Winter Care For Horses
"Do horses shiver?"
I was asked that question yesterday during a book signing at Dover Saddlery in Chantilly, Virginia. My table was set up by the door and a woman came in and began a discussion about winter care for horses after I had said hello. I explained that I didn't work there, that I was a guest author doing a book signing, but she seemed concerned about her horses, so we chatted.
"Yes, horses shiver when cold," I said. "Just like people and dogs, when they need to warm their body, they shiver."
We recently have had freezing nights here in northern Virginia, and the previous day had that uncomfortable 40 degree rain. Her horse had come in that morning shivering.
I explained how you need to feed horses more grain and hay when the weather is bad, or any other time they burn more calories - such as sweating in the summer or after a hard work-out. She asked about blankets for horses but I told her that unless the horse has been clipped, their own coat is usually sufficient as long as they have shelter. Horses who show, fox hunt or participate in other sports during the colder months are often clipped so that they will cool down easier. Then, they need sheets or blankets to stay warm. She had an aged horse that had his winter coat but she wanted more for him. I deferred her to a sales person to ask about blankets for her horse.
The gelding above - Blue Diamond who I care for - has a "trace clip." The horse behind him, Teddy, has a full body clip and so wears a sheet during the winter in Ocala when the temps dip below 55.
There are several ways to body clip the horse and here I will suggest reading (and having on-hand) the book, "Grooming To Win," by Susan E. Harris. She includes a chapter on Trimming and Clipping, and displays illustrations with the types of clips. Very handy!
If your horse is losing weight during the winter, make sure his nutritional needs are met for the type of weather you have, or else he loses his body fat to stay warm. Check with a vet, too, so that you are confident that your sweetheart is being properly fed. When fall shots are due, that is a good time to ask your vet.