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My non-blanketed horses are attacking the two with blankets…What can I do?

“I’m having an issue today. I need help if you find a moment. I have 7 horses turned out together. They have ALL lived together for at least a year. Today, I blanketed two if them due to incoming inclement weather. One has a cold and the other was clipped and hasn’t re-grown his coat as well as we hoped. My problem is, the non-blanketed horses are attacking the two with blankets. Not a little either. They are full out ATTACKING. Pawing, rearing biting, kicking . It’s rough. What can I do?”-Patti C.

How do you handle one horse attacking another in the pasture?Horses have an interesting way of viewing things…don’t they? The easiest and quickest suggestion is to separate them for now. Depending on your set up you could pasture them in view of each other which will also allow the non-blanketed horses to adjust to seeing their friends wearing blankets.

Once things calm down a bit you can also do some retraining. Be creative and remember to stay safe. Retraining could take many forms including: a shared fence line to let the horses adjust, stalling blanketed and non-blanketed near each other, tying the aggressive horses and allowing the other horses to move around, the list can get longer depending on how creative you are and what type of set up you have to work with. The following comment is from another blog about horses that were aggressive during group feeding. Listen to how Ashley B. solved her problem:

I am in a situation where I am not able to stall my horses so I must feed them together. I have a piglet that is very aggressive to the other horses at feeding time. She was causing dangerous situations and my personal mare was dropping weight because she wasn’t able to eat. Our solution, since separating her wasn’t possible, was to place their buckets far apart and to stand guard. Our piglet has improved to finishing her meal and staying at her feed bucket and on good days she finishes and walks away to the hay. It took about 3-5 days of standing guard with a stick and now simply our presence is enough to deter her from “attacking” the others for their feed. Still occasionally, if she thinks we aren’t paying attention, she will mosey over and “share” feed but she no longer attacks the others.

Generally, horses eventually get over the shock of seeing the other horses with blankets but the important part is to keep everyone safe during this transition period.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Life, Members Question

 

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Where do you live and what shelter do your horses have?

I am a fan of horses spending as much time out as possible. I love the idea of horses being out 24/7….but in many of the places I visit the weather also plays a part in this decision.

When I lived in Ohio we had run in sheds that had gravel and small paddocks. If the weather was bad, freezing rain for example, we would put rain sheet or rain blankets on them. Still there were times that I would bring them in. Slippery ice or ground frozen with hoof-pot-holes or excessive cold with wind were times that I would bring them in. I always liked having stalls available if the weather was bad. The horses always seemed to appreciate the chance to be sheltered from the elements. They also enjoyed the chance to run and play in the indoor because even though they were outside the footing wasn’t good for running and playing.Where do you live and what shelter do your horses have?

Some areas of the country are different. I just rode for hours in New Mexico in several inches of snow with no risk of mud or ice. It was also noticeably nice when we were in the ravines where the wind blew over but the sun shone down to warm us.

I have been on ranches where the horses were expected to find shelter themselves; among trees, along ravines, etc. I haven’t personally done this but there are areas in the country where I have heard it is possible.

When I have written other posts involving stalls or shelter I have received comments like:

“The BEST kind—they don’t have stalls!!!!”

Again, I love the idea of horses being out a lot but I would also like to know where you live if you have no stalls. Or does ‘no stalls’ mean no stall but you do have a run in shed? Or do you have nothing at all? So here are my questions:

What part of the country do you live in? What weather issues do you have; freezing temperatures, wind, mud, hail, ice, heat, snow? What type of shelter do your horses have access to; run in shed, trees, stalls, etc?

 
77 Comments

Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Life

 

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What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is too cold to let them out in pasture?

“What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is to cold to let them out in pasture?”-Kimberly M.

I think that there are valid reasons both for and against blanketing horses and each person needs to evaluate what is best for their horse.

StacyWestfall'sfirsthorseI grew up in Maine and we never blanketed our horses. Sometimes the thermometer, without windchill, would go as low as -40…below zero. It got cold. Thankfully the wind didn’t blow when it was that cold and our horses grew thick coats and never shivered. All was good.

