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The effect of weather conditions on the preference in horses for wearing blankets

Mejdell, Cecilie M., Jørgensen, Grete H.M., Buvik, Turid, Torp, Torfinn, Bøe, Knut E.
Applied animal behaviour science 2019 v.212 pp. 52-57
air temperature, animal behavior, heat, horses, pastures, probability, solar radiation, statistical models, wind speed, Northern European region
The use of blankets in horses is widespread in Northern Europe. However, horses are very adaptable to low temperatures and the practice is questioned because blankets may hamper heat dissipation at high temperatures and also disturb free movement. The aim of the current study was to gain information about horses’ own preferences for wearing or not wearing a blanket under different weather conditions during the seasons. 10 horses usually wearing blankets and 13 horses usually not wearing blankets were kept outside in their paddock for 2 h during different weather conditions. Then, these horses were tested for their preference for wearing blankets (see Mejdell et al., 2016). When only considering air temperature and not the impact of other weather factors, the horses preferred to have the blanket on in 80% and 90% of the test at t < -10 °C in horses usually wearing and not wearing blankets, respectively. As air temperature increased, the preference for keeping the blanket on decreased and at air temperatures > 20 °C, the horses preferred to remove the blanket in all the tests. According to the statistical model, the probability for choosing to have a blanket on increased with increasing wind speed, and also precipitation increased the probability for choosing to have a blanket on. Sunshine however, reduced the probability for choosing to wear a blanket.