a shelter. And, as it turns out, they donít seem to care if the shelter is heated or not. During the study, horses were given the choice of remaining outside, and given free choice access to both a heated and unheated shelter. Whether or not the horses used the shelter appears to depend on their coat length, body type and body weight. Smaller warm blooded horses made more use of the shelter than large cold blooded draft types. Oddly, horses with a higher body condition score, which means they had more body fat, chose to use the shelters more than those who were leaner. Horses with thick hair coats were less likely to use the shelters.

The only time horses showed significant shivering was during wet, cold weather. During dry weather, although the temperature was below freezing, horses stayed outdoors, and did not use the shelters. When they did use a shelter, most often during rain or snow and regardless of the air temperature, the researchers observed that the horses did not seem to have a preference for the heated or unheated shelter.

I live in an area where temperatures dip down to -4F (-20C) during the winter months. My horse, along with several others live outdoors, and are not stabled unless there is an injury, illness or unusually severe weather. They do however, have access to an indoor arena when it is rainy, snowy or very windy. Most are wearing blankets. When I kept my horses at home, I did not have a stable, but a large run in shelter and I kept them blanketed. The run in shelter was rarely used during the winter, and only during the most windy, wet weather. Otherwise, my horses were content to stand outside, even in breathtakingly cold temperatures. The horses in the study were also kept blanketed and they were acclimatized to the pasture and shelter before the study began. So, they did not not use the shelter because they were unfamiliar to them.

With access to the arena, even with feed spread out to entice them, our horses, are more likely to stand outside, unless the weather is very wet, or blizzard like. Some horses pound on the stable door to come in. Others only follow the herd and rarely seem to decide to come in on their own. Many other horse owners have reported the same sort of behavior.

Another observation made in the study, and one that Iíve observed through my own experience is that horses are more likely to use shelters during the summer months to escape biting insects and the hot sun. My run-in was rarely used during the winter, but was used for a good part of the day during the summer.

Horses overall seem to prefer to be outdoors in almost any type of weather, except for a few hot house flowers that appreciate a snug stall. What have you observed in your pastures?

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