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Hairy Horses: an Update from the Latigo Herd

March 12, 2018

Horses know when it’s going to get cold. Mustangs, in particular, start packing on the pounds and growing thick winter coats in preparation for snow. But often, the severity of winter can be judged by how early and how thick horses grow their winter coats. The Latigo herd is no exception. We can’t keep all 75 horses on the ranch very conveniently during the winter months, and so, in true Western fashion, we’ve set up a helpful arrangement with our neighbors just down the mountain.

The Taussig family (of Caitlyn Taussig musical talent) agrees to keep our horses, feed them, and watch for those who might be sick or injured during the winter. In exchange, we keep about thirty head of their cattle up at Latigo during the summer. They enjoy green grass, some basic herding on our ‘cattle drive’ Fridays, and all the benefits of summering on their own private plot of land.

Our horses are in good hands on the Taussig ranch, and we don’t feel the need to go down and check on them very often, but we were in the neighborhood with a camera and thought, “Why not?”

Take a look at how fuzzy these guys are!

Do you know why horses get winter coats? Well… the current theories all point toward light. Horses in southern regions of the northern hemisphere put on less of a coat than their northern comrades. Closer to the equator, there is less variation of daylight over the course of the year, and this means horses produce smaller amounts of melatonin. The exposure to light and the production of melatonin seems to be the relationship which results in these remarkable animals growing coats to suit their climates.

The Latigo herd doesn’t seem to mind the chill, though. In fact, sometimes they prefer to lick the ice instead of taking a walk through the snow to their water tank.

You can tell how chilly it was by how fuzzy they look. Horses will often make the hair stand on end, increasing the sheer volume of fuzz, because it allows the coat to create insular air pockets warmed by their own body heat.

Spencer’s mustang, Granite, always develops the most interesting colors in his extra layers of fuzz, almost like the seasonal change that happens in rabbits. He also has lots of extra whirls and dips in his hair. It’s not practical, but it is stylin’!

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