Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for January

Happy New Year, everyone.

With the snow flying, and below zero temperatures rolling in here in New Hampshire, I thought I'd write a bit about horses in winter.

I don't believe there are many instances in the movies or television where horses look as they do in teh wintertime. They are always slick and shiny. And of course, clean, hardly the way hard working cow ponies typically look.

In the wintertime, horses grow long, thick coats, which act as insulation. (When Yankee sheds out in the spring, I brush enough hair off him to make several more horses, or horsehair sofas). Depending on the breed, the climate, and the latitude, horses grow different lengths coats. Some in the South might not grow any at all. I recall when I lived in San Diego. I was surprised when Sam didn't grow a coat... until I realized the temperatures were still in the 70s. Of course, the San Diegans thought  that was freezing. They'd wear windbreakers and sweatshirts while I was in T-shirts. Horses up nroth can grow very long, thick coats, so they can look almost like bears, they are so fuzzy. I can also get a pretty good handle on how severe the winter will be by how long Yankee grows his coat. Some winters it is real thick, others, not so much.

Although you'd never know it today, with so many horses blanketed in the winter,  that long coat means horses can survive teh cold just fine. If you see horses standing outside in a snowstorm, you'll notice snow can pile up on their backs to three or more inches without melting. They also bunch up, to keep each other warm, and turn tails to the wind. The only real hazard for horses in cold weather is getting soaked in a cold rain, or a sleet and ice storm. On occasion, a horse might lose the tip os his ears to frostbite, but that's rare.

So, in your writing, if you're doing a story or chapter set in the cold weather, no slick, smooth coated horses, please, Give them the thick, mink coat look. And of course, when your rider gets to town, give  his or her horse a nice warm stall in the livery stable. The horse will appreciate it.

Ranger Jim


  1. Good points. I've seldom seen much mention of horses in winter. They're addressed as though there's little change. I set "The Hardest Ride" in the winter of 1886 because it was The Great Die Up, horrible blizzards spreading through the western states and territories and into Mexico. Hundreds of head of cattle died. I mention the horses dealing with it, but I purposely left out their winter coats, because as you said, that far south their coats barely thicken at all as you said. Thanks for the article.

  2. Horses actually do much better in cold weather than they do in the South. That's the reason people in the South used so many more mules than Percherons or Clydesdales, for example. The mules could hold up to the heat and humidity better. Thank you, James.

    1. They also don't have to deal with the bugs year round like they do down South.

  3. Excellent information, as usual. Thanks.Doris