1911 Army Remount Report

Posted on May 22, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, military.

Crushing load during wartime

Here is a fascinating excerpt providing insight into the horse story of the Cavalry. Issued on December  15,1911, by A D Melvin, then chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry for the US Dept of Agriculture, it documents the history establishing war horses in the battlefield. (found on archive.com)  Excerpts from the report:

106 27th Report, Bureau of Animal Industry, Army Horses in the United States

Next to Russia, the United States leads the world in the number of horses which it possesses. These horses, as everyone knows, are the descendants of horses brought from the Old World after the discovery of America by Columbus, as there were no horses on the American Continent at that time. Prior to the Civil War the horses of the United States were of the light type, with one prominent exception the Conestoga draft horse of Pennsylvania, whose origin has always been shrouded more or less in mystery and whose complete disappearance was a remarkable result of the development of railway transportation. There are also a few minor exceptions. Well-authenticated evidence shows that a few draft horses Avere, imported from France in the [eighteen] thirties, and the draft stallion Louis Napoleon,imported from France in 1851, appears often in the pedigrees of Percheron horses in the United States.

ARMY HORSES OF THE CIVIL WAR

At the time of the Civil War, however, the horses of the United States contained so little cold blood that it was a negligible factor. The Morgans in New England, Standardbreds in New York and the Middle West, Thoroughbreds in Virginia, and saddle horses in Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, predominated and made up the bulk of the splendid mounts of the contending armies of that great struggle. Even the much despised plains horse (the mustang, cause, or broncho) was the descendant of warm-blooded horses and doubtless contributed his share to remounting the cavalry of both the Northern and Southern forces in the Civil War. The demands of these troops for remounts were enormous, but there does not seem to have been any insurmountable obstacle to the acquisition of these horses. They were in the country, they answered the purpose, and they were obtained when needed. The cavalry of the Southern Army was almost as numerous as that of their opponents, and the consumption of horse flesh was probably nearly as great.

The decimation of horses in war is enormous and must be  provided for if a country’s mounted service is to be properly equipped. During his Shenandoah Valley campaign [General] Sheridan was supplied with fresh horses at the rate of 150 per day. The service of a Cavalry horse under an enterprising commander has therefore averaged only four months. [before killed in action;editor’ s note] If the 50,000 horses now required  by the mounted service of the Regular Cavalry and Militia (excluding those for wagon trains, etc.) were called into active war duty, we could look for a demand of upward of 150,000 horse per annum, basing the estimate on the experience of General Sheridan’s army.

Two-Gun Nan

Posted on May 17, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, history, riding.

two-gun

 

Two Gun Aspinwall and Lady Ellen during their 4496 mile ride across the USA.

The momentum of the cowgirl legacy is still felt today, and their stories remain as relevant as ever. Two-Gun Nan, towered with the tallest of these larger-than-life figures. She did so not only in the show arena as a lead in the rather masculine realm of trick roping, sharp shooting, archery, stunt riding, bronc riding, and steer riding, but also as the sensuous, beautiful, entirely feminine Oriental dancer character she portrayed known as Princess Omene as well. Still, even boasting these startling talents that eventually made her the highest paid star in the biggest show of the era – the combined venture of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East troupe – none of this was what she was best known for. Her most remarkable feat was real, not staged, and incredibly difficult and dangerous.

Two-Gun Nan’s magnum opus came in 1910-11 when she rode from San Francisco to New York on her Thoroughbred mare, Lady Ellen, covering 4496 miles and taking 180 days in the saddle. At 31 years old, she became the first woman to ride from coast to coast. She did it wearing pants and split skirts, riding astride, which was likely still illegal in some parts of the country. She did it packing a pistol, which she used on at least two occasions to shoot up inhospitable towns. And, she made the ride alone.

