Saturday, September 26, 2009

Horse Coats Through the Seasons

I really enjoy watching the changes the horses' coats go through as the seasons change, and all the individual variations in color and texture. We are now done with the sleek, thin, flat coats of summer. The shedding is mostly done, and all the horses are getting fuzzy as the beginnings of their winter coats grow in. Some of the horses get very heavy winter coats - Blackjack and Joe particularly, and Lily and Norman when they were living here - I wonder if their coats will be sparser in Tennessee? Neither Dawn nor Noble gets a very long coat, although Dawn gets long guard hairs, especially on her jaw. I love when we get our first really cold weather and the horses' coats, still growing in, stand on end, making them feel like plush velvet.

Some of the horses change color dramatically as they get their winter coats. I'll have to take some pictures so we can compare them with the photos I took in August for my Horses Are the Color of Earth post. Dawn, who has a very red summer coat, gets much darker in the winter. Maisie and Sugar, who are both dark bays - Sugar much darker - do get somewhat darker as well. But then Noble, Joe and Charisma, who also have red coats in the summer, don't really change color all that much. This must result from variations in the black genes that cause them to be bay. Our two buckskins, Misty and Scout, get slightly darker, more golden, and Misty loses her "frosting". The horses with pronounced dapples, especially Maisie and Sugar, who have whole-body dappling, lose their dapples, although last winter Maisie kept some of hers.

Since our barn is unheated, and the temperature gets as low as 10F in there on the coldest days - when it is below zero outside - it's good that our horses get good coats. Good health and good nutrition really determine coat quality - a horse with a poor coat likely has something wrong. We do put on rain sheets when the temperatures will be in the 50s or below, but we don't have to use heavy blankets all that often. When we do blanket, it's as much for wind as cold, since our winter dry lots (as well as our pastures) have no shelter to speak of. Our horses also have access to free choice round bale hay in the winter months, so digestion can help keep them warm. We do have a couple of horses who get cold more easily - Joe, Noble and Blackjack due to their age and Noble's thinish coat - and our "fragile flower" Dawn, who often wears her heavy blanket outside - a heavyweight Rambo with a full neck - and even inside in the coldest weather. She also has a polarfleece cooler for nights that aren't cold enough for her heavy blanket.

It's seeming much more like fall out there - darker in the mornings and more cloudy with a little rain on and off, and the trees are losing their leaves. Winter's not far away.


  1. It's been our experience that horses that come to us in the summer from the north take a full year to acclimate to our seasonal conditions.

    My guess is that Lily will begin the process of acclimation in February or March of next year by shedding her winter coat much earlier than she would have done in northern Illinois.

    Lily is fully ready for anything a Tennessee winter will throw at her RIGHT NOW !! LOL !

    Norman is just starting to gain his winter coat.

    At some point between now and mid October our season will change from summer to early fall. The humidity will drop, the nights will cool off into the 50's and we'll encounter a whole bunch of pleasant sunny days in the 70's; a heavenly time to be a horse in Tennessee.

  2. Kate, the plush velvet thing is my favorite, too.

    Panama's coat really doesn't change much in the winter, other than getting longer and a little thicker. The inch-wide strip of roaning around all of his brown markings -- I forget the technical term for that on pintos -- gets filled in with color more, but that's about it. His coat color otherwise stays the same.

    I look forward to seeing the comparison photos of your horses!

  3. Catching up on posts again!
    I am looking forward to hear about Dawn and the clicker training. I believe that will suit her perfect from what you write about her!

  4. Izzy is just starting to grow her winter coat, so she's a glorious shade of black right now. She'll wear a heavy blanket all winter because she doesn't have a barn to go in. Oh well. Some other time, perhaps.

  5. I do sheet and blanket my Boys according to the temperatures and weather. They have full access to the barn and shed areas at all times, but I still feel better when they are properly "dressed." It keeps them cleaner too.

    Roma used to make a lightweight blanket called the Equilite. It was great for almost all seasons, except for not being waterproof. I still have my old ones....they are irreplaceable.

  6. I'm loving the teddy bear softness of our horses right now. Especially Tonka. He's ultra soft.

    Most of our horses don't seem to change much in color over the seasons, except Soxy, the appy. In the winter people think she's just grey, not spotted. No, I take that back. Scout's roan disappears in winter, and so do Tonka's leg stripes. But they're minor changes.

    I don't blanket, it scares me. I don't want to deprive them of their natural ability to stay warm. Plus I'm always afraid that something will happen and they'll somehow end up naked and defenseless. If it's raining and very cold I'll blanket temporarily if I have to, but that's it.

  7. My horse and her herdmates don't have a barn, just a shelter so they get some pretty wooly coats! I love it! I never knew horses were so hardy until I got Lilly! BTW, how is your Lily doing in TN? Do you miss her?

  8. baystatebrumby - thanks for asking about the Lil - she's doing great - fatter than ever and happy in her herd. I get regular updates from Melissa at Paradigm, and all seems to be going well.

  9. I love watching the horses change colors too! I was just talking to my husband about it. Bodhi is almost a strawberry/peach color but come October he is as bright orange as a pumpkin

  10. Yes, it's that time of year.....if you don't live in the deep south! I used to live in northern Va though so I know the woolies! LOL! The only one we blanketed heavily was my daughter's show pony. It kept her from getting a long coat which we would have had to body clip since she showed the indoors in winter. They can be very hardy animals though. I always taught my daughter that if you aren't going to take the blankets off at the proper temperature, don't put them on! I always would feel bad seeing horses in paddocks grazing on a 50 degree day with a heavyweight rambo on!! Can't wait to see the updated pictures! Luv pictures!!


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