On those long winter nights, when frigid winds chill to the bone and snow or sleet or cold rain makes outdoor activities decidedly miserable, most of us like nothing better than to curl up with a good book and a steaming-hot beverage. Every now and then, we pull aside the curtains and press our noses to the chilly windowpanes and feel doubly glad that we’re snug and safe inside and that our beloved horses are out in their field.
What? Our horses, outside? On a night like this? Wouldn’t they rather be warm and dry in a barn?
Actually, probably not, says Nancy Ambrosiano of Los Alamos, N.M., U.S. Pony Clubber and co-author of Complete Plans for Building Horse Barns Big and Small, 2nd edition. ‘A healthy, unclipped horse will do just fine outside in most North American winters. Even in Fairbanks, Aka., where I used to live, many horses lived outside and rarely sought shelter–and that was in temperatures of down to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit! Of course, those horses were acclimated to the conditions, had very heavy winter coats, and were hardy and in good health.’
In truth, says Ambrosiano, barns and their amenities exist more for our own comfort and convenience than that of our horses: ‘It’s as close to having horses in our living rooms as we can get.’ She recognizes that many of today’s equines are bred for attributes other than woolly coats and all-weather hardiness. Still, she says, most horses conserve body heat efficiently and, therefore, need less shelter than we think they do. In fact, studies have shown that as turnout time increases, the inciden