With or without snow, sleet or rain, gusty weather can be difficult for horses. Protect your horse from three wind-related health hazards.
- Loss of body heat. Wind blows away surface heat from a horse’s body—often as quickly as it can be generated. Winds strong enough to ruffle winter coats leave horses even colder by sapping heat reserves normally trapped under thick hair layers. Combine wind with moisture in one form or another, and the chilling effects are even more drastic. When they can, horses stand with their rumps to the wind, using their tails to block the gusts. This natural protection is effective enough for unclipped horses, but a windbreak, such as a run-in shed or a stand of evergreen trees, gives them the best protection. Closely clipped horses require blanketing in cool, windy weather, starting at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Eye irritation. Gusty wind stirs up dirt and dust that can irritate a horse’s eyes. Conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyeball, commonly results when a horse rubs his eyes in response to windblown irritants. Again, a windbreak reduces this hazard, but a fly mask is even better, providing mobile protection during gusty weather.
Click here to learn about winter shelters for pastured horses.
3. Flying or falling objects, Strong winds increase a field-kept horse’s risk of bodily harm. Aged or weakly rooted trees can lose large limbs or be blown over by fierce gusts. The wind may pick up empty water troughs, buckets, and other lightweight equipment and materials, spooking your horses and possibly causing injury. Shoddily constructed or poorly maintained buildings can come tumbling down in high winds, especially if snow or ice builds up on the roof. When high winds are forecast for your area, confine your horses in your safest areas. Also batten down potential flying objects. In general, keep your buildings weather worthy and your trees pruned of deadwood.
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