Your new horse has just arrived in Minnesota or Maine or Montreal from Tijuana or Tulare or Tuscaloosa, and you are ready to heap on the blankets because there’s no way his tropical coat will offer enough protection for the impending northern winter. But hold those blankets for a bit, and see if Nature can make up for some of the sudden climate change. Given a little time and plenty of exposure to the realities of their cold new worlds, horses can grow heavier coats on an as- needed basis.
Shortening daylight hours trigger the year’s second coat growth in preparation for the upcoming cold, a change that has already occurred in horses throughout the United States, including the Sunbelt. Yet actual exposure to cold is what dictates coat thickness. A warm-weather transplant exposed to cooler temperatures even at this stage of the seasonal cycle can produce a thicker protective coat during his first year in a colder region. Lots of turnout in the chill of the morning will have him sufficiently furred up for the real cold to come. One caution: If the horse has been clipped within the past month, he may be unable to make up the difference, so be prepared to blanket him if he persistently shivers.
This article originally appeared in EQUUS, Issue 288