Horses and Other Livestock Can Thrive in Cold Weather

March 11, 2009 on 2:36 pm | In A Bit of Information | No Comments

Seeing horses and other livestock outdoors during frigid winter weather may trigger concerns from the public about the welfare of these animals. What most people don’t understand is that most livestock can remain comfortable in low temperatures, say experts in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.


Unlike humans, horses acclimate to cold weather by developing fatty tissue that “winterizes” them, according to Ann Swinker, associate professor of equine science.


“Even in cold weather, horses prefer to be outdoors,” said Swinker. “The last thing you want to do is put an animal that is acclimated to the cold weather in a heated environment. If the horse is in good physical condition with a good body-fat ratio, it will be fine.”


When horses exhibit cold stress, typical comfort-seeking behavior is expressed, such as huddling together and seeking shelter from wind. Foals will curl up to minimize body surface area. Shivering is also a sign of cold sensitivity. This happens when a horse might not have enough body fat or energy to keep warm.


“People need to watch body condition score during winter to make sure the diet is meeting the energy needs of the horse,” said Dr. Robert Van Saun, extension veterinarian and professor of veterinary science. “The energy requirement to maintain a horse on a daily basis is going to increase. Depending on temperatures, there are some calculations for horses as well as other species in which, for every degree below the lower critical threshold temperature, you increase energy requirements by about 10 percent. We usually talk about 25 percent increase during these winter months. Adding a half-amount more of grain or fat sources to the diet is very important to accommodate the cold.”


Horses also increase body metabolism through various physiological mechanisms. Bacterial fermentation of forage in the hind gut of the horse can generate a tremendous amount of heat. As a result, horses can tolerate much colder weather than humans. Adding fiber to the diet will increase heat of fermentation.


Endocrine systems perform other essential physiological functions a horse needs to stay warm. To conserve central body core temperatures, the thyroid gland produces the hormone thyroxin to increase metabolic rate and provide warmth. Swinker noted that horses have another innate defense against cold weather.


“A long winter hair coat serves as insulation by reducing the loss of body heat and provides the first line of defense against the cold,” she said. “Its insulating value is reduced when the horse becomes wet and/or is covered with mud. This is why it is important to provide regular grooming and windbreaks—whether man-made or natural, such as tree lines or shrubs.”


Horses have guard hairs which serve as an external hair coat in winter that protects the animal from excessive moisture. However, Swinker points out, not all horses have guard hairs.


“Show horses with hair coats that are artificially short should not be turned outside in bitter winter cold without a blanket or windbreak,” Swinker explained. “If you do have a show horse that is housed in a barn during most of the winter, the barn should be adequately ventilated to reduce the risk of respiratory disease. Proper ventilation eliminates excess moisture and condensation buildup. Care also should be taken to prevent a direct draft on the horse; this will cause stress and additional problems.”


Although animals may adapt to cold weather, Van Saun says they may need a little extra daily attention. “Ready access to water is extremely important,” he said. “Water needs to be replaced once it becomes frozen. If horses don’t drink water, they can’t eat dry food to get the energy needed to produce body heat. Water deprivation can cause colic or abdominal distress in horses.”


For more information about equine management during the winter season, contact the Equine Science Program in Penn State’s Dairy and Animal Science Department at Additional information on horse care can be found online in Swinker’s “Penn State Horse”

newsletter at

BBC to Broadcast Alltech FEI European Championships 2009

March 11, 2009 on 2:33 pm | In Event Calendars | No Comments

Alltech announced that the BBC, one of the largest broadcasting corporations in the world, will provide coverage of the Alltech FEI European Championships 2009. Thirty-two nations and 150 riders are expected to take part in the event held in Windsor, United Kingdom, Aug. 25-30, 2009. It is the first time that the European Jumping Championships and the European Dressage Championships will be held at the same venue.
“Set against the historic background of Windsor Castle and under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, the Alltech FEI European Championships 2009 promise to be an amazing prelude to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech. “The BBC’s decision to broadcast the Alltech FEI European Championships 2009 reemphasizes the significance of this event, and we are delighted that their initiative will serve to bring the excitement into the homes of millions of television viewers worldwide.”
“The Alltech FEI Jumping & Dressage Championships represent a huge opportunity for us to highlight equestrian sport at its very best,” said Michael Cole, deputy editor of BBC Sport. “In the run up to London 2012, we know the Championships will have a big appeal, and the BBC is pleased to be able to offer equestrian fans the chance to watch the top riders in
Europe compete in a major Championships held in the UK.”
 “The Championships are rapidly building momentum, and we are delighted they are receiving such formidable backing from international sponsors such as Alltech and now the support of our national broadcaster, the BBC,” said Simon Brooks-Ward, show director of the Alltech FEI European Championships. “The plan to stage both the FEI Dressage and Jumping Championships at the same time in
Windsor is being very well-received, and we are encouraged by the number of people who have already booked their seats for the Championships.”
The BBC’s programming will include coverage of the individual finals of the dressage and jumping as well as the team jumping competition. For ticketing and further information on the confirmed program of events, visit

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^