• Norway edition
 
Horses asked how they prefer to stay warm
Knerten, a horse owned by Ida Nova, dressed in a specially knitted traditional Norwegian sweater. Photo: Ida Nova

Horses asked how they prefer to stay warm

Published: 04 Feb 2014 15:25 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Feb 2014 15:25 GMT+01:00

Worried about the Norwegian habit of shearing off horses' thick winter coats and replacing them with blankets, Norwegian researchers have started asking the horses themselves how they prefer to ward off the cold.

Grete Jørgensen, a researcher with the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, told The Local how her joint Norwegian-Swedish research project had hired a professional trainer to teach 13 horses, based at Nypan outside Trondheim, to request or refuse a warm, dry blanket.
 
"The horses soon learned, using positive reinforcement techniques, that if they want to change their situation -- either to remove a blanket or have one put on -- they should tap one symbol with their muzzle.  If they want to remain the same, they tapped on another,"  Jørgensen said. 
 
Most horses chose to keep their blankets on during days with wind, rain or sleet, with the number of horses requesting the removal of their blankets increasing as the temperature rose and spring brought sunny weather.
 
Jørgensen said her colleagues Knut Bøe and Cecilie Mejdell, who ran the Nypan project, aimed "to ask horses whether they really need these blankets and rugs or whether they preferred to use their own coats to regulate their body temperature in different weather."
 
Meanwhile, at a local horse farm on Alstahaug, an island off the coast of north west Norway, Jørgensen offered 16 horses the choice of a heated shelter, an unheated shelter, or staying outside.
 
"We wanted to investigate how horses from several different breeds would tackle different winter weather conditions," she explained. 
 
She found that the horses did not want to come inside the shelters when the weather was dry, even at very low winter temperatures. When there was rain or sleet, however, the horses were more likely to start muscle shivering or move inside. 
 
"The weather here up on the northern Norwegian coast is quite changeable, so you can have three seasons in one day, and rain and maybe sleet, which is really challenging for the horses to keep up their core body temperature," she said.
 
Certain Nordic breeds appeared capable of withstanding extreme cold even when it was wet.
 
"We actually have horses that even in the worst conditions never chose to go inside because the water never gets close to the skin," she explained. "Coat condition is very important and maybe even more important than breed. If the coat is really good, like on a Norwegian breed, then the coat has this cover layer which transports the water off the top of the coat so it never gets wet at the skin."
 
Jørgensen said that the project would help determine the extent to which the rugs and blankets commonly used in Norway and Sweden were actually helping the animals. 
 
"Many owners have no clue whether their horses need rugs and blankets, so they dress them up both indoors and in the paddock," she said.  "Too much use of rugs over time may produce sores and chaffing. The horse is not able to scratch in itchy places and the coat will not develop to its full length."
 
The joint Swedish-Norwegian project is titled "Impact of Nordic climate and management practices on thermoregulation in the horse". 
 
The Norwegian Project Group comprises Grete Jørgensen and Lise Aanensen from Bioforsk Nord Tjøtta, Knut Bøe from The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and Cecilie Mejdell from The Norwegian Veterinary Institute. The Project is financed through the Swedish-Norwegian Horse Research fund and the Norwegian Research Council. 
 
Abstracts or the research can be found here and here

The Local (news@thelocal.no)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal'
Parliament president Olemic Thommessen and Nina Elisabeth Høstmælingen Thommessen arrive at the Nobel Banquet at the Grand Hotel in December. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/NTB Scanpix

'Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal'

The president of the Norwegian parliament has defended his decision not to meet the Dalai Lama when he comes to Oslo next month, arguing that to do so would destroy years of painstaking work to mend relations with China. READ () »

Labour councillor faces sack for gay church view
Ed Dawes. Photo: Facebook

Labour councillor faces sack for gay church view

A councillor from Norway's Labour Party risks being expelled after he argued on Saturday night that gay people who want to get married in church should start their own splinter sect. READ () »

Syria genebank sends seeds to Svalbard
The seeds are delivered the the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Wednesday. Photo: Global Crop Diversity Trust

