Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Blanket or Not to Blanket?

The Horse recently conducted a survey where they asked participants if they blanketed their horses or not. Here were the results:

•I only blanket my horses when temperatures reach below a certain degree (i.e., 5 or 10F): 31.23% (653)
•No, my horse is very hairy and doesn't need a blanket: 30.89% (646)
•Yes, but I don't keep my horse clipped: 21.95% (459)
•Yes, because my horse stays outside all the time: 8.27% (173)
•Yes, I keep my horse clipped: 7.65% (160)

It appears that at one time or another, the majority of horse owners do blanket their horses. The reasons why, though, vary as much as any other opinion in the horse world.

I don't think really any of these opinions are wrong, either. I think blanketing is something that is only neccessary in extreme cases (rescued horses who have no body fat or no adequate coat because of rain rot, for example), and I think it depends upon the horse as much as it does the owner. Horses, like people, vary greatly in how much extreme weather impacts them.

Eddie, my stallion whom I lost in June, loved the cold weather. He absolutely thrived in it. When the temps dipped below freezing, he could always be found stirring up trouble and playing with his jolly ball. I got the best video of him in cold weather because that's when he'd really enjoy himself. It was obvious, too, that he despised blankets. He loved being cool and never seemed too cold at all. Plus, the blanket restricted his movement a little since, due to his injury, he was not able to move like a normal horse. He obviously preferred to be without a blanket, and so I never blanketed him. Summers were brutal for him, though, which I (and our wonderful friend Vicki) would try to remedy with a daily hosing down (which he'd come up and stand for, unhaltered).

Eddie didn't pass along this trait to all of his foals. Paula will actually pace for her blanket when the temps drop (her pacing is her sign for "I want something" and I can usually tell right off the bat what it is by the situation--she always stops as soon as I give her what she wants, silly girl). Fabian gets upset if he's not the first one in the pen that I blanket. He shows his displeasure by pulling his blanket off the railing and pawing it into the dirt. Both will lower their heads and duck down into the neck hole of the blanket, "helping" me put it on them in their own way. Neither one of them appreciates the cold weather at all. Paula will poke her head through the window of her shelter and try to get me to feed her inside of it. She'd love to be stalled during this sort of weather, but unfortunately I just don't have those kind of facilites yet.

Bambi and Moose really don't care either way. I probably don't have to blanket Moose as his coat is very thick, but he's growing and to me, whatever calories he doesn't use for keeping warm can only help with his growth. Bambi has a fairly thin coat, and she's a little more delicate than the others. She's a little high maintenance, so the more I can do to help her be healthy and comfortable, I'll do it. She stands readily for the blanket, and doesn't seem to mind either way.

Another reason I blanket Moose is it gives me one more excuse to work with him. He's a young colt (gelding) and while he's halter broke, broke to tie, has been clipped, trimmed, lunged, loaded, etc., he's far from a been-there-done-that gelding (of course). The more I can ask different things of him, the better off he'll be in his training. This is also the reason why I blanket Betty when the weather gets bad. I don't blanket her as often as the others because her coat is very, very thick and she is in good body condition. I think its worse for a horse to be too hot than too cold, so I typically err on the side of cold. But when the temperature drops, I halter her, ask her to give, then slide the blanket over her head and ask her to "whoa" while I fasten the buckles. She usually does very well, but she's technically not even halter broke, so the more I can do with her like this, the closer we get to catching her up on her training. She's starting to come up to me on her own and doesn't shy from my sudden movements anymore, so even with limited handling, the approach of just doing little everyday things with her (like blanketing) has improved her level of training.

So, that's why you'll sometimes see my horses pictures with blankets and sometimes without. I basically let them tell me, in their own way, if they'd like one, then I gauge other aspects like how bad the weather is, their condition, and if I can use blanketing as a training tool I will. I agree that most horses don't really need blankets, but for my own kids, at this moment in time, it works pretty well for us to blanket during extreme weather, even if it is for a wide range of reasons.



Anonymous said...

Some horses are indeed much more winter hardy than others - Pie's perfectly happy at almost any temperature without a blanket but Dawn (we call her the "fragile flower") needs some sort of blanket when temps are in the 20s and a heavier blanket for the teens and a heavier blanket with a fleece liner when it's colder.

I blanket/sheet or not depending on: wet, shelter/no shelter, age of horse (some seniors need more protection) temperature and wind - which we get a lot of.

