How your horse’s coat changes

New research shows just how the equine coat adapts to changing seasons.

A new study from Poland shows how well-adapted the equine coat is for different seasons.

A chestnut horse standing in a herd.
Your horse’s winter coat begins growing in late summer.

Researchers at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland, followed a group of five Polish Konik mares living on a reserve in a temperate southeastern part of the country. They took photographs of the mares every two weeks throughout the year and used a computer to analyze hair growth patterns. Specifically, the researchers calculated the percentage of the surface of each horse’s body covered by short hair at each evaluation and determined which regions of the body had short hair.

Their findings underscore how the equine coat contributes to equine body temperature regulation in hot and cold weather months. The largest increase in the percentage of short body hair occurred during April and the first half of May, when the horses were shedding. Similarly, short hair percentages decreased the most in September, when winter coats began to grow in.

In addition, analysis of the hair covering specific areas of the body revealed some new information: The horses’ shoulders, backs and loins were covered by winter coat longer than were other areas of the body. The researchers say that this is probably associated with the strong effect of rain and snow on the upper part of the body.

 Reference:Changes of coat cover in primitive horses living on a reserve,” Journal of Animal Science, March 2015

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #455

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