Syria genebank sends seeds to Svalbard

More than 80 percent of the valuable crop seeds kept in a gene bank in the Syrian city of Aleppo have been shipped to the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard for safekeeping, the bank's director general revealed on Tuesday. READ () »

Norway MPs slammed for Dalai Lama 'cowardice'
The Dalai Lama visiting Oslo in 2005. Photo: Håkon Mosvsvold Larsen/Scanpix

Norway MPs slammed for Dalai Lama 'cowardice'

Norway's parliament has been accused of cowardice after it declined to offer an official meeting to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, when he visits Norway next month. READ () »

VIDEO
VIDEO: Norway's incredible rolling robot
Kåre Halvorsen chases the MorpHex rolling robot. Photo: Screen Grab YouTube.

VIDEO: Norway's incredible rolling robot

This rolling spider-like robot is the stuff of sci-fi nightmare, so there's something strangely cute about watching the three-year-old son of its creator chase it around a basketball court. READ () »

Putin praises new Nato chief Stoltenberg
Then Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg meets Vladimir Putin at his official residence in Moscow in 2009. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / Scanpix POOL

Putin praises new Nato chief Stoltenberg

Russian president Vladimir Putin has praised Jens Stoltenberg, the incoming head of Nato, as "a very serious, responsible person", claiming the two have "very good relations, including personal relations". READ () »

South Sudan massacre 'must be investigated'
Børge Brende - Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix

South Sudan massacre 'must be investigated'

Norway has called for an investigation into the massacre of some 200 civilians in the disputed South Sudanese town of Bentiu, declaring that "the guilty must be punished". READ () »

Norway teen has lived in cave for a year
da Beate Løken in her cave. Photo: Screen Grab Romerikes Blad TV

Norway teen has lived in cave for a year

A 19-year-old girl from the most fjord-filled region of Western Norway has been living a cave for almost a year with little but a high-grade sleeping bag to get her through the gruelling Norwegian winter. READ () »

Plumber stabbed workmate after gay jibe
Court psychiatrist Terje Tørrissen ruled the plumber was not psychotic. Photo: Håkon Mosvsvold Larsen / Scanpix NTB

Plumber stabbed workmate after gay jibe

A plumber in Norway has been sentenced to compulsory mental care after he drew a knife on his colleague and stabbed him ten times in the head and torso after the man called him a "grumpy little gay". READ () »

Hikers to wear green hats if 'open to romance'
Nils Øverås, secretary general of the Norwegian Trekking Association and Hanna Melhus, head of the organization's youth wing, posing for the April Fools message. Photo: Norwegian Trekking Association

Hikers to wear green hats if 'open to romance'

An April Fools' joke in which the Norwegian Trekking Association declared that all single people hiking over the Easter break should wear a green hat if they're open to romance triggered such a huge reaction that the association has decided to institute it for real. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Tech
VIDEO: Norway's incredible rolling robot
National
Norway teen has lived in cave for a year
National
Hikers to wear green hats if 'open to romance'
National
Norway PM backs gay church weddings
National
Badger gets stuck in car grille and survives
National
Man at recycling plant finds $16,000 in old safe
Culture
Norway celebs plan own funerals in new show
National
Norway man finds adult toy in cod's stomach
International
McCain to vote down would-be envoy
Education
Oslo to get first Muslim primary school
Culture
VIDEO: Norway fans in second Sherlock skit
Culture
Clooney to film North Sea divers movie
Advertisement:
Society
VIDEO: Norway police's chilled way with drunk wows US
Education
VIDEO: Norway skydiver dodges meteorite
National
Oslo shortlisted for Green Capital 2016
International
Work to start on world's tallest wooden house
Culture
NRK boss: Slow TV 'difficult to joke with'
International
Stoltenberg named as next Nato boss
Society
'Silly walk' sign enrages roads agency
Norwegian tattoos McDonald's bill on arm
Sport
Norwegian man 'forgets' luxury boat for two years
Society
VIDEO: Oslo transformed into miniature city
International
GALLERY: Nato troops' Arctic 'selfies'
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

331
jobs available