As the Winter sets in and temperatures drop, the question is “are breathable horse boots needed?” or should we be using fluffy boots with the aim to keep our horse or pony’s leg’s snug and warm?
Did you know that horse’s legs have less vascularisation than other parts of the body? What does that mean? The anatomy of the lower limbs are very well adapted for coping with the cold. As there are no muscles below the knee the cells in the leg require less blood circulation, meaning they lose less heat. Whilst your toes are one of the first appendages to get cold, this is not a problem for your horse (1)
“It has to be three times colder for horses to feel the cold as you do”
When it’s cold = constriction of blood vessels. The uppermost layers of your horse or pony’s skin are covered with veins which circulate the blood close to the surface before returning it to the lungs. In hot weather, this is desirable, but when it’s cold heat loss must be minimised. This is achieved by blood being blocked from the veins close to the surface and rerouted into vessels which run deep under the skin, right next to arteries. This means the blood returning to the heart and lungs is warmed by the outgoing (countercurrent) arteries, preventing cold blood from penetrating the body.
The Role of Hair in Keeping Warm
Pilo-erection is when the horse’s hair stands on its ends. The purpose of this is to trap air between the horse’s skin and hair, and this regulates the horse’s temperature keeping it even and comfortable on cold days. Horse’s don’t want to be overly snuggly and warm, they like to have an average temperature around them, but it’s not comfortable for them to be too hot. Also if they become hot, their body immediately sweats to cool them down and this can create a dramatic and uncomfortable drop in temperature if the atmospheric temperature is cold. So it’s all about balance.
So What Can We Do To Help?
The best we can do is to maximise the amount of air to the skin when exercising using HUSK breathable horse boots and HUSK breathable saddle pads, this will help your horse not to get too hot too fast. HUSK breathable horse wear mimics the pilo-erection of horse hair to trap the air between the skin and the atmosphere to balance the temperature around the horse’s skin, keeping it in a health state. If you are using breathable horse boots, it would be worth not clipping out your horse or pony’s legs. This helps with the thermoregulation process for your horse or pony.
Warm your horse or pony up steadily…..
“Adequate warm up before exercise, training and competition is essential to avoid injury to muscles, ligaments and/or tendons” (2)
…..and to ensure a good amount of time to cool down progressively also. If you horse has sweated, as you warm up and cool down, maybe a light exercise sheet would help. Your horse’s/pony’s trunk has a wealth of vascularisation unlike the legs, and will sweat when required to cool your horse or pony down. Once the hair is wet it sits against the skin and loses its thermoregulating abilities. So if the ambient temperature is really cold and your horse is wet with sweat, it’s a little bit like going out without drying your hair, cold! This is why people used to use “thatching” when they wanted to dry off their coats. “Thatching” involved rubbing your horse’s coat with straw or hay to take the thick of the wet off and then stuffing the straw or hay under the rug to keep the air gap which would help the horse’s coat to dry!
So should we be using fluffy products on our horses to keep them warm or are we putting our human needs onto the needs of our horses or ponies?
We will leave it to you to decide based on the information that we have given you today, but remember horses and ponies are not humans!
If you were interested in taking a look at HUSK Breathable Horse Boots the link is here: https://thehusk.co.uk/husk-boots/
& for HUSK Breathable Saddle pads the link is here:https://thehusk.co.uk/husk-saddle-pads/
References (1) Horses Inside Out , Ally Lowther 2015 How Horses Stay Warm (2) Severn Vets, Keeping Horse Legs Healthy