Two-Gun Nan Aspinwall stunned America and inspired women of a new generation with her transcontinental ride.  “A travel-stained woman attired in a red shirt and divided skirt and seated on a bay horse drew a crowd to City Hall yesterday afternoon,” reported the New York Times on 9 July 1911.    “They gazed upon Miss Nan Aspinwall who had just finished her lonely horseback ride from San Francisco. She had many adventures and once spent a week in hospital after her horse stumbled down a mountainside. ‘Talk about Western chivalry!’ said Miss Aspinwall. ‘There’s no such thing. In one place I rode through town shooting off my revolver just for deviltry. At another place I had to send several bullets into a door before they would come out and take care of me’.”
Equally skilled with a gun or a horse, the Los Angeles Tribune reported that while in New York upon completing her journey in 1911, Two-Gun Nan, “entered a 12-story building and startled her friends by remaining in the saddle and ascending to the top floor,” (via the freight elevator).

The ride became part of the greater Western mythology almost instantly, where it remained solidly for half a century. In 1938, almost three decades after the ride, Nan’s journey was included on the Mutual Broadcasting System’s national radio broadcasts of Famous First Facts, where she reported that it was the suggestion of Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill in 1909 that instigated her to make the ride. The media legend of the ride again was recounted on the radio in 1942 on a broadcast of Death Valley Days. In 1958, Nan’s adventure made the jump to black-and-white television when it appeared in an episode of the Judge Roy Bean television show.

At a time when the frontier to the west had closed, and barbed wire cut across every stretch of once open country along the entire continent, this cowgirl single-handedly found a way to rekindle the American fascination of saddling up, heading to the horizon, and banging around the vast expanse of a country that spread from one sea to another. Perhaps more importantly, she proved this dream and this country were open to women as well as men.

re-posted from horsetalk.co.nz

 

Understanding the Mounted Police Horse

Posted on April 8, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding, training.

Providence Mounted Patrol

Providence Mounted Patrol

Thanks to Delfin Vigil for his following article:
Officially founded in San Francisco, California, in 1872 (two years after New York City’s), the mounted patrol unit has been trotting through the city’s streets fighting and preventing crime in three centuries. While in its — ahem — heyday, there were upward of 30 badge-wearing horses, and although at one point every substation in the city had horses, there are only 13 on-duty patrol ponies left at the department’s stables in Golden Gate Park. Although some critics write off the mounted patrol as a chance for police officers to joyride through the park, many don’t realize that the horses are putting their lives at risk.
During one of the initial and largest protests against the current war in Iraq, the mounted patrol unit was brought in to help the first officers on the scene, who were being backed in and surrounded by protesters near Third and Market streets.
“Eleven horses were brought in to save the officers,” remembers Sgt Downs. “We were able to part the sea of protesters without hitting, stepping on or even touching a single person. That’s the beauty of the horse.”
Aggressive dogs are probably the biggest danger to the four-legged officers.
In November 2003, a woman was walking Nettie, a pit bull mix, in Golden Gate Park when she decided to take off the dog’s leash to let it play with other dogs. But instead it went after police horse AAA Andy.
AAA, who is not in the insurance business but was given to the department by the company, was bitten several times in the belly and legs by the dog, which continued to chase him for about a half mile as AAA Andy tried to find his way back to the stables. The officer was thrown to the ground during the frenzy. Another officer had to shoot the dog (who survived) to stop the attack.
AAA Andy went on disability for a couple of months. Within weeks of being back on the job he was in the news again for galloping down the “Spider-Man” burglar who had a record of more than 60 acrobatic burglaries through skylights and ventilation shafts in Sunset District buildings. This time, “Spider-Man,” a.k.a. 27-year-old Kristian Kwon Marine, was on the run after snatching a purse at a cafe on Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. With only a good old-fashioned “he went thataway,” tip, AAA and Officer Kaan Chin chased the burglar down in a field in Golden Gate Park.
“What people don’t always understand is that most of what all police officers do involves crime prevention,” says Kaan, who rode AAA Andy. “But these horses are very capable of fighting crime in heat-of-the-moment ways as well. Once that saddle is put on, their personalities change and they are ready to work.”

Sharpening Your Hoof Nippers

Posted on March 18, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, history, hoofcare, therapy.

