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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shelter use by horses

Shelter access is important in snowy, windy conditions.

Summarized by Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota

Have you ever watched your horse on a cold winter day and wondered why they were not in their shelter? Researcher Dr. Camie Heleski at Michigan State University recently researched this question.

She examined daytime shelter-seeking behavior in domestic horses housed outdoors, and studied the relationship of temperature, precipitation, and wind speed with shelter-seeking behavior. Sixty Arabian and draft horses were observed. Horses were divided among 8 pastures containing sheds. During a 12-month period, over 5,000 visual observations of shelter use were recorded. At each observation, researchers noted whether or not a shed was being used. At each sampling time, weather conditions and whether each horse was standing or lying inside or next to shelters were recorded.

Shelter usage ranged from a low of <10% of observations in many weather conditions to a high of 62% of observations when it was snowing and wind speed were greater than 11 mph. When wind was greater than 5 mph, there was a significant effect of both rain and snow on shelter usage, that is, more horses used shelters in snowy or rainy, breezy conditions.

Though overall shelter usage was typically <10%, it appears that shelter access is very important in certain weather conditions.

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