The Rancho sits in the Mexican highlands at an altitude of 7,500 feet (2,300 meters). This location allows visitors to enjoy the sun of Mexico without humidity and a great climate all year round. On average, the temperature is in the mid 70°s F (22°C) during the day with evenings in the chilly 50°sF (10°s C). Unlike the United States or Canada, there normally aren’t extreme shifts in weather so it is always relatively comfortable for our guests. But what about our horses? How do they manage living outside all of the time?
Because of the Rancho’s location and temperate climate, we consider our horses very lucky. A horse will naturally keep his core temperature as close to 100.4°F (38°C) as possible through a process called thermoregulation. During this process, the hypothalamus activates a system to slow or increase heat loss when it senses the core internal temperature is becoming too high or too low. This allows the horse to remain active in a wide range of climates.
A horse will feel cold when the air temperature falls below 32°F (0°C). It rarely gets that frigid at the Rancho, but if it does the horses will simply take in more food to generate the heat they need to keep their body at an optimal temperature. The food produces heat by either breaking down inside the cells of the body or by the fermentation of fiber within the hindgut. The horses will also seek shelter in the trees and their blood flow will decrease to let the temperature of their limbs drop.
If the mercury does soar, the horses will cool themselves by sweating. Evaporation of sweat from the skin surface has cooling effect. Their metabolism will change and they will not voluntarily consume as much feed on hot days. In this case, we track how much the horses eat and drink and monitor their body condition and weight to make sure each horse receives the nutrition they need to be healthy and strong. The horses will also find shade in the trees and cool themselves in the ponds; and naturally, we keep an eye on how hard and long each horse works.
Our horses are accustomed to living outside. They are hearty stock and extremely adaptable. Quite frankly, we think they would be miserable if we kept them in a barn! They enjoy much of the freedom of wild horses while receiving the exceptional food, care and training of beloved pets. It’s a good life!