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Shivering - is he just a wuss this year?

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  • Shivering - is he just a wuss this year?

    I've boarded at a nice facility for the last 5 years. There are 12 horses and they get TONS of turnout. I am in Ohio so in the winter, they are out by about 8am and stay out until around 5pm when it gets dark - then the BO brings them in and they are stalled overnight. When it is nice in spring/summer/fall, she often times leaves them out almost 24/7 - only bringing in to grain and she purposely leaves them out in the fall on some nights to help them all "coat up".

    I have never blanketed my horse at this barn - he's a decent keeper and grows a good coat, so unless it was going to be below zero...no blankets. He's done fine the past winters and really enjoyed being "naked"!

    Going into this winter - not much has changed. He's 9, pleasantly plump going into winter, etc. About 3 weeks ago, I went out early Saturday morning to ride and I thought my horse was having seizures in his stall. I had never seen him shiver before!!!!! It was probably about 20 degrees outside and warmer in the barn where he was. I threw a blanket on him and fed him some hay (BO had not been out yet to feed) and the chill went away.

    About a week later, it was COLD - 14 degrees - and I went out at 10pm...and there he was again, shivering. He was the only horse in the barn that was shivering - everyone else seemed fine. I took his temp - normal. I hauled out the blanket again...put it on him...and talked to the BO about the situation.

    We came up with the idea of stringing up a hay net in his iron hay feeder to help slow him down in eating his hay at night...to perhaps stretch out the hay and keep him warmer, longer. It got warmer around here so the blanket came off.

    However, yesterday, it was cold again - about 19 degrees outside and 25 degrees in the barn - and I got out there again before the BO fed so I could see if he was cold. Yep - there he was...shivering. Once again, only horse in the barn that was shivering. The 22 yr old TB gelding next to him was fine. All the other horses were fine - even the 3 in the back part of the barn where it is colder due to an open run in door (one of which is a thin skinned TB mare, partially blind and about 20 yrs old!). BO said he has been getting THREE flakes of hay at night in his new "controlled rate" hay feeder - probably at about 6pm. I was there at 7:30am.

    She does not go to the barn to do night check - and they do not get a 9/10pm feeding unless it is SUPER cold. (I kinda wish they did - I think it might help him, but trying to go with the program and not be a pain boarder.)

    So he has his blanket on now pretty much permanently and I'll adjust weights and stuff as needed....but I am just very curious if anyone has had this happen to them. Horse just suddenly decided he needed to be blanketed when he's been fine au natural most past winters?? Is he just a wuss this year for some reason?

    I did put a call into my vet to ask if there was anything I should be worried about.


  • #2
    I can't imagine NOT doing late night check. That's the first of your problem I believe. These guys process hay in order to take in calories and part of the end result, is staying warm. A horse also does not "coat up" because they're out longer in cooler weather. They grow a coat according to daylight hours. Quinn will at times be shivering in the dead of winter when she first comes in but very quickly warms up once a wool cooler is put on. I don't blanket my horses and live in SW Ontario. I would worry about a horse shivering in the barn and I would also question the fact you are there before the BO has been down to feed AND the last time they were fed/checked was 6:00 p.m. the evening before. A shivering horse won't be too keen on taking in water so you're really compounding your challenges.

    \"If you are going through hell, keep going.\" ~Churchill~


    • #3
      I would also be concerned that he's only getting 3 flakes of hay at 6 pm. I do bed check at 10 pm and my ponies get a minimum of 2-3 flakes of hay at this point; the horse gets 4 to 5 at bedcheck when it is this cold. And they've scarfed all that up by 6 am when I come out to feed again. None of them are fat; they are all at a good weight.

      Even if they are really big flakes, I bet he's done eating all the hay well before midnight, which means he's going without anything in his system for quite a few hours.

      All my guys also wear a medium weight blanket. Maybe it's just to make me feel better, but they do spend less calories trying to stay warm and look much more comfortable. I know lots of people don't blanket and their horses do just fine, but it works well for my own guys.