That trusty pair of nippers you depend on so often will gradually dull with use, until one day you realize that you’re having a tougher time trimming the hoof wall than you should. It’s best to sharpen those nippers before that day arrives. Exactly how you go about that will determine whether the nippers return to peak performance for an extended period or if they’re a big step closer to the trash bin.
“What destroys the most nippers is the way that horseshoers file them,” says Donald Jones. As an International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame farrier and the owner of NC Tool Company, he ought to know. He’s used a lot of nippers over the years, and he routinely refurbishes the tools sent in by farriers across the country.  “A good sharpening that prolongs the life of the nippers isn’t difficult,” says Jones. “The secret to making the nippers cut well is to keep the shoulder area thin. Most people get their edges too blunt,” he says. “The actual front edge, the cutting edge, will feel sharp, but there’s so much metal back on the shoulder that it makes for resistance when you’re trying to cut the hoof.”

He offers the following advice for best results:
A. Secure the nippers horizontally, with the lower handle firmly in a vise. Pull the top handle upward to open the head of the nippers and expose the underside of the jaws.
B. Identify the area to be filed. Always file the underside, or inside, of the nipper jaws. Although a few strokes may be needed on the front cutting edge, most of the filing should run from the front edge through the back shoulder.
C. Use a two-handed grip on the file for long, flat strokes. Strive for a sharp cutting edge that runs smoothly back into the shoulder of the nippers without any sudden angles along the way. Repeat the process for the second side of the nipper jaws. Avoid damaging the corners of the jaws, which help pierce the hoof wall during trimming.
D. The stops down in the handles come together at the same time as the cutting edges to prevent the cutting surfaces from blunting one another or overlapping. If you take a bit of metal off the cutting edges when you sharpen them, then you have to take a little off the stops, too, so the cutting edges close correctly.

Even with proper sharpening, nippers eventually need professional resetting of the handles and tightening or replacing of the rivet. There are two reasons for this, Jones says:“One reason is that after adjusting the stoppers a few times as part of the sharpening, the handles start getting closer together. Send the tool to a professional when the handles become too close to use the nippers efficiently or comfortably. Another is that after nippers have been sharpened a few times, a gap appears between the cutting edges. The nippers should be sent to a professional for resetting. But you should be able to sharpen nippers several times before you need to send them off for reworking,” Jones says, “and then they’ll work as good as new.”
(article and photo from the American Farriers Journal)

The Movie Horse

Posted on February 25, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, health, history.

During the heyday of films that featured horses, a sub-industry evolved to supply horses for movies. One of the major horse suppliers, along with providing stagecoaches, wagons, and other equipment, was Randall Ranch in Newhall, Calif. The owner of the ranch was Glenn Randall Sr., the man who trained Trigger for Roy Rogers’ personal appearances.     Assisting him were sons Glenn Jr. (J.R.) and Buford (Corky) Randall. In 2006,  Corky Randall, 75 , and trainer of The Black Stallion, remembered those early days on the movie sets and the harsh treatment of horses in the industry.

Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger   Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger

 

During early film making, horses were often were considered disposable products. If a horse was injured or killed during a particular sequence, another replaced it. If the script called for a horse to go crashing to the earth, trip wires sent it sprawling. Sometimes legs were broken in the process. Scenes where horses were driven off of the cliff to their death were tragically true to life as horses were forced off of cliffs to their death.  The major turning point came in 1939 when Jesse James was filmed, says Wheatley. The movie starred Tyrone Power as Jesse James and Henry Fonda as Frank James. In one of the scenes, a posse is in hot pursuit of Frank James. To escape them, he and the horse plunge over a cliff and into the river. The next scene shows Fonda and the horse swimming to safety in the river.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. The horse used in the scene lost its life. For the scene, says Wheatley, the horse was placed on a slippery platform called a tilt chute. At a key moment, the chute tilted and the horse went over the cliff into the water and was killed.  The on scene crew objected and told the story. Public outrage forced the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to take action. As a first step, MPAA gave the AHA legal rights to set guidelines and oversee the treatment of animals on movie sets, and eventually television programs.

