Cues from Mother Nature

Glory #2


Last evening as I was grooming my horse Glory, I was shocked to see she had already started growing a winter coat. It’s the middle of August, was 102 degrees the day before, and her coat is thickening? My immediate thought was “we’re going to have a cold winter.”

Then I mused about how someone living in 2013, just outside a major city, still looked to the old farmer’s indicators for clues to the weather. Almost everyone else I know listens to or reads the weather reports. With satellite photos, graphs and charts, the meteorologists predict our climate—with about fifty percent accuracy. Those of who deal with animals probably have a slightly better record.

Early this summer the people at the barn where I board Glory were all commenting on how their horses weren’t losing their winter coats. Normally by June, they are sleek and shining, with all the long hair gone. This year they took much longer to shed and some of the older horses never did sleek out.

Turns out the horses knew something even the meteorologists didn’t. It was going to be a cool summer. In fact, in spite of a few high temps, this has been one of the coolest on record for our area. Since thirty degree drops in temperature overnight are common here, those older horses that had lost their muscle and bulk really did need the extra warmth their shaggy coats72 dpi - Lightning storm provided.

Now it appears they are preparing for a early, cold winter. Shorter days, with less light, provide a physiological signal for animals to shed their short summer hair and replace it with a longer, denser coat. Because of this many show barns leave their lights on at night in an attempt to keep their horses sleek. (The lights also affect the reproductive cycle, but that’s a topic for another time.) The rest of us just live with the heavy coats, and maybe use blankets to try to keep them from getting too dense.

But what causes animals to grow heavy coats one year and much lighter ones the next? How did they know to hang onto their extra hair this summer? How does Nature know what the climate will be? I’d really love to know the answer to those questions.

Until then, I’ll continue to monitor my animals and prepare for a cold winter this year. I’ll be curious, come Spring, as to how accurate their predictions are.

How about you? Are there any unusual happenings that you pay attention to? Any cues from Mother Nature?


Weather plays an important part in my novel Forewarning. Take a look at an excerpt to see how.

Categories: Horses, Mother Nature, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Cues from Mother Nature

  1. My dog always gives us a hint that a thunderstorm is approaching. She starts pacing and comes over and nudges our hands as if to say, “Hey, storm on the way.”

    • Yeah, I’ve seen that too. I’ve even seen the horses warn that an earthquake was coming. I didn’t know what their strange behavior meant until the ground started shaking a few minutes later!

  2. Very interesting, Kate. Despite satellite pictures, radars and what have you, I fully believe nature has an edge on us. As a child, I spent several months a year on a farm in Finland. Farmers said very much the same thing about horses growing heavier coats in preparation for a cold winter. Same thing with the onion skins, very think if the winter was going to be very cold, thinner for a moderately cold one. I still believe in the old trusted method to gauge the direction of the wind by sticking a finger in my mouth and holding it wet up in the air.

    • Onions getting thicker skins. How fascinating! Hadn’t thought about vegetation reacting too. How do plants and animals know?

  3. Very interesting post, Kate, and something I never really thought about. Makes a lot of sense. I, too, heard we were going to have a cold winter and that it would arrive earlier than usual. Maximus hasn’t started growing his winter coat yet.

    • I just noticed it with Glory this week. She is 28, so doesn’t have the almost invisible coat she had when younger. Also the stalls are open on three sides, and since she has an end one (with a large paddock), she gets lots of cold wind. Perhaps if she were in an enclosed one, she might not get such a heavy coat.

      Thanks for stopping and have fun with Maximus.

  4. A very interesting post, Kate. I enjoy reading about the ways animals know these things ahead of time. My old dog always knew when a thunderstorm was coming; they terrified her.

    • Isn’t it fascinating how they know? Some sort of ESP communication between beings seems reasonable, but how does nature communicate a hard winter or a thunderstorm (vs a regular storm)?

  5. I read that if it’s raining, and birds are out and doing their thing, then it will be raining all day. But if they are in a tree, sitting, they’re waiting it out. That I can understand, maybe the barometric pressure or something, and just for that day. You’re right, how can animals recognize that a harsh winter is on the way?

  6. Neither my dog nor my two cats are afraid of storms so I can’t tell from that. However, my large very silky shaggy collie is losing massive amounts of fur – her undercoat. I have no idea why it’s so late in coming out. Of course, we did have a very cool and very, very, very rainy July. I had her groomed the beginning of June so I would have thought most of it was removed then. One can’t tell by looking at her that she’s losing her undercoat unless you see the tufts of fur sticking out here and there, and all that fur lying in corners and on steps inside and here and there around the yard.

    • I sympathize with the undercoat problem. Used to have Siberians. Almost as bad as collies. Sounds like her body knew what was coming and decided to stay warm.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. horse121923

    A very interesting post, Kate. i must believe animals are best friends for us.

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