Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Man made or natural shelters for equine?

I was asked by another blogger that I follow, "Do your critters have no shelter in the winter?"

To understand some of why my animals are able to stay outside during all seasons is to understand the lay of our land.

We are an extremely hilly landscape.  If a wind blows from any direction, our animals can simply go into an area or the woods to escape the winds and have them blocked.

They have constant temperate water available to them by means of heated stock tanks.
They have nearly a constant source of roughage to keep them warm.
Plus they have the freedom to run and play and move to keep their body temperatures regulated.

You can find our animals comfortably taking naps during the winter in the sunlight or in the middle of a storm.

Of course any of the animals who may be frail or ill will get brought into the unheated open on one end...shed that we have so we can monitor their health closely.

Believe me, I used to think how could they be warm?  Really?  I am cold, how can they not be cold?

Here is one of our mules after a particularly cold wicked day.  I put my hands up next to his skin and found it to be wonderfully warm and cozy.

He was not shivering, he was not cold.  

Anyway, what equine do need in cold weather is freedom of movement, wind blocks, or in our case deep ravines and forests...good forage and plenty of it.  
During the coldest parts of winter they have forage access 24 hrs a day.

I do not blanket them.  It messes up their ability to deal with cold weather and flattens their coats.  But that said, I have no problem with people who do blanket their horses or equine.  Horses with health issues do need the extra protection.

A well insulated animal in a healthy condition will get along nicely without being stalled or blanketed. A nice layer of snow laying across the animal's back also provides an nice layer of insulation.

Keep in mind these critters are of all ages.  In the photos above there are some 20+ ladies running with younger animals.  They were playing and warming their bodies up after a very cold night.

Or were they just having fun?

And lastly, one of our most insulated animals on the farm.  Easy to keep wonderfully entertaining, Lil' Richard.  This was his rear end after feeding him the other morning.

When the sun came out he rolled and discarded the snow on his back as the other animals did.

Let me say in conclusion that I know that my sister stalls and blankets her horses and turns them out in the indoor arena.  But she lives in an area where there is no natural wind blocks.  Plus she uses the blankets to keep the hair flat and for faster shed out as show season starts early.

So in answer to the question, do my critters have no shelter?  They have available shelter in the form of hills and woods.  After all, the horse has lived without man made shelter for many years.

I hope this helps!

For interesting reading try this article: Thermoregulation in horses in a cold time of year...


Lori Skoog said...

Obviously this is working as all your animals look very healthy and happy.

Val Ewing said...

We live in different areas, mine can get out of the weather in the forest and yours can't so it seems we do the best we can for our situations!