I am worried that my pony might be feeling the cold. I am rugging him up with a warm rug, but should I be adding extra layers when the weather is cold? How can I tell if he is feeling the chill and what can I do about it?
Well let’s bust a myth to start with. People often say that if you feel a horse’s ears you can tell how warm he is. These are his extremities and they are likely to be one of the coldest places on his body, but it doesn’t mean the rest of him is feeling the chill. Instead, slip your hand down behind the withers under the rug. If it feels cold, then consider a warmer rug, or layer him up , perhaps with a fleecy rug underneath the waterproof one. Of course, if he is damp, then he’s too hot!
As a rule of thumb, if the outside temperature drops below zero, then he will need to keep his heat in. He does this by increasing his metabolic rate – which basically means he turns up his internal central heating and starts to burn fuel. To help him with this, think about feeding extra forage e.g. hay which will help maintain his body temperature.
Some breeds manage the cold weather better than others – natives for example are much better adapted than the thin-skinned thoroughbred types. Older horses and smaller horses are also more likely to feel the cold than their bigger, younger counterparts.
Finally, consider whether or not your pony is clipped. If he is , then think about the best rugging combination for him in the cold weather. Lots to think about – but keep a close eye on your pony, and you’ll soon work out how he is faring.