Bring on the Light
- January 5, 2016
- Rachel Larsen
We’ve turned a corner on the Northern Range, the incremental increase in daylight reassuring us that Winter will indeed end. Our horses, like us are taking advantage of the meager sunlight the tilt of the Earth’s axis has allowed. Recently while checking water, I found the mares and young horses standing downwind from an old windbreak, broadside to the sun. There they stood in their winter coats, resembling large, furry solar panels.
The same instinctual drive or internal clock that ensures they’ll grow a thick downy undercoat as the day’s get shorter, inspires range horses to adjust their body position to the angle of the sun. When they have ample protection from the wicked, Winter winds of Eastern Wyoming broadside is best. This position allows them to soak up the most radiant heat from the limited sunlight. If they’re forced to tough out the weather, without shelter you’ll notice horses standing with their (sometimes) ample backside into the wind. Their rear breaks the wind (literally, not figuratively) creating a protected microclimate along the horse’s body.
Good water sources are also critical to horses’ winter well being. Dry roughage (as hay or residual pasture) provides a good source of body heat as it is metabolized. A horse’s digestive capacity is diminished without adequate water and their body condition will decline, whether they have enough feed or not. Adequate water looks like a minimum of 10-12 gallons per horse daily.
After we checked the water, I took the opportunity to check our horses’ body condition. It is important when horses are sporting thick, downy Winter coats to monitor their condition. It is easy, to mistake their fluffy appearance for fat. So if you have the opportunity, run a hand along their ribs. I like to make sure the ribs are not overly pronounced and covered with some spongy fat. If our horses don’t score between a four and six on a standard body score card, it is time to adjust our feeding program. The upside of this process, is that it’s a wonderful excuse to bury your face in the wonderful, fluff that is a horse’s winter coat.
About Rachel Larsen
Rachel Lohof Larsen is a fifth-generation rancher, mom, wife, cowgirl, and blogger. Originally from Montana, Rachel has a BA in Environmental Science from Colorado College. She and her husband, Guy, bring a sense of integrity and a strong interest in sustainability to all their pursuits....