HANDS ON

EQUUS - - Contents -

s 7hat darker days mean s (elp­ing the one eyed horse s (an­dling hay left­overs s minute feed room purge s ,eave scabs alone s -anag­ing arthri­tis in win­ter

Dwin­dling hours of day­light may leave you feel­ing rushed and glum, but the shorter days of win­ter can have a dif­fer­ent ef­fect on your horse. Here’s what they mean to him:

• ! tHicKER coat Win­ter hair coat growth is trig­gered as the num­ber of day­light hours de­cline, a process that started way back in mid­sum­mer. By the time the sun is set­ting in late af­ter­noon, your horse is prob­a­bly plenty fuzzy. As days be­gin to lengthen again in mid-De­cem­ber, his body will be­gin re­ceiv­ing hor­monal sig­nals to shed his win­ter coat and new sum­mer growth will be­gin, long be­fore you’re think­ing of spring.

• NiGHt Vi­sion Al­though a horse’s eye­sight doesn’t change in the win­ter per se, the shorter days al­low him to put his su­pe­rior night vi­sion to use. Horses

with healthy eyes can see far bet­ter in the dark than we can. In fact, a moon­lit night is sim­i­lar to full sun­shine in terms of how well he can see. Do be mind­ful, how­ever, that horses need longer to ad­just when mov­ing from brightly lit to darker ar­eas than we do. When lead­ing your horse out of a bright barn, stand with him for a minute or two be­fore ne­go­ti­at­ing tricky ter­rain or the pas­ture gate.

• (oRMonaL cHanGEs Shorter pe­ri­ods of day­light af­fect mela­tonin pro­duc­tion, which shuts down the pro­duc­tion of re­pro­duc­tive hor­mones, but other en­docrine changes aren’t fully un­der­stood yet. There is on­go­ing re­search into how short days may af­fect meta­bolic con­di­tions such as pi­tu­itary pars in­ter­me­dia dys­func­tion (PPID) and insulin reg­u­la­tion, so we may know more in the com­ing years. Un­til then, keep an eye on sus­cep­ti­ble horses as the days shorten, watch­ing for signs that their con­di­tion may be wors­en­ing.

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