      • Original Poster

        Thank you for the input Quinn - I know, I wish she could go out and toss them another flake at 10pm-ish. She does when it is SUPER cold, but presented the argument that once a horse eats hay...it takes them about 12-14 hours to process it and it is the digesting process that produces the heat to keep them warm (not the actual eating of hay).

        They get all the hay they can eat during the day (round bails, and my horse is high up on the pecking order, so he gets plenty of access) - they come in - get grain (he gets about 3 lbs am and pm) and then she loads them up with hay as well.

        Her thinking is that even if the hay is gone by 10pm...their bellies are fully loaded so they SHOULD be okay to get to the morning (since they should be digesting away what they just ate). I'm not saying her theory is correct - it is just what I got when I asked about a later feeding.

        (And she has a camera system set up in the barn so she DOES check on them from her house.)

        Not to mention that all the other horses are fine - not a shiver among them - and it has been this way (and been fine) for the last five years.


        • #5
          How old is he? I've had hearty horses that lived naked their whole lives. Then one winter they start getting cold. Could just be aging and change of metabolism. You may need to bite the bullet and get him a breathable turnout that he can keep on inside as well.

          Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare


          • #6
            So if the barn owner has a camera system in her house and checks on them, why didn't she see your horse shivering? Especially since you said it was so bad he looked like he was having seizures....


            • #7
              I'm also in Ohio and...

              ...the up and down temperatures we've had early on this winter may be partly to blame for your shiver-boy. I have two fat ponies that never need a blanket, and two lean TBs that DO need a blanket on occasion. One of mine grew a nice fluffy winter coat, and can only be seen shivering when he gets damp or when there is a very stiff breeze. The other never grew much of a coat at all and has to stay blanketed at all times. This has been challenging because one day it's 28 degrees and sleeting... and then next the sun is shining and it's 50 degrees. Since that TB is the one at a boarding barn over the winter ( other three at home where I can monitor 24 hours a day and feed late) I can't run over and change blankets or give him a late feed of hay.... that bugs me! I really do not know why some ( many!) boarding barns won't feed a late snack! It's hard on these big hot bloods to go from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with nothing to eat. Oh, now I'm worrying again. Drat!


              • #8
                I would leave a blanket on him. My gelding is the only one of 40 that needs one but it doesn't change that he does indeed need one.

                I have found my gelding eats his hay slower when he is warm(not so desperate) so keeping him warm may help with the hay issue also.


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by Lilykoi View Post
                  How old is he? I've had hearty horses that lived naked their whole lives. Then one winter they start getting cold. Could just be aging and change of metabolism. You may need to bite the bullet and get him a breathable turnout that he can keep on inside as well.
                  He's only 9.


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by Equuleus View Post
                    So if the barn owner has a camera system in her house and checks on them, why didn't she see your horse shivering? Especially since you said it was so bad he looked like he was having seizures....
                    It looked like seizures to me b/c I had never seen a horse shiver before! LOL. I think the cameras couldn't possible see shivering - probably just to make sure they are all still in their stalls, etc.

                    I don't dispute that it would be nice to have a real night check/feeding.


                    • #11
                      He needs more hay. Warmth is generated by digestion, so slowing his hay eating seems counterproductive. Instead of 3 flakes, throw him whatever he needs to take him through until the morning. If cutting his calories is a concern, then cut the grain before the hay.
                      I'm not an outlier; I just haven't found my distribution yet!


                      • #12
                        Maybe something in his metabolism has changed to cause him to burn up his calories faster and not be able to stay warm.



                        • #13
                          My youngish dog (six at the time) started to sleep practically in the wood stove(actually burned her face looking in a salmander in the barn), didnt want to go out (you really had to throw her out to go to the bathroom)..got nasty flaking and crusting on her ear margins and she turned out the be Hypothyroid...come to think of it one of the old broodies was always cold too but it took a nasty foundering to start her on Thyro L which coincidentally made the shivering go away....Get her/him checked before it involves feet!
                          The thing about smart people, is they look like crazy people, to dumb people.


