How Does My Horse Feel Outside in the Rain?
As a horse owner, you may be wondering how your horse feels about standing outside in the rain. Do they get cold? What does it mean if the horse is shivering? Should you put the horse inside the stable when it starts to rain? And what about Rain Rot? There are a lot of questions surrounding rain and horses, and the answers are a little bit more complicated than you may think.
First of all, horses are tough. We may not give these animals enough credit for how hardy and resilient they really are. Horses can withstand rain, snow, blistering heat, and all kinds of other environments. They are highly adaptable, and even grow pretty thick coats of hair in the winter to keep them insulated and their skin dry. They even get a little chunkier in the fall so that they have excess reserves of fat that they can live off of in the winter when the only food around is dead grass and roughage. Because of this adaptability, if your horse was raised in a region where wet winters or springs are a yearly event, they are probably used to the rain. Still, horses are animals too and they can get cold. It is important understand what the rain and the cold mean for your horse.
Cold and Rainy Weather
As you may have guessed, wet cold is much tougher on horses than dry cold. This is because of the humidity. Just like us, the wet cold of a rainy winter day can sneak inside the horse and give it the chills, causing the horse to shiver. On especially rainy days when it is really coming down, your horse will be happy for a spot of shelter. It will give them a chance to shake off and get warm. However, it won’t damage a strong and healthy horse to get out in the rain and stroll around. You don’t need to worry about them catching a cold or getting sick just because of a little rain.
In fact, horses enjoy the cold. You will often find the shed or stable empty on days with light snow, and your horses congregating in the field or strolling about. Their thick fur coats keep them warm, just like any dog. The only time they are bothered by the weather is with wet, humid, and penetrating rain. The best thing you can do in this weather is to provide them shelter, keep them dry, and give them blankets for warmth. There is no need to keep them in the stable, though. It is important for your horses to get a lot of fresh air to keep them healthy. A little bit of water won’t do any harm! If you see your horse shivering, it just means they are keeping warm. It’s a natural reaction.
It is also important that, if you live in a place where the winter is very rainy and goes on for many months, your horse becomes accustomed to the rain. This will make sure they adapt to the wetter conditions. Give your horse a lot of time outside so that they can get used to the decrease in temperature and the wet weather. They may be colder at the beginning of the rainy season, then gradually adapt. You may notice your horse is eating a little more than usual. This is so they can remain warm with lots of energy. If they begin to gain weight in the wet and rainy season, you will likely see them drop that added weight come spring.
You will know your horse is too cold if it is refusing to leave the stable to go out into the pasture, is huddled and immobile, does not want to eat, or is spending too much time trying to remain in its own stall. In this case, you may want to try a blanket to give your horse a little extra heat. Make sure they are dry and comfortable, then they will warm up in a flash.
Rain rot is a relatively common issue with horses and is a frequently asked question among new horse owners. So, what is it? Rain rot is the simple term for a skin disease caused by nasty bacteria, resulting in ugly scabs that peel and flake off from your horse with clumps of flesh and hair, leaving nothing but naked spots on the horse’s skin. Although it is called rain rot, this unfortunate disease is not caused by the rain alone. You see, the evil bacteria are unable to get inside of the horse’s skin to spread the infection when the skin is healthy. There must be a wound, an insect bite, a previous infection, or a massive amount of moisture that has washed away the usual layer of protective oil on the horse’s skin. This is why rain rot often appears on the horse’s head, back, and neck – the areas most exposed to heavy rainfall. There is almost never rain rot on the legs or the belly of a horse.
If you see that your horse is experiencing rain rot, don’t panic. This is a totally curable affliction. Generally, after the scabs and the hair fall out and there are rough patches all over your horse (or in just one or two places), you have between seven and ten days before the skin starts healing and the new hair begins to grow.
That being said, the horse will only heal if you remove them from the heavy rain or protect their body by using a blanket. Allow the oils to regrow on the skin, that way the bacterial infection will die. If you permit your horse to keep standing idle in the rain, the lesions and the rain rot could worsen. This could lead to additional infections and any number of complications, including a failed immune system, fevers, pain, and serious health mishaps. Take care of your horse and watch for the early signs of rain rot!