It’s been a tough winter for me to get out to the Onaqui range. Last winter, I was able to get out at least a couple of times a month January-March. But this winter has been a different story. Between the weather and renting the gallery space at the Monarch in Ogden(more on that in my next journal), things haven’t worked out as I hoped.
I’m itching to get out there pretty bad! As I was sitting here writing this, I got a text from some friends in a group text that photograph the Onaqui too. And they told me about a friend of ours that made it out there in the last couple of days and said this winter has been hard on the horses. Some are thin, especially a couple of the older ones.
The saving grace for the horses this winter is that we had an excellent monsoonal summer and a decent fall for precipitation in 2022. And the horses were well nourished going into winter.
Horses will use any extra body fat as insulation and use extra calories to get them through winter. They grow long hair that stands up, trapping tiny air pockets between them. It’s the same effect as a down comforter with enormous insulating qualities. Oils in the horse’s hair coat help it shed moisture. Early spring is when the horses are most vulnerable for suffering in the cold. Loss of hair and wetter snow and rain soak closer into the skin. Body fat is also less before the spring grasses can start to grow and replenish what they have lost over the winter.
In my experience as a farrier, I’ve often wondered how horses could withstand the extreme cold in their hoofs. Nobody has pinned it down in the many journals I’ve read on the subject. But the closest anyone can explain is that horses have no muscle mass below their knees or hocks. Ligaments, tendons, and bones are not high-energy-requiring tissues; therefore, horses can stand in cold water or snow without affecting their core temperatures.
As of today, March 4, 2023, the ten-day forecast is keeping a winter weather pattern for the Onaqui range. Hopefully, it starts to warm up sooner than later and we can get some green grass to start growing out there and they can start replenishing what they have lost over the winter.