                          • #14
                            I recently read in an Equus magazine (the most recent I believe) that shivering is a response from the central nervous system, and that alarm is probably not necessary, but a management (more hay, anyone? ) change is order. The system sends a signal to the major muscle groups to a single, rigorous contraction. The muscle sends yet another signal that the muscle is too tense to contract. The article goes on to say that this cycle goes on at 10-20 times per second, and what you see is shivering.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dalemma View Post
                              Maybe something in his metabolism has changed to cause him to burn up his calories faster and not be able to stay warm.

                              That's what I am wondering too - something does not seem quite right. Any other unusual symptoms, no matter how minor, that you noticed but attributed to something else?


                              • #16
                                The horse is cold really, either feed more hay or blanket as well as check for any other symptoms that would worry you like increased thirst for example.

                                The other day I had my horse on the cross ties and was pulling his mane and cleaning his manure spots dotted over his body (grey horse ). And he started shivering too. It was a bit drafty in that area and he's usually blanketed so I guess the ordeal was taking too long and his body was just getting cold. Put blanket on and he was fine again.

                                3 flakes of hay at night I find very little. Admittedly my horses are tall, but they each get 6 flakes of hay (compressed bales on top of it all) at 9.30pm and that'll be gone by 6.30am and they are blanketed.

                                The constant up & downs of temps lately is not helpfull. I feel it myself too.

                                Her thinking is that even if the hay is gone by 10pm...their bellies are fully loaded so they SHOULD be okay to get to the morning (since they should be digesting away what they just ate). I'm not saying her theory is correct - it is just what I got when I asked about a later feeding.
                                Hmmm, my guys would be having ulcers within weeks on this regime. But that was not your question. I somehow cannot believe this theory to go up. Could you pay extra to provide more hay at night? Could you buy a couple of bales yourself & store it somewhere.

                                Either way if the horse continues to shiver, you'll have to do something, winter hasn't even started yet.


                                • #17
                                  I would also up his hay. If BO doesn't want to do night check, ask her to throw him enough so that he actually has some left in the a.m., and then back off from that so he has enough to last, but cleans it all up and doesn't waste expensive/valuable hay. It is an easy thing to do.


                                  • #18
                                    TrakeGirl - Now that the three flakes of hay is in a haybag in the hayfeeder to slow down his eating, is there any hay left when you get there in the early morning ? If not i would ask BO to up it to four flakes and see if that helps. To my way of thinking i would try that first before blanketing just to see if that helps. If that is gone then up it to five or whatever it takes to keep a bit of hay left in the bag by morning. If she asks a bit more board it would be worth it.

                                    Another question. Sorry if i missed it. Is this shivering always just in the stall ? Or during the day when he is moving around and has access to the round bale does he shiver outside ?

                                    This would have me scratching my head too, since youve had the horse for years and he has never done this, and the fact that he is the only horse in the barn shivering.

                                    What did the vet say when you called ?
                                    from sunridge1 Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring bast@rds.


                                    • #19
                                      My horse started having trouble with the cold when he got older, he didn't wear a blanket until he turned 18 and now he can't go out without one or he shivers and is miserable.

                                      The blanket helped more then hay.

                                      Try just a sheet on your guy to block the wind and keep some heat in.


                                      • #20
                                        The lack of a night check would bother me. All stalled horses here get a night check where we toss more hay and top off water buckets as needed (the pasture horses have hay 24/7 in their hay feeders as well). Could be he needs both more hay and a blanket, but definitely more hay.

                                        I have some horses here that I rarely blanket, a shetland pony and my two young horses that I never blanket, and the rest I blanket mostly for wind or precipitation. Some just seem to need more aggressive blanketing than others. As to why your horse seems to need blanketing when he didn't before given that he is only 9 might be worth discussing with your vet.
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