As you've probably heard by now, a certain rodent residing in Punxsutawney, Pa., saw his shadow last Sunday, thus predicting we've got six more weeks of winter to go before spring arrives. While I'm not overly thrilled with Phil's verdict, I don't think I have much of a choice but to accept it…especially since snow is in the forecast nearly every day this week here in Lexington.
While I'm really not a fan of the cold and snow, not many of the senior horses I've owned or cared for over the years have shared my distain. In fact, the vast majority of aging equids that have passed through my life seem to quite enjoy the winter months.
Jessie would much rather rough it outside during the winter than in a nice warm stall!
Photo: Erica Larson
At the farm I used to work at, winter was the only time our herd—comprosed mostly of horses aged 20 and older—kicked up their heels on a regular basis when coming in for breakfast or going back out to their fields. It was the time we'd look out to the field and see our aged horses looking a decade younger as they pranced around when snow was falling. And, it would indeed be the time we'd see those horses needing to stay in the barn for the night pouting as they watched their friends go out to play. In fact—and I kid you not—on the rare occasions we did have horses ask to stay in or start to look cold, more often than not it was our younger herd members!
These hearty seniors thrived in Michigan winter after Michigan winter with no blankets, musk-ox-like coats, woods and a few lean-tos for shelter, and hay twice a day. Of course, we checked their water sources at least twice daily to ensure they remained unfrozen and provided some extra calories to those horses who needed it, but all-in-all this was a pretty self-sufficient, sturdy, senior horse herd.
Dorado, on the other hand, would much rather be tucked in his nice warm stall when it's cold out.
Photo: Erica Larson
Not unlike these senior horses, my family's 27-year-old Appaloosa mare Jessie quite enjoys playing in the snow with her best friends—17-year-old Sadie and 14-year-old Lance—at every chance she gets. My father told me she'd come inside for the night when wind chills in the area dipped to -30°F and, while she seemed appreciative at first, she couldn't wait to get outside the next day. Rumor has it when my father did finally get her out of the barn and to her field, there was an entertaining airs above the ground display and several rolls between playing with her friends before she settled down and started eating hay. Yes, Jessie sure does enjoy winter!
Of course, there's another side to every story; in this case, it’s the aging horses that want absolutely nothing to do with cold, snow, or winter. 18-year-old Dorado is one of these. He's okay until it either hits about 25°F and/or it starts snowing. At that point, he turns into a pathetic pony asking everyone in sight to bring him inside to his well-ventilated stall with lots of bedding and hay. Once inside, he's happy as a clam. And yes, I'm fully aware he's probably exaggerating his urgent need to come inside, but what good is it if you can't spoil your babies a little? :-)
How do your senior horses like winter? Would they rather be inside, warm and cozy? Or are they troopers who'd rather stay out and play?