Dude Ranch Life: Keeping Cozy All Winter

When the temperatures drop to single digits, and the snow is piled high, guests often ask us why our horses don’t wear blankets. It’s hard to believe, but actually it’s healthier for our horses to go au naturale. Horses have a natural rhythm that follows the seasons and allows them to live comfortably in winter weather. As the daylight hours get shorter in the fall, they start growing their winter coats. These coats are designed to spring up when it gets cold, which makes their coat work like the down coat you put on before you head out into the snow.

In addition to their warm coats, part of what helps horses keep warm is a simple calculation of calories in vs calories out. During the colder months, the average horse needs about 25% higher energy intake. Each day as we feed the horses in the winter, we consider the temperatures and the forecast for that night’s low temperature. Doing some simple math that takes into account our horses’ average weights, their overall condition, and the number in the herd, we know how much hay to put out for our furry friends, so they can keep eating to stay warm. Horses will actually produce heat as they eat, so we feed them enough so they can keep eating all night long.

All said, we pay close attention to our horses all winter long to make sure they stay happy, healthy, and comfortable. Staying committed to letting them live a more natural lifestyle helps reduce their stress and well as illness. The best part is to watch the horses follow the cycle of the weather out in their wintery pasture. When there is a big storm with snow and wind, they will all bunch up next to each other, turn their tails to the wind, and keep each other warm. On a super cold morning, they tend to stay very still. As the sun comes up and starts creating some heat on their backs, they tend to get a little frisky. And, when the afternoon sun is at its peak, it’s naptime, and you’ll often see half the herd sprawled out looking almost dead as they soak up the rays.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this article from Horse Illustrated Magazine and also one from TheHorse.com.

So, bring your coziest jacket when you come visit this winter, but rest assured knowing our horses are cozy and happy.