FEBRUARY 2021 THE RIDER /23 ^Between The Ears^

By Ellie Ross This debate has been

longstanding but it’s suffice to say that with so many variables, there is not one universal answer. The most common

questions are; 1. Why do some horses seem to cope better than others in the cold? 2. Do horses need blankets in the winter? 3. When should my horse wear a blanket? 4. Do I need different blan- kets for different tempera- tures and settings? 5. If I am cold does that mean my horse is cold? 6. What type of blanket is best? 7. Can I tell if my horse is cold by feeling its ears?

What you feed them

matters! Providing unlim- ited access to good quality hay is one of the best ways a horse can generate its own heat production. High fiber diets provide better heat production than diets high in starches and/or oils. Age matters! Older

horses may have a harder time regulating their own temperatures especially if they are underweight. Older horses are often less active overall and that can lead to a decrease in digestive effi- ciency which can lead to a decrease in heat production. On the opposite end are the young horses have less body mass and little body fat so they are prone to losing heat. Newborn foals espe-

second blanket as back up is wise. Funny enough it’s usually the gelding pad- docks that see the most blanket damage. The denier strength is something to consider and 1200D is quite strong. A good quality Rain- sheet is often what is most valuable. The grams of fill depend on just how much added insulation a horse re- ally needs. Most don’t. The heaviest of blankets are usu- ally only needed for under- weight , aged or sick horses. A dry horse is best, so avoid making horse wet from sweat due to over blanket- ing. In climates where the temp is lower than -5 for months, the need for blan- keting becomes greater.

#5. Simple answer is no. The thermo neutral zone for bare humans is 25-30C and for horses it is -5 - 25C. This means that it would have to be colder than -5 for the horse to have to increase its metabolic rate to stay warm. A naked human can feel cold in temperatures under 25 degrees. Wind and rain of course would add to the need for warmth.

#6.A blanket that keeps the horse dry in the rain, pro- tected from the wind and isn’t so insulated that it cause him to sweat is ideal. A high Denier count such as 1200D to resist rips and tears, has a tail flap to pre- vent wind from coming up the blanket from behind, doesn’t dig into the neck nor restricts the shoulders. A moisture wicking liner that doesn’t hold horse hair is the most comfortable. Leg straps are important to pre- vent slipping and overall be sure the blanket fits well.

8. At what temperature should I put on and take off the blanket? 9. If my horse is old, does that mean it should wear a blanket? 10. My horse doesn’t grow a lot of coat so does that mean I should put a blanket on? 11. 10b) My horse was im- ported from a hot climate country so will I need to blanket my horse here?

Let’s start with #1. Size matters! It is a scientific fact that generally, the larger the animal, the better its ability to retain heat. This would be why most draft breeds seem ‘tougher’

breeds. Shape

than smaller matters!

Rounder type breeds seem to have the advantage of re- taining heat over the finer built breeds. So this would indicate that based on breed characteristics, some breeds do cope better with the cold than others. A big chunky Quarter Horse is more likely to overheat in a sport like Endurance than a narrow slim Arabian.

cially. Environment matters.

Horses that get wet, are ex- posed to wind without ac- cess to shelter, can lose heat more rapidly.

#2. Some do. Some don’t.

#3. The answer to this has many variables, I think it is easier to answer when your horse should not be wearing a blanket. Your horse should not be wearing a blanket if your horse cannot be checked on regularly. If your horse is sweating under the blanket then its doing more harm than good. Be sure to provide regular grooming and remove blan- kets so horses can get sun- shine. It is good advice to have the blanket off for at least an hour a day, condi- tions permitting of course.

#4. A clean blanket is im- portant so having more than one so you can get one washed and still have one for the horse to wear is most wise. In addition horses will be horses and we all know about tears so if having a

#7. No. A horse’s ears are not an indicator of if the horse is cold or not. Ears can be susceptible to frost bite though. Horses’ hair rises when they are cold. This allows them to trap air between their hair and their skin to retain heat. Horses that have been clipped have no ability to retain heat this way. In addition, horses with thin coats are at a dis- advantage as well. If the horse gets wet, the hair on their body cannot raise and the horse is more suscepti- ble to the cold. A blanketed horse is likely unable to raise their hair however, the blanket itself is aiding in the heat retention.

#8. Refer to #5

#9. It depends…. Is the horse fat, thin or just right? Is the horse healthy or dis- eased? A fat older horse, can become fatter if blanketed because the body doesn’t need to convert energy to heat. A thin older horse’s metabolism is often slower and their reduced activity levels reduce digestion therefore the conversion of energy to heat production is reduced. Many aged horses have dental problems lead- ing to their inability to con-

sume a high fiber diet.

