Tuesdays with Tony

Why is my horse growing his winter coat already??

Horses are weird. I say that a lot, because it’s true. I was checking out a horse that was hanging out at the Clinic with Teannie and I over the weekend, and noticed he was growing his winter coat. I’m thinking, “It’s not even close to winter, what are you thinking????” Okay, I may not have thought that, I may have said it out loud. And where do I go with my questions? To my Docs…Dr. Vurgason was the first one I saw so I asked her, “What is that horse thinking getting a winter coat when it’s 90 degrees out?” And here’s her answer:

Horses like cold weather

To be more accurate, they evolved in areas where it got really cold. We get a skewed view of seasons here in Florida, but in other parts of the world, it isn’t 90 degrees for 8 months out of the year. Dr. Vurgason informed me that this morning it was 30 degrees in Stowe, Vermont. I informed her I don’t want to live wherever that is, but I did concede that a horse might need a winter coat by now if he lived there. Dr. Vurgason told me there are some breed differences, as well. For instance, Thoroughbreds, in general, don’t grow as much hair as, say, a Percheron.

Sometimes hair isn’t just hair

But, (and with the humans there’s always a but) sometimes horses aren’t just preparing for winter. Dr. Vurgason told me one of the early signs of Cushing’s (also called PPID because humans also like initials) was growing a winter coat earlier or heavier than normal. She told me this is because the pituitary gland, which is the main problem-child in Cushing’s disease, is in charge of knowing if it’s Winter or Summer, and it gets confused. So if your horse is growing way more coat, or growing it earlier than last year, you better contact my minions and get them checked! The test is a simple blood draw, no need to study or purchase Cliff notes or anything like that.

You’re going to need to cut that hair

Due to the aforementioned lack of actual Winter in Florida, you may need to cut that newly grown winter coat off. Horse hair is an amazing insulator, so when it’s 85 degrees on Christmas Day and you want to go ride, you may find your furry horse is a less than willing partner. Never fear, this doesn’t mean you have to go spend $1000 in horse blankets. You can do what I refer to as the “crazy horse people haircuts.” I have heard other people call them bib or trace clips. I still think they look funny. However, they do let your horse sweat and release heat in all the important places, while giving them protection from our “cold” weather. And if you get inspired to add some zest and style to your clip job, take a picture and put it on our Facebook page!

Now go out and inspect that hair coat. Got questions? Let my minions know! Until next week


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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