Sydney_bitless said...

I don't blanket. My horses have shelter. However all my guys are easy keepers and keep a good weight. I would rather feed extra hay to allow them to properly keep warm by eating. I do have a sheet for Indigo. it's a rainsheet with 3/4 neck that has something like 80gm fill which is basically a windbreaker. A few winters ago we had a really rough season. It snowed almost every day and she lost about 25-50 pounds, nothing drastic but enough I could start to see and feel the start of some bones that had been previously fluffy. I would rather blanket her as a senior (shes 19 now! Hard to believe) then have to give her a weight gaining supplement in the spring because WOW did she ever get amped up on extra grain! Like exploding off on the lunge line followed by the loudest audible fart and buck, she NEVER does that.

Sydney_bitless said...

ps- A horses hair stands on end to keep heat in. When you put a blanket on and their hair can't stand on end and it forces it to lie flat, especially if it is damp out it can cause a horse to become colder.

smazourek said...

Mine have gone most of the winter without blankets, but they just so happen to have blankets on today because we have negative windchills and my hot-house-flower (Gwen) tells me she can't handle the wind.

The first time I busted out their blankets last month it was windy and 15F, Gwen nickered when she saw me carrying it over to her. That was enough for me to know that blanketing is necessary under those conditions.

Jessie McCandless said...

That's a good point, Kate--it also depends a lot on how wet it is. I only get waterproof turnouts, so if we're expecting a really cold or freezing rain, I'll blanket them, too. I wouldn't bother if they actually USED their shelters, but they don't--the dorks :)

Jessie McCandless said...

Wow, Sydney, I had no idea that Indigo was 19. She looks great! good job on catching that weight loss so early, and in the winter, too. It pays to keep a close eye like you do.

I have heard that about the hair, but on three of mine (the Eddie "kids" :) their coats never do stand up at all, so I don't worry about that. They have great coats for showing, but not so great coats for winter at all.....

Jessie McCandless said...

Shannon, that's cute that Gwen let you know she liked her blanket. LOL That's like mine-- I can tell that Paula and Fabian really enjoy their blankets and I could tell Eddie hated his. So, I tend to do what they want, to a point. If Eddie had been shivering or losing weight, I would have put one on him regardless, but he never did, so I just let him decide. :)

Annette said...

We only blanket Jackson and Flash and that's because they are clipped. Flash, like your stallion, loves cool weather and he loves having his blanket removed. Jackson hates blanket removal and does everything he can to help me put it on in the evenings. We don't blanket Kalvin. He has a nice furry coat and is comfortable without one, even in the 20s.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Most of our horses don't like to be blanketed. We do in extreme weather like you. We only have the waterproof ones too. Nate(dutch warmblood) is the only one with a less hairy coat than the rest of them, so we have to watch out for him a little more. The others are hairy beasts and love to roll in the snow...a lot!

p.s.I read your comment on Kate's blog about QH lines and was really impressed with your knowledge. I know next to nothing about QH lines and would love to know if Dusty and Blue have good lines or not. Just for my own benefit, I have no intention of breeding her. I think she'd be highly insulted if I did. Is there some place I can look them up and find out what sort of horses they came from? With some explanations of their traits. I'd appreciate any help.

Jessie McCandless said...

Annette, Jackson sounds like my Paula more and more everyday :)

GHM, thanks so much! If you want, just send me their registered names and I'll see what I can find. I didn't renew my AQHA membership but I can probably track down their pedigrees in other ways. :) If you have an AQHA membership, you can look them up yourself through the website. You just need your member ID and PIN#, which you can email for through the site if you forgot it. If you don't have a membership I'd be happy to research their lines for you--I think it's fun! lol

Grey Horse Matters said...

Hi Jessie,
I let my membership lapse maybe 10 years ago. I have their papers so I know the dams and sires. I'd just sort of like to know if any of the horses in their past had anything to watch out for that they might have passed on etc. My guess is that if you don't know about the lines in your head it's not easy to find info. Anyway thank you so much for your offer.

Tomorrow I'll find their papers and send them along to you via your email if that's okay with you. Any information you could give me on what sort of QH lines they came from would be really appreciated.
Thanks again,
Arlene (GHM)

Jessie McCandless said...

Arlene, that would be perfect to email me copies of their papers. That will give me the start I need :) I'm happy to do it...I think it's fun. You have nice horses--I bet they have some pretty neat pedigrees!