Tragic death scene in Jesse James 1939 movie

Tragic death scene in Jesse James 1939 movie

There was something of a hiatus in the humane treatment of animals on production sets from 1966 until 1980. In fact,  AHA safety representatives weren’t even allowed on sets. Animals were frequently overworked and kept in unsafe environments, and the trip wires were once again used.

“Those were the dark days for horses in movies,” says Karen Rosa, director of the AHA Film and TV Unit in Los Angeles, Calif.  Then, says Rosa, the death of another horse during the filming of Heaven’s Gate spurred reform. In the film, the script called for a saddle to be blown off a horse’s back, says Rosa. Explosives apparently were used, she said, and when they went off, the horse was so severely injured that it had to be euthanized.  The Screen Actors Guild, whose members were distressed by what had occurred, stepped up to the plate by insisting on restoring the AHA’s power. In 1980, the MPAA granted the AHA sole authority to protect animals used in film and television through a contract with the Screen Actors Guild.

The result of the new protection for the equine stars is the careful preparation for horses for the roles they are chosen to play. Jack Lilley is the owner of Movin On Livestock, a motion picture barn who supplies animals for TV and film. Hired to oversee the equine handling on movies like the upcoming Magnificent Seven, Lilley ensures Hollywood’s horses are kept safe and happy. This requires patience, training, and selecting the right animals in the first place.  As with humans, not just any horse is cut out to be a star. Before a horse can even gallop on set they need to be vetted for their disposition. If a horse is too skittish, or “looky” as Lilley describes them, they might not be a great choice to bring to a bustling movie set full of flashing lights, loud noises, and frantic people. “We don’t want any of them prancing or high-powered horses,” says Lilley. “We want that type that you could put [your kids] on, and say, ‘Ride him home.’” It’s important that a movie horse isn’t startled or spooked easily, both for the safety of the riders and the animals. “All in all, the American Quarter Horse is the best. They’ve got the best disposition and nothing bothers them.” Lilley’s ranch gets a new horse around the age of five and up, and often from traditional ranches. Cowboys—real ones, not movie ones—will slowly ride the horses around a set with the lights and production pieces in place to familiarize them with the noise and action. “I like to start them on a big street scene,” says Lilley. “Pretty soon they see that nothing’s going to bother them.” Ideally they’ll acclimate to the madness of a movie set to the point of being shockingly docile. “[The ideal horse is one that] you could fall all over. If you were doing a fight, you could roll under his belly and he wouldn’t try to step on you,” says Lilley.

Pawnee Actor with horse in "Hell On Wheels" series

Pawnee Actor with horse in “Hell On Wheels” series

references: ‘The Hollywood Horse’ from: the horse.com ; Behind the Scenes with Horses from Hollywood: Atlas Obscura.com

 

 

History of the Saddle

Posted on February 9, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding.

Dr Henry Van SchaikA brief history of the saddle and dressage seat.

Great study by Dr Nancy Nicholson

The Military Horse of 1863

Posted on February 3, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, health, history, training.

Sherman

General Sherman

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War since it ended the Confederate General Robert E Lee’s advancement northward to conquer New England. The State of Massachusetts had sent among its troops the 9th Battery Mounted Division with Captain John Bigelow in charge, who was severely wounded early on during the battle on July 2nd. The Mass Battery brought 110 men: 10 were lost, 18 wounded;  but of the infantry mounts – 88 horses of the 9th were killed on the battlefield. The Northern, or Union Soldiers, were 90,000 in number; they lost 30,000.  The Southern, or Confederate Soldiers, came with 75,000 men; they lost 27,000. Horses estimated killed in battle at Gettysburg: 1.5 million horses dead. Said Capt Bigelow: “The enemy opened a fearful musketry fire, men and horses were falling like hail…. Sergeant after Sergt., was struck down, horses were plunging and laying about all around….”

