Horse growing winter coat

Lessons from the Horse Farm- Part 1

I want to share my interesting discovery with you! Maybe you’ll find it fascinating, too! Why such a close-up of the side of the horse? Read on to find out.

A Little Back Story

Back in the spring, I was feeling suffocated in my little life bubble. All of my time was spent either at home or at the church. I needed to get outside of my little box, and I really just wanted some time doing something with animals. The local animal shelter wasn’t accepting new volunteers until the fall, but my friend mentioned a local farm that provides therapeutic horse lessons and was accepting volunteers.

Initially I balked at the idea. I knew NOTHING about horses, except that they were big and beautiful. But I ended up volunteering, and have been there ever since.

So since this is a whole new world to me, you horse lovers out there may be rolling your eyes at what I discover, but I’m fascinated every time I learn something new!

My Latest Discovery

I had no idea that horses grow a winter coat. I never even considered the idea, since I didn’t spend a lot of time around them. This picture is a close-up of a coat thickening for the upcoming winter. This horse’s coat was short and smooth for the time that I had been around him, until I saw him up close this week! He’d been rolling in the mud, and I finger brushed most of that off before I took the picture.

Horse growing winter coat
Horses roll in the mud for a variety of reasons, but one reason may be to help remove loose hair.

The coat is getting thicker not from a greater number of hairs, but from longer ones growing in to replace the shorter hairs of summer.

Now this discover in itself isn’t the fascinating part. I know other animals that change coats for the winter, so this wasn’t the big leap for my little brain.

It’s the Sunlight!

What I discovered was that the horse’s melatonin levels respond to the number of hours of daylight. As the daylight decreases in the fall, the horse’s body produces more melatonin. Increased melatonin signals the summer coat to fall out and the winter coat to grow in. If the horse waited for colder weather to start growing a thicker coat, it would be too late!

Because of the tilt of the earth’s axis, climates farther away from the equator experience more dramatic changes in the amount of daylight available in the winter. This creates a considerable difference in just how much more fuzzy a horse can be in colder climates.

What’s the Big Deal?

Horses use melatonin to affect their seasonal coat change, as well as to signal breeding season (summer breeding leads to spring birthing). Our bodies use melatonin to sleep. If our bodies used melatonin the same way horses do, our hair would grow longer in the winter, too! But our hair and nail growth is controlled by temperature and circulation, and actually grows slower in cooler seasons.

In Fruitful Fading, I wrote about how deciduous trees react to the decreasing hours of daylight available in the fall by cutting off support to their leaves, which eventually fall off. Trees don’t lose their leaves because of changing melatonin levels! Their response is a completely different mechanism.

All of this together gives me more reason to believe that we have an awesome Creator, and that evolution actually requires a greater amount of faith for one to believe.

How many generations of horses would have to be born to get the message built into the DNA, “Winter’s coming! Grow a thicker coat!!” Even if you followed the evolutionary thinking and went back to much simpler organisms, I have the same question.

How many years would it take for leafy trees to “get it,” and start preparing for winter? The steps between not losing leaves but wasting energy and resources on unproductive leaf support and developing a process to get rid of them for conservation of resources during the winter…I’m at a loss. What could they be? How long before that became encoded in the genetic blueprint?

I just can’t believe evolution. It takes too many leaps of faith. Believing in an all-powerful Creator takes just one! How awesome is it that He created so many different organisms with so many variations, but yet so many things in common? Horses, trees, you and I all respond to the changing seasons, but through very different processes. All living things contain DNA, but that DNA expresses itself through innumerable mechanisms! It’s just amazing, because He is amazing!

Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:24-25)

“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” (Revelation 4:11)

Look around you today, and find evidence of your Creator’s handiwork. It’s everywhere! I’d love to hear about your discoveries!

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