The Truth About Winter Woolies
 By ImaCoolCowgirl   •   2nd Mar 2012   •   6,123 views   •   9 comments
The Truth About Winter WooliesOne of the most believed myths in the horse world is that blanketing a horse during the winter will actually keep your horse from growing a winter coat. Blanketing your horse earlier or keeping it in a heated barn has virtually no effect. There are quite a few reasons as to why this is believed.

Blanketing a horse during the winter keeps the fluffy outer hair pressed flat, giving the illusion that the horse has not grown a full coat. While the horse may have not grown quite as much hair, it still has a winter coat. Take the blanket off for a few days and Iím sure you horseís hair will puff out.

Another reason as to why this myth is believed is because many large show barns and boarding barns say this blanketing keeps the hair off. However, in reality most large barns have people coming in the evening after work to ride and train their horses, so they leave lights on extending the length of the ďPhotoperiodĒ. But because the horses are often kept with blankets on while inside or outside, it is believed that is why they donít grow winter hair.

The Photoperiod is the amount of time per day that an animal receives light, in our case, a horse. Your horse will start shedding itís summer hair and growing itís winter coat as the photoperiod shortens. Towards the end of winter as the Photoperiod increases your horse will shed its winter coat in preparation for its summer hair.

Most people use increased stall hours, combined with blanketing and placing hoods on horses to keep a short coat. This can cause serious mental and physical health issues for your horse. Your horse will likely not enjoy the confinement and be more excitable during workouts. It also may suffer physically from extreme temperature change of going from a warm stall environment out to a cold environment for turnout or exercise depending on your facilities. However, this does not work and is often more detrimental than helpful.

A study done by the Equine Sciences Division of Texas A&M University found the only true way to keep the winter woolies away is to keep them in light a minimum of 14 hours a day and a maximum of 16 hours a day. There must be at least 8 hours of darkness or the horse will still grow winter hair. The more natural light the better, but artificial light works just as well. Once youíve stopped your horse from growing hair it is a good idea to blanket it to keep it from getting chilled, since you deprived it of its natural winter coat. But you must continue with the 16 hours of light to keep the winter hair off your horse.

Another way to keep your horse from looking scruffy in the winter is to do a full body clip. A common myth regarding body clipping is that it ruins the summer coat when it grows in. This does not hold true unless you wait until the summer hair is starting to grow in to clip. Then you will the shear off the tips of the summer hair making it grow in oddly or not as soft.

Another thing I came across in my research was the use of wormer. It is said using a wormer that contains Zimectrin causes your horse to fluff up. I found a few instances of this, but I never found any solid facts regarding it.

I was one of the majority that believed this myth until one day I stumbled on a summary of the Texas A&M study. I was rather intrigued and I felt somewhat cheated to know that what I was taught was obviously wrong. I decided to share my knowledge with the rest of in the hopes that we will one day stop teaching our up and coming horse people this myth so that the truth can prevail. I very interested to hear your opinions on this. So please feel free to share any information you have.
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Rusted Faith  
Great article! I completley agree!
  Mar 2, 2012  •  5,089 views
Really cool article! Science is my favorite subject, and I like it best when it applies to horses! XD
Derby lives outside, so he's like a fluffy teddy bear. And since it doesn't snow, he doesn't get blanketed unless it's both cold and wet outside. :) He likes it that way, methinks.
  Mar 2, 2012  •  5,066 views
TEXAS A&M FOR THE WIN BABY! Whoooo! Gig'em Aggies!

Yup, you know where to find me in a couple of years when I go to collage :P
  Mar 2, 2012  •  5,051 views
Dark Star  
My horses don't get winter hair. Not much at least, we don't have much if any spring shedding. Just minor clipping touchups on the head and legs.

Both of them are blanketed.
  Mar 3, 2012  •  5,054 views
Dark Star  
Oh and at our barn, the pleasure horses are stall 24/7, when not being trained. They are never turned out and are only rode in the indoor arena. Plus they have a light, and 2 blankets (a sheet and a blanket) with a hood and sleezy. You can't tell what color they are, haha. The only one that is here right now (We have 5 that usually stay at the barn) is a blue roan.
  Mar 3, 2012  •  5,054 views
Double Spur Ranch  
Great article!
  Mar 3, 2012  •  5,075 views
I never fully believed that rugging horses up during the winter would stop them growing a winter coat. I think it's silly to try and stop them growing a winter coat, it gives them something natural to have in this very urbanised world they are now used to.
Ours live out all year round and are usually rugged (Depending on their coat) throughout winter. Although, depending on their workload, some are clipped, but we practically never clip them out fully because we're not hunting all season.
  Mar 3, 2012  •  5,064 views
This was really interesting to hear! I have been blanketing and putting lights on my horses for years, thinking that it would help.... well what a waste of my time then.
  Mar 5, 2012  •  5,093 views
Sapphire Flames  
Great to know. :)
  Mar 20, 2012  •  5,056 views
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