I know with this warmer weather we’ve been having, most of you have been trading in your heavy winter coats for your lighter spring jackets…I know I have! Much like your pet dogs and cats, horses shed their thicker winter coats for their sleeker summer coats as the seasons change. But unlike humans, it is not a direct result of warmer temperatures. So what causes horses to begin shedding their coats in the spring and growing them in the fall? Read on to find out!
As seasons change, the amount of daylight changes as well. Maybe you’ve heard of summer solstice (June 21st) as the longest day of the year with 16 hours of sunlight, or winter solstice (December 21st) as the shortest day of the year with only 10 hours of sunlight. The varying amounts of daylight is called photoperiod and tell horses when they should start shedding or growing their coats! Sometimes horse owners, particularly those who are interested in showing and breeding, will “trick” the horse’s body into thinking the photoperiod is longer than they actually are by putting lights in their stalls when the horse comes in at night. The extended amount of “daylight” has the same effect on the horse as if the seasons were changing. This is useful for show horses because their coats will be short and neat for competitions. This also requires owners to provide horses with extra warmth in the winter in the form of turnout blankets to compensate for shorter hair-coats.
The horse’s response to photoperiod is not as simple as it sounds. To initiate the shedding (or growing process) the horse uses its “third eye”. Where is this third eye you may ask? Check out my next blogpost where I’ll talk about what goes on inside a horse that causes changes on the outside!
Until then, Happy Spring Solstice!