The effects of extended photoperiod and warmth on hair growth in ponies and horses at different times of year

Autoři: Christiane O’Brien aff001;  Megan Ruth Darcy-Dunne aff002;  Barbara Anne Murphy aff002
Působiště autorů: Equilume Ltd., Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland aff001;  School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 15(1)
Kategorie: Research Article


Photoperiod is considered the most dominant environmental cue allowing animals to anticipate and adapt to seasonal changes. In seasonally breeding mammals, changes in daylength alter pineal melatonin secretion and pituitary prolactin secretion. During the seasonal transition to shorter winter daylengths, increased production of melatonin and declining prolactin are associated with triggering winter coat growth in many animals. Similarly, studies have shown that artificial extension of photoperiod suppresses melatonin secretion and lifts prolactin inhibition to activate moulting. Four longitudinal cohort studies were conducted to determine if extended photoperiod and warmth, provided by mobile light masks and rugs (horse blankets), could reverse the onset of winter coat growth, maintain the summer coat and accelerate winter coat shedding in horses and in ponies. Studies began at dates corresponding to the autumnal equinox, one month post-summer solstice, one month pre-winter solstice and one month post-winter solstice, respectively. To extend photoperiod to approximately 15h of light, commercially available head-worn light masks provided low intensity blue light to one eye until 11pm daily. Coat condition and shedding rate were scored and hair samples collected, measured and weighed bi-weekly. Data from control and treatment groups were analysed by repeated measures ANOVA. Results revealed that extended photoperiod 1) did not reverse winter coat growth when initiated at the autumnal equinox, 2) effectively maintained the summer coat in stabled horses when initiated one month post-summer solstice, 3) accelerated shedding in outdoor living horses when initiated one month pre-winter solstice and 4) did not accelerate shedding in indoor or outdoor living ponies when initiated one month post-winter solstice. To successfully manage equine coat growth while also preserving optimal thermoregulation in both competition and breeding stock correct timing of light application is crucial and requires careful monitoring of environmental temperature. Further studies are needed where variations in breed and management are considered.

Klíčová slova:

Artificial light – Hair – Horses – Light – Molting – Ponies – Winter – Telogen phase


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