In the next five years our earth will hit the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark, meaning the earth's whole average temperature is going to rise. Now 1.5 degrees Celsius may not sound warm to us but it is for the earth! The earth's average temperature is what has made it a perfect home for humans and other species for hundreds of years! But when the earth's average temperature either drops or goes up, that is when we see drastic and deadly weather events that can wipe out species!
I am sure you have heard of the ice age where the whooly mammoth, dire wolf, mastodon and many other species died out. Heck humans almost didn't survive through it either!
Now the earth is not get colder but warmer! So we are not going to have another ice age! But we are going have other deadly weather events like stronger heat waves, droughts and hurricanes!
These events will cause many people and animals to struggle to survive. BUT if we work together, pay attention to issues that are arising and take action, we can help everyone through this era!
Now you may be wondering where do horses come into all of this?! Well something very interesting about horses is they have survived a period of earth warming before! And since they have us loving them so much, they have an extra leg up to survive through this era too!
Let's get into some history of the horse and how horses fair in drastic weather events!
50,000 years ago when earth last experienced a global warming episode, many species went extinct including some horse species!
The Przewalski, domestic horse, donkeys, and Onagers survived this period by migrating towards the North Pole (Bernatkova 2022).
DON'T FREAK OUT!
I am not saying move your horses up north! I am just giving you some background to understand that horses are hardy and can survive some pretty crazy stuff! But let's look at how they react or handle different temperatures!
Since we know that ancient horses survived by moving someplace cooler, it is important to take from that info that our horses now will probably not do well in extreme heat waves!
And you may have already seen this first hand!
When strong heat waves go through, our horse's behavior becomes dull, they want to stay in the shade, not move much, they may not eat much and they will drink a ton!
We need to stay vigilant to make sure they do not become heat stressed or have a heat stroke. Ample shade, a cool run-in/barn, fans, sprinkler and plenty of clean cool water are needed during hot periods to keep our horses healthy and safe!
Now horses do better in cold weather but only up to a point!
When we get extreme cold snaps horses will seek protection from the wind, huddle together to stay warmer, eat more, not move much, and sometimes drink less. Since they may not move as much, they will have excess energy and that is where they will seem frisky to us.
Here we need to stay vigilant to make sure none of our horses get frost bite or get too cold! Foals and older horses will need to be blanketed and monitored more closely. Run-ins/barns will be needed if extreme snow storms occur or if our horses need shelter from cold wind. Clean, unfrozen and warm water will be needed, so water heaters are a must! And be prepared to layer up your horses if a polar vortex hits! Ugh I hate those!
A big issue that can cause all sorts of problems mentally and physically are those extreme fluctuating weather patterns!
This can physically cause illness, colic, foot issues, skin diseases, etc. A horse's behavior may turn from bright to dull, they may not move much, they may be more alert, they may change their eating habits, and not drink as much water.
A big thing to do is to keep track of the weather daily! If you see a big temperature swing coming up and your horse is sensitive, especially those that colic, give them extra electrolytes to keep them hydrated and make sure they have access to forage 24/7 so their gut is continuously working!
When rain events occur, always check your horse for skin issues that can flare from the moisture. Before the rain comes prepare their hooves with some farriers clay or other products to protect them from getting thrush or abscesses. Then check their hooves after and clean them thoroughly!
It is scary and daunting that we have to think about and prepare for these extreme weather patterns that are happening more frequently.
BUT by learning and understanding how horses are affected by climate change, physically and mentally, we can help them thrive during this period. (PS this goes for all animals too!)
Now there is so much more I could say about this, but I would end up writing a book! So be on the look out for more blog posts on this topic!
Bernátková, et al. 2022. Influence of weather on the behaviour of reintroduced Przewalski’s horses in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area (Mongolia): implications for conservation.
Tim Sharp. (May 7, 2015). What is the Temperature on Earth? [Online]. Available: http://www.space.com/17816-earth-temperature.html