your own colt
Problems, part 2
Actors, part 3
Cold Backed Horse
Sense, Horse Sense
to Work Carefully
your "Good Stuff"
Eyes on the Prize
the Unexpected, 1
the Unexpected, 2
a Better Color?
of the Herd
A Good Night's Sleep
Alternative Therapies, Part One
Alternative Therapies, Part Two
Get the Most out of a Clinic
Blanket or No Blanket?
Guests over the holidays followed me down to the barn when
I fed in the evening, and they were full of questions about
why I was blanketing some of the horses, while others went “coatless.” Here
in Northern California, the weather is hardly even so cold
that horses need a blanket – in fact horse’s
coats are excellent insulation all on their own, and in some
cases a blanket can makes it worse for the horse. Deciding
to blanket your horse should be based on individual needs
Horses that are old or who’s health is compromised
will benefit from the extra warmth that a horse blanket can
provide. Horses burn up a lot of calories just staying warm,
but a healthy horse with adequate body fat should have no
problems without a blanket, assuming they have some shelter
or windbreak available, and are getting plenty of feed daily.
I generally don’t blanket horses who are on pasture
because it is hard to find a truly water-proof blanket (though
many of the new water-proof materials are far superior to
the old waxed canvas) and also horses in a large area with
other horses tend to tear and destroy their blankets.
Any horse who is having trouble staying warm – older
horses or those who are underweight, in particular – get
a blanket, but also are moved into a stall or paddock with
shelter where I can customize their feeding program and provide
other support. The other horses who are regularly blanketed
are the show horses, or horses I am riding on a regular basis.
Blanketing improves the quality of the horse’s coat,
keeps the horse cleaner, and helps them shed more quickly.
There is a big convenience factor too. The horse is generally
cleaner and requires less grooming before we ride.
I prefer blankets that are designed to breathe and keep
the horse from sweating. If the horse is even slightly hot
and sweaty after a workout, I like to let them dry before
putting on the heavy stable blanket. A hot horse under a
blanket can sweat more and you will come back in the morning
to find a drenched shivering horse instead of a warm dry
one. Wool or polar-fleece type cooler blankets can help the
horse dry quickly without chilling, and then once dry I put
on the regular blanket. The cooler is also useful to toss
over the horse, saddle and all, at shows where the horse
has to stand between events. The cycle of warming up and
then cooling off too fast can cause stiff achy muscles and
definitely effect performance.
Many people think that a blanket will keep the horse from
putting on as heavy of a winter coat, or will make them shed
earlier, but the truth is that the length of daylight has
more to do with growing and shedding a winter coat than “warmth” does.
The blanket will make the horse look sleeker because it keeps
the hair laying down, but to keep the coat from growing long
in the first place, one needs to provide artificial light
for an increasing amount of time per day during the fall
and winter. This will cause the horse to think that spring
is here and they will begin to shed. For horses being shown
year around, barn lights on a timer will keep the short shiny
hair all year, but for these slick beauties, the blanket
becomes even more important. Most show horses are not only
stalled, but wear a blanket and hood at all times except
when working. Often I rotate between lighter daytime blankets
and then change to a very warm blanket and hood at night
and on extra cold days.
Keeping your horse blanketed requires a certain amount of
daily care. When you feed, check to be sure the blanket is
properly on the horse, that no straps have been broken or
are rubbing and that the leg straps are not so loose that
the horse could get a leg through while laying down or rolling.
Make sure that nothing is causing a sore or wearing away
the hair – this most often happens on the horse’s
point of shoulders, withers, or between the hind legs. Rubbed
off hair is both unsightly and if abraded enough can cause
the hair to grow back in white like a saddle sore. If your
horse stands outside with his blanket on, make sure it is
staying dry underneath. Blankets come in all levels of water-proofing
but even the best sometimes leak in at the neck hole. On
sunny days give the horse some time without his blanket to
air out. The skin needs to have good air circulation in order
to avoid fungus growth and other skin disorders. Horses that
are blanketed most of the time also appreciate the opportunity
to roll, especially in sandy soil. While this means we need
to groom them before putting the blanket back on, it is vital
to the horse’s physical and mental well being!
In many cases blanketing is more of a convenience
for the owner than a necessity for the horse, the exception
being thin horses who are using up most of their caloric
intake to stay warm and therefore don’t gain weight.
Making sure that horses who are in poor condition are getting
enough high quality feed and have adequate shelter will usually
take care of the problem and the blanket becomes a passing
need as the horse gains weight. A few pounds of quality grain
a day will usually be more beneficial than an expensive blanket
and a lot less work for the handler.
Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley, specializes
in Pleasure, Showmanship and Equitation events. She can be
contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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