How Do Horses Survive In The Winter?

It might be your first winter caring for a horse or maybe you have seen horses down the road and wondering how they are going to get through the winter especially if it is anything like last winter with these Polar Vortex’s going on. Horses have survived many years in a variety of different clients so they do know how to adapts.

horses in the snow

So how do horses survive in the the winter though? Horses adapt and their coats become thicker so they can survive in most all frigid temperatures. The issue really comes down to calories burned and if they have enough weight on them to keep healthy. They can survive as long as they have access to enough food and water and are in good health. 

Obviously there are more variables then how a horse can survive in that different breeds can withstand cold and heat differently. For example a Yakutsk Pony grows their winter coats up to 8 inches long so they can survive temperatures down to -94 F degrees.

Horses will also find shelter out in the wild when they need to and also if they are in a herd they will huddle together to create their own warmth. If you sit there and watch a horse or horses when the weather is cold and the wind is bad they will turn their hind ends toward the wind as well.

Domestic Horses

They will adapt to the weather as I have already stated, but your horse should have an area to get out of the weather some kind of shelter to get out of the wind and sun even.

Some kind of lean-to will be sufficient. If it is the summer time if there isn’t much wind where you live I would try to get a simple box fan installed at least.

The way we have our horses setup is they can run in and out of the alley as they please. We do put them in their own stalls at night if it is too cold or too hot and also just to remove them from the pasture. This is their alone time and they also get grained so they do love it.

Too Blanket Or Not Too Blanket

This is always the question. I don’t really fight for one way or the other. The only thing I will say is if you blanket you must keep the blanket on for sub-freezing temps well sub-zero at least. Your horses adapt and will do the same with a blanket on.

We do keep blankets on all our horses and miniature horse as well. We just have done that to keep the horse from burning too many of their own calories and it keeps their coats beautiful come spring time. This means less brushing and clean up.

Also our horses get a little more frisky in our pastures at times because they get more bored in the winter time. We don’t ride as often when the weather is cooler. So the blankets do protect them from getting into things at times whether that be birdocks which are very annoying to remove or briars which can cut them.

If you don’t use a blanket just make sure they have that lean to, lots of water, and a healthy balanced diet to keep up with the calories they will be burning. Some people give a weight gainer supplement/grain to help fill that void because if they are used to being on green grass 24/7 they probably won’t be able to eat enough hay to keep their weight up.

So horses will be just as fine without a blanket as they are with.

Related Questions

How Much Cold Can A Horse Tolerate?

Horses can tolerate temperatures down to -40° if shelter is provided. They are most comfortable at 18-59°. So depending on where it is temperature wise you may need to adjust their diet a bit. If it is warmer they need more water and more hay. Colder they need more hay.

Can Horses Stay Outside In The Winter?

Horses can stay outside all winter in most climates down to -40°F. Just make sure they have some kind of shelter to go into and get out of the wind and cold. The wind is the biggest factor even with a blanket on they need to be able to get out of it.

Can Horses Survive Extreme Cold Weather?

Horses can survive very extreme weather down to -40° F on average. There are other horses like the Yakutsk Pony that survive a climate that gets down to -94°F. So different horses will survive different temperatures as their coat grows to different lengths.

Do horses Get Cold In The Winter?

Yes horses do get cold. If you are riding horse in the winter time or working them hard this is when you need to be careful. The wind is really the biggest factor when it is cold. So if you are working your horse be careful bring them inside if you can and give them extra hay when it gets extremely cold outside especially sub-zero temps.

Do Horses Get Cold In The Rain?

If it is around the sub-freezing mark and it rains your horses should be fine but if the temperature continues to drop this is a point where they may need some shelter or to come in their stalls for the evening. Make sure to give extra hay as well. If it 40° F outside or warmer I wouldn’t worry at all about them being cold.

How Cold Is Too Cold For Horses To Be Outside?

It is too cold for a horse outside when it gets below -40° F outside. This includes with the windchill as that can be a deciding factor.

Does Wind Chill Affect Horses?

Yes windchill should be taken into affect at all times with horses. They are just like us in that factor which is why they need shelter or anyway to get out of the wind when needed. You should always take the windchill into your calculators on the temperature. So anything less then -40° F including windchille your horse definitely should not be outside at all.


I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

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