Home Animal Tails Winter Warning: Horses Need to Keep Moving
Winter Warning: Horses Need to Keep Moving Print E-mail

Horses can survive, even thrive in frigid conditions – which seems contrary to conventional ‘anatomical’ wisdom since only a scant supply of blood flows to a horse’s limbs in the best of weather. So it would seem horses would not be able to perfuse enough blood to warm their legs in extremely low temperatures.

“Yet they do,” notes Earl Gaughan, DVM, and an equine surgeon and instructor in the equine hospital of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. “Horses are wonderfully adaptable animals.”

In cold weather horses need to be able to move about. By staying mobile, some equine specialists speculate, they prime the pump that assists the flow of blood through their limbs with each step. Horses housed in barns or shelters need to be turned-out to pastures and fields for regular exercise periods. Consistent turn-out scheduling with close attention to the outdoor elements, Dr. Gaughan points out, prevents horses from losing or modifying their natural abilities to cope with the cold. But they don’t have to be completely exposed. Blanketing horses is fine, though he warns dangerous entanglements can occur if the material gets caught on fencing, branches and other obstacles. Also, horses can become too warm if temps rise while the animals are working up a sweat during their limited time outdoors.

Animal Tails Winter Horse

“The challenge is to keep them supplied with drinkable water and enough food and to encourage them to move about to find it.”

Whether the horses are inside or out, they require plenty of accessible, drinkable water. And common sense says that a horse can’t drink frozen water. During the late fall and winter months there can be an increasing incidence of colic problems, Dr. Gaughan wrote in an article while he was a professor at the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine. Dehydration is often culprit. Usually water sources have frozen or access to available water has been obstructed by snow and ice. “It can’t be over-emphasized: your horse needs just as much water in the winter as it does any other time of the year.”

Horses have survived cold environments for a long time, so the issue for equine owners is not so much about keeping them warm. Horses have natural mechanisms to mitigate effects of low temperatures – at least for a while. The challenge is to keep them supplied with drinkable water and enough food and to encourage them to move about to find it.

 

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Written by: Dennis McLaughlin, McLaughlin Writers Group, LLC
Sources: E.M. Gaughan, DVM, Equine Surgeon, Instructor: Equine Hospital of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Published: 2014-01-02

 

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