Horse blanket for a horse: is it needed? And is it possible to do without it?
With the onset of autumn and winter, many horse owners are thinking about whether to wrap a horse in blanket? Is she freezing? Do I need horse blankets? Let's try to figure it out.
In the photo: horse blanket
Thermoregulation in horses
Thermoregulation is a mechanism for maintaining a constant temperature of the body. Each living creature (and the horse is no exception) for a normal life needs a certain body temperature. If it decreases or rises, chemical reactions at the cell level change. And evolution in every possible way contributed to the fact that animals learned to independently maintain the desired temperature in any weather.
Everyone adapted as he could. The horses tried and developed as many as 5 mechanisms of heat regulation.
- Pretty thick skin.
- Wool that changes twice a year and helps to adapt to different seasons. In addition, the hairs can snuggle or puff, which means the horse can adjust the thickness of the air layer, which, as you know, plays an important role in thermoregulation. And during rain or snow, the hairs can stick together, forming a kind of "carapace", along which water flows down, and the undercoat does not get wet. But, of course, during a heavy rain the horse will get wet.
- Fat layer. In nature, horses gain weight by winter, and lose weight by spring.
- Blood vessels may narrow or expand.During vasoconstriction, heat loss decreases, and when they expand, they increase.
- Sweat glands that produce moisture at high temperatures. This moisture, evaporating, cools the horse.
In addition, if the horse freezes, it begins to move more actively to keep warm thanks to the work of muscles, or, if this is not possible, starts to tremble.
All these mechanisms allowed horses to populate almost all climatic zones. Moreover, in many of them there are wild herds that have learned to survive without any help from humans, and certainly without blankets.
Thermoregulatory Disorders in Domestic Horses
When people took care of horses, they greatly changed the ability of the wards to adapt to changing conditions. The horse can be kept almost round the clock in a heated stable, shave or limit the amount of feed. And in this case, the thermoregulation mechanisms may not start.
In nature, horses do not get colds. But imagine that the animal lives in a warm room, works in an indoor arena, where the temperature is also far from the street temperature, and then the owner comes up with the idea to walk on it through the winter forest. Of course, a horse, not accustomed to such extreme temperature extremes and not able to cope with them, may well get sick.
Horse blanket for horse: good or evil?
For a horse with normal thermoregulation, a blanket can be a considerable test.
The blanket does not allow the horse to bristle the hair to keep warm.But, in addition, exposed parts of the body remain vulnerable to low temperatures. After all, thermoregulation works either in the whole body, or nowhere.
In addition, blanket can become both a cause of overheating and hypothermia. After all, if the horse moves, then the muscles generate heat, which prevents the blanket from leaving into the atmosphere - and, please, overheating. But if the blanket is uncomfortable, restricting movement, the horse can, on the contrary, freeze due to lack of movement.
When deciding whether your horse needs a blanket, proceed from its interests, do not focus on yourself. If you feel cold, the horse is not necessarily cold.
Of course, if the horse has broken thermoregulation or was shaved, then without winter blankets she will not be able to walk. But if your pet leads a lifestyle close to natural, and there are shelters from the weather on a walk, then he probably doesn’t need a blanket. Even the Arabian horses with a competent walk, diet and without restriction of movement are able to survive our harsh winter without “clothes”.
How to help a horse keep warm in winter without blankets?
- Do not stop the horse from growing thick hair and accumulating some subcutaneous fat. Of course, if in mid-January you decided to transfer the animal from a warm stable to round-the-clock walking, nothing good will come of it.
- Provide constant access to hay, because it is not for nothing that they say that the horse is warming thanks to what he eats.
- Access to water is also crucial. It is advisable to install heated drinking bowls on the walk or often water horses from buckets.
- Do not stress the horse.
Why is water more important than horse blankets?
Many people know that there is the concept of “cold colic”. It arose due to the fact that colic occurs more often after frosts. Studies were conducted, and as a result it turned out that such colic is not associated with hypothermia, but with a lack of water.
When the water in the usual springs (drinker or stream) freezes, the horse does not drink enough, and without water the walls of the intestine do not produce enough mucus to promote the food lump (grass or semi-digested hay, grain). The result is colic.
Keep in mind that if in the summer the horse eats grass containing about 70% moisture, then in winter it is most often available only hay, where the moisture content is up to 20%.
Thus, we can conclude that if a horse is healthy and used to living in conditions close to natural, it can well do without blankets. But, of course, each case is individual, and the decision to make is yours.