In their natural state, horses are quite adaptable to large temperature swings. However, when humans alter their environment or move them from one climate to another, they could have difficulty handling diverse weather. When horses are allowed to adjust gradually to temperature changes, they rarely have issues, reports The Horse. It's the rapid swings in temperatures, and their extremes, that can lead to equine stress.
When a horse has minimal winter coat, temperatures dipping very cold can be harder on them than prolonged weather. Horses can be kept comfortable with a windbreak to protect them from blowing winds, snow and rain. The best protection from the elements is a healthy hair coat and adequate weight.
However, if your horse is older, ill, has been clipped or is at the bottom of the pecking order, adding a waterproof blanket will keep him comfortable. A blanket that doesn't shed water is worse than not wearing a blanket at all as it flattens the hair and causes it to lose its insulating properties.
Additionally, the breed of horse will affect how he handles cold. Some breeds, like the Shetland Pony, is more adept at handling cold weather than a thinner-skinned Thoroughbred. Providing additional hay for horses to eat during cold weather will also help them stay warm.
Horses that move from a cold to a hot environment will need shade and airflow to stay cool. Care should be taken when the horse is asked to exercise in high heat and humidity as this can lead to heat stress. Adequate water and electrolytes can help keep a horse safe as temperatures rise and ensuring he is sweating is important to keeping him healthy.
Moving a horse from a warm climate to a cool one is easier for them to adapt to.
Read more at The Horse.
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