#10. Horses that have shorter thinner coats may need to be blanketed how- ever, I have seen Egyptian Arabians imported from Egypt that had winter hair slick as a seal and they coped just fine outside in the winter with proper shelter. The shorter, thinner hair means less air can be trapped to retain heat.

One last factor to consider is ra-

diation, which is the transfer of heat from the horse to stone or concrete. This would be the reverse of the sun radiating heat to us. The heat is liter- ally drawn from the horse’s body to the stone.

Sierra Acres Equine Assisted Learning Centre

Benefits of Equine Assisted Learning {EAL} for Children


By Anne Porteous While there are many to treating

ADHD in children and adults one method that has proven successful in helping to better manage symptoms of this disorder is the use of equine assisted learning. Horses are experts at mirror- ing human behavior and emotions. They seek con- gruency. Horses tend to re- flect the mood, energy, and emotions shown by those who are working with them. This can be quite a wake-up call for an energetic person whose energy and focus are all over the place. It helps them see what their behav- ior can look like, and the re- sults it can cause. Bringing awareness to their behaviors can lead the way to positive behavior change in the per- son with ADHD. Tyler was recently di-

agnosed with ADHD and ODD. Tyler could be im- pulsive, inattentive, moody, argumentative, hyperactive, defiant, irritable. Activities such as grooming, feeding, haltering, and leading a horse can help a child to be- come calm and more fo- cused. Children can feel like they can accomplish something, gain a sense of fulfillment which in turn en- hances a child’s confidence in their ability to tackle new projects – all of which leads to improved self-esteem. EAL can significantly

improve symptoms of ag- gression, depression, and anxiety. Children may ad- just better to new routines and teachers, and more eas- ily shift from one task to an- other.

Friendships can

become less stressful. Some children are rebellious, grades are not good and there are social problems. Through working with horses children start to learn about kindness, compas-

sion, and respect for others and those in authority. Tyler chose Molly,

my 1600-pound percheron. I coached Tyler on how to approach horses by asking him “how would you greet a new friend?” to which Tyler answered, “I would walk up to the person and say hi”. I demonstrated how he should walk up to a horse to gain the horse’s respect and trust. We then discussed how to transfer what he learned from working with Molly to being with friends. Molly was very receptive to Tyler. She remained stand- ing still and lowered her head to smell his hand. Had he not been respectful or not focused she would have stepped away. Next Tyler was coached on how to lead a horse around the arena. After a couple of laps, Molly stopped walking with Tyler and stood still. Tyler was not sure what to do. I observed tense facial ex- pressions developing on Tyler’s face and pulling harder on the lead rope, try- ing to get Molly to walk to the left. Normally, Tyler would response to someone not meeting his expectations by screaming, having tantrums, intense arguments and bullying but none of these reactions would im- pact a big horse! I asked Tyler what he thought was occurring. He responded, “she won’t move or walk”. I simply said, “I wonder what would happen if you tried something different, go in a different direction?” Tyler decided to walk to the right, around the back of the arena and then walk with her to where he had origi- nally headed. This activity helped Tyler to learn the art of compromising. When I asked Tyler how what he learned might help him when playing with his

friends, his response was amazing. “I learned that sometimes I will need to play with my friends’ toys, and then maybe after a while they will want to play with my toys”. Children of all ages

can learn to communicate with a horse calmly and non-reactively promoting the skills of emotional awareness, emotion regula- tion, self-control, and im- pulse modulation. Research clearly indicates that ani- mal-assisted therapy re- duces

agitation and

aggressiveness and in- creases cooperativeness and behavioral control. Equine assisted learning gives chil- dren and the counselor who is present during equine learning sessions a chance to make new connections between


thoughts, and choices. It is calming and non-invasive, and very empowering for children. Building a rela- tionship with a horse, chil- dren need to overcome fear

or intimidation and replace with social and problem- solving skills. Anne Porteous, owner

of Sierra Acres Equine As- sisted Learning Program can be contacted on Facebook, or anneporteous@sympa- For more informa- tion about services go to Equine assisted learn-

ing is experiential in nature. You will learn about your- self by participating in ac- tivities with the horses, and then processing (or dis- cussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. All horse re- lated activities are done on the ground, no riding. No horse experience is re- quired. Programs are avail- able

for groups or

individuals. Anne Porteous, owner

of Sierra Acres Equine As- sisted Learning Program can be contacted on Facebook, or anneporteous@sympa- For more informa- tion about services go to

The Top Ten Questions on Blanketing in the Winter

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