Effects of hair coat characteristics on radiant surface temperature in horses
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonJournal of Thermal Biology. 2020, 87, 102474 10.1016/j.jtherbio.2019.102474
Horse owners may lack knowledge about natural thermoregulation mechanisms in horses. Horses are managed intensively; usually stabled at night and turned out during the day. Some are clipped and many wear a blanket, practices which reduce the horse's ability to regulate heat dissipation. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between hair coat characteristics, body condition and infrared surface temperatures from different body parts of horses. Under standard conditions, the body surface temperature of 21 adult horses were investigated using infrared thermography. From several readings on the same body part, a mean temperature was calculated for each body part per horse. Detailed information on horse breed, age, management and body condition was collected. Hair coat samples were also taken for analyses. A mixed statistical model was applied. Warmblood horse types (WB) had lower hair coat sample weights and shorter hair length than coldblood horse types (CB). The highest radiant surface temperatures were found at the chest 22.5 ± 0.9 °C and shoulders 20.4 ± 1.1 °C and WB horses had significantly higher surface temperatures than CB horses on the rump (P < 0.05). Horses with a higher hair coat sample weight had a lower surface temperature (P < 0.001) and hind hooves with iron shoes had a significant lower surface temperature than unshod hind hooves (P = 0.03). In conclusion, individual assessment of radiant surface temperature using infrared thermography might be a promising tool to gather data on heat loss from the horses' body. Such data may be important for management advice, as the results showed individual differences in hair coat characteristics and body condition in horses of similar breeds.