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November 2, 2011

Help your horse keep a short hair coat in the winter

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

Many of us that show horses are used to using blankets and hoods to keep our horses’ hair length short during the winter but with a few easy steps we can ‘trick’ our horse into thinking it is spring or summer all year long.  The theory of Extended Day Regimen (ED) was proven by Hodge and Householder(1) in 1980 when they took young horses and put some under ED lights and left some under natural light.  After the study, the horses on natural light had roughly 3X longer hair than the horses under artificial ED light.(2)

Which type of light is best to use?

One would think using a colored heat lamp similar to those you would use for a reptile would be the best but in fact, an incandescent bulb either clear or frosted provides the best results.

How do I measure how much light is needed?

Light is measured in ‘foot candles’.   You can either use a photometer or a single lens camera to read the light levels.  The ideal brightness is 8-10 foot candles at the horse’s eye level.  If a magazine or newspaper can be read in the stall chances are you have enough light.

Does the light need to be on a timer?

In short, yes!  The light in the stall needs to resemble a normal course of a day in the spring or summer months.  There should be 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of darkness to insure your horse is getting enough resting time.  We all know how difficult it is to sleep with all the lights on!  If you don’t have your light hooked up to a timer, make sure you manually turn the lights on and off at the same time every day.

Do I need the stall lights all year long?

If you live in an area where the stall is getting at least 16 hours of natural light (at a measurement of 8-10 foot candles) then no.

If I go to a show will my horse start growing his hair coat back?

If your horse is not under lights for only a few days, he will not grow his coat back.  If he is not under lights for several days or weeks his body will kick in and start growing a thick/long coat if it is during the winter months.  Once he is back under the lights, he will re-adjust and start shedding.

Things to know!

— When you first introduce your horse to ED lights it could take 30-45 days to see results.  Make sure you groom your horse daily to encourage hair to shed.

— Remember that in the colder months you must use a blanket and sometimes a hood to keep your horse warm if his coat is short.

— If your horse maintains a thick curly coat after being on ED lights for a month there might be other underlying health issues such as an Endocrine Disorder or Cushings Disease and you should consult a veterinarian.

(1) Hodge, S., and D.D. Householder. 1980.  Extended vs traditional day length regimens for controlling hair growth in horses.  Unpublished data.

(2) Householder, D.D. (with Raena Wharton). 1980. Everyday is June 21. Horseman Magazine, Houston, Texas, October.

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