Horses from Battle at Little Round Top/Pictures from Library of Congress,Civil War Collection


Requiem for the War Horse

No battle fought was theirs by choice, nor came victory from their breath,

But they trotted forward just as ordered – into bullets, swords, and certain death.

Their brave hearts beating in silent courage, in fear that no voice would tell

They stood as targets, lay down as barriers to protect riders from being killed.

They labored for our liberty, they forfeited their lives,

Faithful military horses one and all — felled by cannons, bullets, and knives.

They bore the blows and fatal wounds to save their mounted friends–

Who had only saddles but no horses, when each battle came to end.

The war horse asked no questions, sought no medals, nor decorated pins

Just blinked an eye and charged ahead, trusting they’d go home again.

We salute with honor their deeds of valor: their sacrifice, pain, and torture.

For they were more than just mere transport….

They were the humbly silent:  Equine Military Soldiers.

Reader’s comment: I read once the way they trained the horses to charge into the face of fire was to have them charge a line of men. Then when they reached the line the men would pet them and praise them. They worked up to firing blanks when they charged. Then they would be petted and praised again. By the people firing as well as their riders, of course. There is an excellent video which documents the use and sacrifice of the 75,000 mules and horses that participated in the battle at Gettysburg. It is called, appropriately, “The Horses of Gettysburg.”

One correction, there were not 1.5 million horses and mules killed at Gettysburg alone. The estimate of horses and mules killed during the entire war are 1 – 1.5 million. In further news, for those interested in the incident with the 9th Mass. artillery, there is a good book titled “History of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery” by Levi W. Baker. Baker was a member of that battery. The illustrations are by Charles Reed, their bugler.

The sacrifice the men and horses of this battery made, stopped the Confederate Army from pouring through a large gap in the Union lines. There is actually going to be a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 2013 (150 yrs) in which the 9th Mass. Artillery will reenact their part. Another interesting book for cavalry buffs is “The Battle of Brandy Station”, by Eric J. Wittenberg. It is North America’s lagest cavalry action ever, and took place just almost a month before Gettysburg. Mahalo, Steve

Thanks for your correction on the number dead for the whole war. Will look up your references also! Jerri



 

Book Review

Posted on January 7, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding, training.
Learning Riding Posture

Learning Riding Posture

“Dude! Did You Just Fall Off?” is a delightful kid’s e-book on Amazon’s Kindle that skillfully and humorously attempts to prepare the horse newbie for their first and, hopefully, subsequent encounters.  It boldly asks:  what would you do if you were invited to go horseback riding, had never even been near a horse, but really wanted to go?

Obviously this is not a common invitation for inner-city dwellers, but for the nearly 30% of rural school children, and even higher percentage of suburban students, a recreational weekend just may indeed include a friend’s offer to see their family’s stabled horse. Facing the reality of being near such a big animal and actually sitting on its back can seem adventurous,  but nearly everyone quickly discovers a sudden level of panic once they become face to face with such a large animal.

This is why we picked the “Dude!” book off the shelf of Amazon. This book stands apart from the plethora of previous books by the way it brings horseback riding into your home and helps you practice balance and posture before you even head out to your friend’s barn. The list of straightening and correcting exercises range from simple body adjustments to learning ready-to-use moves while in the saddle. It had such great ideas plus a wallet saving price of only $2.99. Download it to your phone or tablet and refer to it right on the way to the stable. Personally, we found it just as helpful for adults. Enjoy..

Bitless Riding & Driving

Posted on January 3, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding.

drivingbitlessfig3.jpg

Some Thoughts on the Hackamore
By Gwynn Turnbull Weaver

There are many different ideas floating around the country about the hackamore and how it is to be used. Its very makeup seems to be a mystery to many and its function even more elusive. How such a simple concept became so complex is beyond many dyed in the wool traditionalists but, be that as it may, some information about the hackamore is outlined here.

