Saturday, January 19, 2013


Saturday January 19 2013

While Mother Nature throws every kind of winter weather element at the Owyhee herd, She also gives them the protection they need against it.

The shortening of days and less daylight in autumn trigger photoreceptors in the eyes, and the cooling temperatures trigger skin sensors, which signal hair follicles to start growing a winter coat. As long as humans don't interfere by blanketing, Mother Nature and the Horse usually work it out as to the necessary thickness of the coat.

When temperatures plunge, arrector pili muscles attached to hair follicles in that winter coat contract, and the hairs stand on end, trapping air and helping the horse retain heat. Morning comes and the horses turn broadside to the sun, exposing more surface area to quickly absorb more warmth that the hairs catch and hold against their bodies.

There's no barn out here in the wilds of Owyhee, but the horses will cluster together, or back up to a small rise of sagebrush to get out of the wind. We're fortunate that it doesn't rain too much here when the temperature hovers around freezing, and even when snow piles up on horse bodies, if the snow is dry and the wind isn't fierce, the horse coats will still stay fluffed up enough and keep the horses warm under the snow.

They have a limitless supply of hay to eat (and they're all maintaining good weight),

and thawed water to drink (with a water heater in the trough);

with adequate food and water, and shelter from wind and rain, the horses stay comfortable over the winter, no matter what feelings we might project on them (like looking out the window, thinking 'It's COLD out there, so the horses must be freezing!").

The horse coats are thick this winter, and what with the ultra-cold temperatures the last couple of weeks, it's good to be a hairy horse in Owyhee.


  1. yes, but tell that to our shetland that keeps crawling under the fence, only to be found standing each time inside the shed we are building...

    *not yet sally, NOT YET!*


    But your guys look fluffy and happy, even when it is -7!

  2. It's a hand ( hair angel) cute! They certainly are a cozy herd!

  3. Brrr... but as you say, Mother Nature knows best and as long as they are not losing weight you have nothing to worry about.
    Dumb (European) question, is that -7F or C?

    1. -7° F = -21° C !!!

      BRRR indeed! it kind of blows my mind.

  4. Merri, darn it, I'd bring those horses right in the house when it's that cold. I would feed them apples and let them lounge by the fire. (Maybe that's dogs I am thinking of.)

  5. A los caballos les gusta vivir al aire libre, por estas tierras, donde no se pueden comparar las temperaturas con las vuestras, pero también llueve y por las noches hace fresco, pues a pesar de ello, pasan de la lluvia y del frio de la noche y no se refugian en el box, se ponen en contra del aire y disfrutan que le caiga el agua por los lomos.
    Saludos desde España de Gabriel.

  6. I do blanket my horses, but I have two Thoroughbreds who not not tend to get really thick coats, so I am a bit paranoid. They also have shelter available, plenty of hay, and a constant supply of water as well.

    Still, often when it storms, they choose to be out in the weather, icicles dripping from their chins, heads down, back to the winds.

    Your gang always looks perfectly content to me and certainly relish the freedom of all your acres of turnout space. Living out like that makes them hardy and strong, and, as far as I'm concerned far more likely to stay healthy than horses confined to stalls.

  7. We don't blanket our horses either. Some used to be show horses and were clipped in the past and needed blankets. Since they are retired now they don't get blanketed anymore. Our herd gets to spend all day out roaming the fields. Plenty of hay and water are available and they look fine. As a matter of fact some refuse to come in at night. I leave it up to them. Whoever comes in comes in and who doesn't want to well that's up to them. We're at 0 degrees right now I'm glad there is no wind at least.

  8. here in texas, where we hardly have harshness to our winters, i see so many folks blanket their horses on days that start at freezing but might rise to the 50s. and of course, the people go off to work and leave the animals pastured like that, sweating beneath that coat.

    unless their clipped for show (which these are not) let 'em go au naturel! eek!