Effect of time and weather on preference, Frequency, and duration of shade use by horses

K. E. Holcomb, Carolyn Stull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) recommends providing access to shade for horses in hot, sunny weather at equine facilities. Previously, we found that healthy, mature domestic horses use shade with behavioral and physiological benefits during those weather conditions. The objective of this study was to characterize preference, frequency, and duration of shade use by healthy, mature horses in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding facility during hot, sunny weather. The study took place at the BLM’s Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center in Reno, NV, from Aug. 10 to Oct. 1, 2014. Freestanding shade structures were constructed in each of 2 drylot pens with shade cloth covering the top that blocked 98% of UV radiation. A group of 4 mares was placed in each of the 2 pens. After a 2-d acclimation period, data were recorded for 5 d, the horses were moved to the opposite pen, and data collected for an additional 5 d. This schedule was repeated for a total of 4 consecutive trials and 32 horses. Footage from time-lapse cameras was viewed at 10 s intervals between 0930 and 1700 h to record each horse’s position relative to shade. Dosimeters secured to horses’ halters recorded UV exposure. Automated weather stations recorded daytime ambient temperature (mean 25.9°C [SD 5.8]), relative humidity (mean 25.4% [SD 17.1]), black globe temperature (mean 29.3°C [SD 6.5] in shade and 35.8°C [SD 8.0] in unshaded area), and solar radiation (mean 595 W/m2[SD 235]). Horses spent 10.9% more time in shade than by chance (P < 0.0001) within the drylots across all 40 study days. Mean daily time spent in shade was 107.9 min/horse (SD 66.9), comprising 17.1 bouts (SD 12.1) with an average bout length of 6.3 min (SD 3.4). The mean daily UV Index experienced by horses in these partially shaded drylots was 1.52 (SD 0.58) compared with 3.4 (SD 1.5) for a control instrument in the sun. Horses used shade more on the sunniest days and greater than just by chance at all hours of the day, with greatest use in the morning before peak ambient temperature. This study supports the FASS recommendation for provision of shade and may be useful in management and facility design for both domestic and captive wild horses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1661
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Animal well-being
  • Behavior
  • Horses
  • Preference test
  • Shade use
  • Ultraviolet radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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