The snaffle bit came into play late in the game, in vaquero terms – showing up en mass when the British came onto the scene. Until then, the hackamore ushered most new mounts onto the payroll. It is no mystery to most that horses were started later in life in our not so distant past. Genetics, feed and the rigors of ranch life deemed it so. “Older blooded” horses were colder blooded horses – maturing later both mentally and physically. Feed, at least in many arid regions, fluctuated with the seasons and sparse times, along with long outside winters, held growth in check for many colts. It was not uncommon then for horses to grow substantially, well after their fifth or sixth year on earth.

What seems to stump most folks is the reasoning behind schooling the horse with the absence of a bit. Since the use of a bit is the end result down the road and since the horse has, in most modern day cases, already accepted the snaffle bit in its mouth, why then would we “change up” in mid stream and go to the hackamore? The most basic answers can be found straight from the horse’s mouth.

 

The Changing

 

One concept that fostered and continued the advocation of the hackamore was the changing nature of a horse’s mouth; particularly during the years that the teeth doing the changing are the ones directly involved with the bit. This seemed to line up with a horse’s coming four to coming five year old years. The changing of teeth marked the time a horseman did well to keep out of Mother Nature’s way and steer clear of their horse’s potentially sore and sensitive mouth.

Unfortunately, most modern-day trainers ignore the changing of a horse’s teeth. The best of horsemen are sensitive to the horse’s demeanor, ever searching for the subtle hints that indicate and instruct him on his journey. Only the keenest of horsemen, while paying attention to the messages their horse sends to them, understands that the condition of the animal’s mouth is one message he would do well to consider.

The hackamore was the obvious solution; it afforded the horseman the freedom to continue using and advancing his mount through the changing of his teeth. What most horsemen never counted on, however, was the added benefits the change offered them, while working through the differences the hackamore brought to light.

 

Horsemanship Exposed

What most good hands soon learn when using the hackamore is the simple fact that there are maneuvers and exercises that a horse might be “made” to do in a snaffle bit, but the hackamore requires that the horse be “taught” to do them.

The most valuable contribution the hackamore makes in the training process is the deficiencies it reveals in the rider. Few know or understand this principle. When using the hackamore it is essential that the rider set up his maneuvers correctly and fully support the cues he gives his mount. The rider’s body positioning, weight placement, timing and sensitivity must be correct in order for the hackamore horse to translate those cues.

The message the actual hackamore itself can offer is so subtle that the horse will feel for the accompanying cues from the rider’s legs, weight and posture to confirm the message before acting on it. If the rider is out of position or offering inconsistent cues elsewhere, the horse will quickly lose confidence in the hackamore’s cue and become muddled and confused.

This unique characteristic of the hackamore might possibly be its greatest contribution to the equine world. It requires a level of horsemanship and handiness to operate it successfully. A cowboy must know and understand all of the peripheral cues used to position his horse as he should before he can support the hackamore the way it must be supported.

The hackamore is a key phase for this reason. It trains or reinforces the concept in the rider that the horse is to be taught to respond to messages, later called signals, in the final stages of putting a horse in the bridle. It is extremely important that the rider know how to set up, support and deliver his cues consistently with all the tools he has to work with.

 

Horses and Thermoregulation, by Dr Clair Thunes

Posted on December 14, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, health, history, therapy.

winterhorses

Q.How do horses survive in the cold?
A. Horses are mammals and as such are warm-blooded just like humans and so when the air around them is colder than their body temperature, heat transfers from them to the environment and they get colder. To survive they must regulate this heat loss, however such heat loss is not always detrimental, for example if the horse is too hot and needs to cool down.  According to an article by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, “estimates for the lower critical temperature (LCT) for horses are between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit depending on hair coat, body condition, wetness and windchill”.  They go on to give the lower critical temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit based on hair coat as follows, wet or short hair 60, moderate length hair coat 50, heavy coat 30.  Once the average temperature reaches the LCT human intervention is required such as shelter, a blanket and or extra feed.

