Relative Hair Coat Characteristics
It’s the third day of summer by the calendar, and it’s the third straight day of accumulating snowfall here at 9,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. I am very focused on the ability of my ponies to cope with this late season cold moisture, especially the two foals that are about a week old. It’s been several weeks since the adults shed out their winter coats, so they don’t have the protection that they normally would for this sort of weather. They are making more use of their sheds than they usually do.
A study published in 2017 about hair coat characteristics was especially interesting to me as I monitor my ponies during this unseasonal weather. The context of the study was donkey welfare, investigating how donkeys’ hair coats vary with season relative to horses, ponies, and mules so that their care is modified appropriately. I didn’t realize that indeed their care would need to be adjusted because donkeys’ coats don’t change character as seasons change, unlike the other equids. (1) I also didn’t realize how long ago the donkey evolution line diverged from horses and ponies: around 3.4–3.9 million years. That in part explains the difference between donkeys and the other equid groupings.
I was hopeful when I learned of the study that there would be information about British native ponies’ coats. And while British native ponies were included in the study sample, they were lumped with British native horses in the reported data.
The study found that horse/pony coats changed significantly in weight and in length over the seasons. This isn’t really surprising to those of use in cold weather climates who have handfuls of hair shedding out in the spring! The researchers did ask the interesting question about how the horse/pony coats would respond to more tropical climates, saying it would be a useful future research topic.
1) Osthaus, B., L. Proops S. Long N. Bell K. Hayday F. Burden. “Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate,” Equine Veterinary Journal, May 2018, p. 339-342.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2019
You can find more stories like this one in my book The Partnered Pony, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.