One of the activities during a Colorado Trails dude ranch vacation our guests love the most is the horse riding. However, some of our guest ranch visitors might wonder what the horses and wranglers do during the cold winter months when there are very few people around. Here are some of the questions we get about horses and about horse care during the winter and the answers to those questions.

Q: Don’t the horses get cold during the winter?

A: Most breeds of horses naturally adjust to colder seasonal temperatures. Just as you might trade your windbreaker in for your winter coat once the weather begins to turn, a horse’s coat begins to grow out when the days get shorter. This longer, thicker coat helps the horses stay warm during the cold months.

Q: What about using horse blankets?

A: Although you may sometimes see horses with blankets on during the winter, most breeds of horses actually don’t require a horse blanket to stay warm. Besides their thicker coat that grows during the winter, their circulatory system also automatically shunts blood away from the surface of the skin to increase blood flow and heat to vital organs. In other words, although a horse’s skin may feel cold during the winter, his core temperature remains stable.

Q: Do they stay at the ranch all winter?

A: At Colorado Trails, most of our horses have a “winter home” away from the ranch where they can have their own dude ranch vacation — that is, they take a vacation from our dude ranch! We do keep a few horses on-site; a couple of our horses are known as “hard keepers.” A “hard keeper” is a horse who usually needs a little bit of extra T.L.C. to stay healthy and happy. Our head wrangler, Jessalin, keeps these hard keepers in the barn during the winter where she can keep a close eye on them.

Q: Do the horses get enough attention during the winter?

A: If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know that his pack-animal tendencies mean that he needs plenty of love and attention in order to remain happy and healthy. The same is true with horses. As herd animals, horses easily become lonely and unhappy if they have no other horses or humans to keep them company.

For this reason, we make sure that all our horses, both the horses who stay at Colorado Trails and the horses who go to their “winter home” get plenty of attention during the off-season. More than 50 of our horses spend the winter with a former employee of Colorado Trails; another 18 stay at our ranch.

By the time you return to Colorado Trails this spring or summer, the horses will be back at the ranch with trimmed hooves and new shoes and ready to take you horseback riding around the San Juan Mountains. We all look forward to seeing you and your family.