Q. Why should diet matter?
A. Once at the bottom of its comfort zone the horse reaches its critical temperature and the body speeds up chemical reactions within the body in order to burn more calories and to create more body heat. This requires an increase in dietary energy intake because if there are not enough calories in the diet to meet the additional needs for maintaining body temperature the horse will utilize its body energy reserves (fat).  If this deficit continues for too long then the body condition will be compromised and the horse will lose weight. Well-fed horses adapt better than those who are underfed.
Adaptation should be considered when contemplating a horse’s lower critical temperature.  A horse who has spent a good amount of time in Arizona where the average summer high is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit and average winter low is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit may hit its lower critical temperature at a relatively higher temperature than a horse who lives in Maine where the average summer high is only around 70 degrees Fahrenheit but the average winter low is around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. For the horse from Arizona the lower critical temperature may be 60 degrees even with thick haircoat. The age of the horse is also worth considering.  Older horses are generally less efficient at both digestion and thermoregulation and so are more susceptible to extremes in temperature.  They will therefore need a diet that is more easily digestible and may require intervention earlier than their younger counterparts to stay warm.  Young horses especially those under a year of age are also less able to handle cold weather in part due to the large amounts of energy that are being utilized for growth.  They should be provided with good shelter and ample access to good quality hay.

Q. Horses run around a lot when it’s cold. Does that help?
A. Exercise produces heat from energy burned by muscles so moving is another way the horse has to stay warm but the energy for movement has to come from somewhere, either the diet or body energy reserves.  This may be one reason why horses seem to run around more when the weather is cold.  Muscle contractions don’t just occur though as a result of the horse physically changing locations they also occur as a result of shivering.  The energy produced from these muscle activities raises the horse’s core temperature.
Also, like us, horses can make their hair stand-up, which is called piloerection (think of goose bumps), which acts to increase their hair depth and traps air next to their bodies creating an insulating layer.    It is because of this function that you might hear people say that well cared for horses are quite alright out in the cold as long as it is dry.  Once their coats get wet the hair is unable to stand up and create this insulating layer.  They then rely on the oils in their coat to prevent their skin from getting wet, which is why you should not bathe a horse that lives out in the winter or use a body brush which drags the oils through the coat, as they need the oils to stay near their skin to act as a protective barrier.  Horses living outside need to have access to adequate shelter such as a 3-sided shed as such shelter has been shown to reduce heat loss by 20% not only because it allows their hair to stay dry but it also reduces heat loss from wind chill. A blanket flattens the horse’s hair and prevents piloerection.  If in turn the blanket is not thick enough to adequately insulate or it leaks, the horse will be cold and will not be able to use piloerection to stay warm.  This is not to say that blankets should not be used. If you have a horse who does not carry much weight, with a thin hair coat or decide to clip your horse because it is in heavy work, a blanket will be necessary.

Q. What about stall protection?
A. Often the coldest part of the night is around 6am, as the sun comes up areas reached by sunlight warm up quickly compared to those areas still in shade such as the inside of stall, so horses in stalls are subjected to cold for far longer than those horses that can get out into the sun.  This can cause a real conundrum in spring and autumn when your stabled horses are blanketed at night and you need to take their blankets off early in the morning before you go to work because later in the day they will be hot.  In these instances you have to know your horse and know whether it is better for them as an individual to be too hot or too cold.  The hard keeper who is lean, gets cold and is stressed easily would probably be better left with the blanket on versus the horse carrying more condition who won’t be at any great detriment if he is a little chilly for a couple of hours.

In summary, horses do adapt to cold over time, according to Dr Cymbaluk of the ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Ontario Canada. However, horses typically require a 10-21 day adaptation period.  A horse’s ability to adapt depends on the duration of the cold weather and the horse’s energy intake.  A horse isn’t going to be able to adapt to a sudden winter storm and so will require more intervention.  Therefore, energy intake is more critical.  Your horse will tell you if he/she is cold, pay attention to the warning signs and make adjustments to hay intake and overall management as necessary to insure that your horse comes out of the winter in good condition.

Dr Clair Thunes, PhD Nutrition. 2005. University of California, DavisMS Animal Science. 1998. University of California, Davis, BSc. Hons. Animal Science. 1997. Edinburgh University. web: summit-equine.com

equi-works

equi-works