We’ve had a stretch of truly miserable weather. It rained on and on. Sometimes there was a fine mist enveloping the world. Sometimes a cold driving downpour soaked everything it pelted. In the morning there was a dusting of snow, until that turned into more rain. It seemed like it went on like that for days.
We are miserable out in such weather so our inclination is to keep our horses inside, cozy and dry. But what do the horses think? Scientists have studied equine preferences. They looked into under what conditions horses seek out protection from the weather. What they’ve documented is that horses care more about shade when it is blazing hot, and shelter when insects are bothering them. But when it’s just raining? Horses prefer to be outside grazing. You can read this research here. (For those of you with long ears, read it. They studied that too. Donkeys’ preferences differ from those of horses.)
Keeping horses, though, is fraught with compromises. We have limited land. We need to have our horses stabled together so that we can care for them. We have to deal with manure and water. We need them dry and clean so that we can put tack on them to ride. Some horses need to have their fur clipped so that they don’t overheat when ridden in cold weather. Which means they have to wear blankets, which require attention and care. It’s complicated!
One of the pluses of where I board Tonka is that they have large grass paddocks for all of the horses, so that everyone has ample daily turnout. However, if the horses are turned out when the ground is sodden, then the turf is quickly ruined and it’d all become dry lots. So when the weather is wet, the horses are kept in. They’re given extra hay, which keeps the horses sated, but it’s not optimum. I try to add extra time to my barn visits to hand-graze Tonka. I have bought myself a very nice raincoat! (Take a look here.) Tonka also has a waterproof jacket.
Tonka is one of the fortunate horses to have an in/out stall. Yesterday when I arrived the heavy rain had briefly abated, and he and his neighbors were all out in the drizzle.
These small runs have very good drainage, but even they couldn’t keep up with the amount of water coming down. Compared to his stall, this runout looks like a miserable place to be, and yet that’s what Tonka preferred. Fresh air and landscape to look at.
Tonka stayed out in the rain until lunch hay was fed. That was worth coming in for.
During this inclement weather I keep in mind that Tonka is moving a lot less than usual, so I make a point of starting my rides with loose rein walking, and I don’t pick up contact until I feel him swinging his back with some energy. It can take a full 15 minutes, and even then I gradually ease him into more athletic work. Sometimes a bounding canter, done in a big oval around the ring, (no corners, no fussing) is just what is needed to shake off the cobwebs.
We’ve got a couple of days of sunny weather in the forecast. The ground remains a wet mess, but I’m hoping that I can ride outside and squish our way around the fields. If not, we’ll ride in and then go for another hand-graze. Which is okay by me. There’s something so satisfying listening to a horse eat.
How’s the weather in your area? Under what conditions does your horse want to come inside?