When we all want to stay home by the fire, here are the ways nature and the Backcountry Wilderness Area equine staff make sure our horses and barnyard animals are comfortable and warm.
When folks join us out at the Backcountry Outdoor Center—home to our Horse Corrals and Base Camp, where our other barnyard animals live—we often get the question, “How do horses and other livestock stay warm in the winter if they live outside?” Fear not, our 13 horses, a pony, two donkeys, five goats, and lots of chickens are well taken care of in all weather events.
For general shelter, our goats have a closeable, raised shed and the chickens have a secure coop. These structures for all of our smaller animals give refuge from snow, wind, rain, and cold. When it comes to our horses, here are a few ways they stay comfortable during the winter months.
A Little Extra: Hay, in proper amounts, is a great way to warm up horses on cold days. Digesting hay creates heat and helps maintain a horse's body temperature.
A Proper Winter Coat: Nature provides a horse with a coat for every season. A horse’s winter coat does an amazing job at keeping them warm! If you see a horse standing outside in a storm with snow on its backs; that means its coat is doing its job. Their coat creates a layer of insulation, which keeps their body heat from escaping and the snow from melting.
Duck Inside: Adequate shelter can be important for wet snow (and rain) during cold temperatures. Precipitation in the less frozen form will eventually melt onto the horse's back, and the coat will lose its insulation.
Snuggle when Needed: It’s easy to think that every horse needs a blanket when the weather turns cold. Most horses can control their temperatures with the coating nature gave them, but not all of them. Some horses, especially as they age, can struggle to keep warm in winter and may need proper blanketing.
As for how the Backcountry horses, pony, and donkeys fare through the winter, they are provided daily hay, shelter access 24/7, heated water, their natural winter coats, and lots of extra attention. Do you know what else they love in all seasons? Visits from horse lovers of all ages! Check out our horse program offerings here!
Carly Steiger is the equine coordinator for the Backcountry Wilderness Area. Carly moved to Colorado in 2015, and is an avid animal and outdoors lover. When she’s not hiking or snowboarding, you can find her caring for her tribe of rescue animals.