December 18, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice!

            Summer solstice. The longest day of the year. June 20th. However you put it, this a very important day in the life of your horse. Or at least your horse’s winter coat. Winter coat you say? Whatever are you talking about? It’s just the beginning of summer! The days are getting hotter. Horse don’t need a winter coat now. It’s nice to have them all in a short, sleek summer coat. They don’t sweat as easily. They look all pretty and shiny. It’s so easy to groom and bathe them. Why in the world would you be thinking about a winter coat now? Winter is months away!

            Summer Solstice, that’s why! Once summer solstice has passed, the days start getting shorter. The number of hours of daylight will get fewer and fewer right up until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. What does this have to do with a horses winter coat? Everything!

            When the days begin to get shorter, mother nature signals our equine friends that winter is coming. It’s time to prepare. Mares will begin to lose their heat cycles and summer coats will begin to shed out. Once the short coat is loose, the longer winter coat will begin to grow in. This process usually takes a few months, but by the end of August they will be shedding in earnest. You might not notice because the hair is so short it’s easily missed. Not like the winter coat that covers the ground, clogs up drains and gives the birds lots of material for lining their nests. No, this short summer coat is just enough to mess up a brush or curry. But it’s happening all the same.

            So, what should you do, if anything? Well this depends on what you want in the way of a winter coat on your horse. If you don’t care about a heavy coat, do nothing and let nature take its course. By the end of September you should have a cute, fuzzy pasture buddy. However, if you want to thwart mother nature, now is the time to take action.

            As I stated above, the number of hours of daylight is what triggers the response to grow a new coat. Shorter days=shed & grow winter coat. Longer days=shed & grow summer coat. I know it’s not nice, but you can fool mother nature by putting your horse under lights.

 Here’s what you will need-

  1.  A two- bulb 4 ft. florescent light fixture for each 12 X 12 ft space. Indoors or covered works best.
  2. 2- Daylight light bulbs for each fixture. Must be daylight bulbs. Regular ones won’t work as well.
  3. A timer that can be set to turn the lights on and off.     

        How to begin-  

           Install the light fixture(s) in the stall. Be sure to take the horse out first! Add the light bulbs and plug in the timer. Make sure any cords, pull chains, etc. are out of reach of any and all critters.

            Set the timer so the lights are on equal to the summer solstice. Here is Southern California that’s about 14.5 hours. Check the sunrise/sunset times and set your timer accordingly. You can either have them come on at night before dark or early in the morning before the sun comes up. I have mine come on in the morning, because I never take the horses out at 4 am, but I often ride at 6 pm. The horse must be under natural or artificial lights equivalent to the longest day of the year. If you take the horse away from the lights for even a few days, they will start to shed out and grow a new coat.

            Make sure you reset the timer every few weeks. As the days get shorter you will need to have the lights come on earlier or stay on later. If you don’t keep up with it, the effects will end and you will have a fuzzy friend.

            Once winter has set in, be sure to blanket your horse with a good blanket and hood if necessary. You have taken away all their ability to keep themselves warm, so you must do it for them. If you can’t be available to put blankets on or take them off anytime during the day or night, best not to start them under lights in the first place. You can fool mother nature, but you have to be willing to take her place or your horse will suffer.

            Using lights this way will also keep your mare coming into heat year-round. This is great if you want to breed early in the year, but maybe not so great if she gets really mareish when in heat.  Also, if your horse is in a pipe corral or other type of stall where the light will spill over into the next stall, that horse will be affected as well.  If the neighbor doesn’t want their horse under lights, it’s best to move it elsewhere.

            If you need your horse to have a short, shiny coat year round- you can! Just remember it’s still lots of work, the work just changed. If you have any questions about blankets see my previous blog about blankets. Have a great winter! 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

            Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com

Comments

  1. Never knew this. Makes sense though.

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