My mom still lives in Maine but she has different horses. One horse is in his 20’s and is a hard keeper. He grows a thick hair coat and doesn’t shiver but putting a rain sheet or waterproof blanket on him when it is extremely cold helps him to conserve energy and hold his weight better.

The other is a middle aged mare who is an easy keeper but naturally doesn’t grow much hair. I know because she lived with me for years and we kept her in a pasture with a run-in shed. Each year everyone else in the pasture grew enough hair to stay warm but this mare would only grow an average hair coat and then would shiver. Some people have told me that shivering is ‘natural’, which is obvious in one sense of the word, but whenever I have personally experienced shivering I have found it to be very unpleasant. I am convinced that some horses are ‘naturally’ given to growing more or less hair and as the mare can’t migrate south…I sent my mom a rain sheet and a waterproof blanket.

When I have horses in training that I am riding multiple times per week I keep them blanketed. I do this because if I don’t then they tend to overheat when working…imagine dressing in your best winter overalls and coat and then shoveling snow for an hour straight. Heavy winter wear is not the best when you’re doing heavy work. Every time I make that mistake I end up needing to remove layers, something my horse cannot choose to do if it is hair. By blanketing my horses that I am working I can help them regulate their temperature plus I can help them cool out quicker. A horse with a heavy hair coat that does get soaking wet from a workout can take hours to cool out and dry properly. A horse that has been blanketed can be cooled out in thirty minutes or less with a wool cooler.Luke, I am your father!

The choice to blanket also comes with the responsibility to check and maintain the horses regularly. If I have horses that I am blanketing it is a lot of extra work in the fall and the spring. I have to pay attention to the daytime and nighttime temperatures and change their layers accordingly. For a fully blanketed show horse it is normal to change their layers every ten degrees. I do not choose to blanket horses just for the fun of it…it is far too much work if that is the only reason.

If you don’t need a short hair coat because you are working the horse regularly but want to blanket sometimes then consider only adding below a certain temperature. If you choose to only blanket when the temperature is below ten degrees then your horse will still grow a pretty thick hair coat. Plus by selecting a low temperature like zero or ten degrees you won’t have all of the extra work in the spring and fall.

I prefer to leave horses that aren’t working regularly without blankets and allow them to grow as much hair as possible. I also recognize that some times blanketing can be either helpful, as in the training situation, or best, such as with the hard keeper.

As far as how cold is too cold I think there are different factors to look at. How healthy the horse is, what type of shelter or wind break is available, and how much forage is available are all part of the equation. Keep in mind that a great source of internal heat for horses in the winter is digesting hay and fresh, unfrozen, water is always a must.Mini horses in snow

Each situation will be a little different and I’m sure that many people will leave comments about the temperatures their horses have successfully lived in. Here is a comment following my blog on “How cold is too cold to ride a horse.” 

“Up here in Canada if we don’t ride when it’s “too cold” – we wouldn’t ride for half the year! 😉 At our barn we just make sure we ride the horses according to the temperature. On the really cold days we might just play with some trail obstacles or do ground work in order to not sweat the horses up. Oh, and I’ve discovered that “hot paws” are a girl’s best friend in the winter! They are little heated pads that go inside your gloves and boots. Life savers! (or should I say “digit savers”!)”-Kim

I have more often kept my horses in because of ice or poor footing instead of the weather being too cold. Unfortunately, someone will leave a comment saying that it is totally natural for horses to endure any weather. While it is true that horses live in the wild, they also can suffer in the wild. I have personally seen horses with half their ears because the tops were frozen off…natural, yes, but not something I’m interested in.

While googling for info I found a great article on Discoverhorses.com quoting Dr. Joyce Harman, “There is no temperature where it is too cold for a horse to be ridden or to go outside if they are adapted to it.”

I think each person needs to evaluate their situation. Some places are going to get extreme wind, others extreme snow or ice and still others extreme cold, each brings its own challenges. Keep in mind that sudden or unusual weather won’t allow the horses time to adapt.

Often I have to laugh when I go out in the cold with my horses. Some of my best memories are with my horses in the winter. They tend to be fresh and full of energy and for the most part they seem to handle the cold weather much better than I do.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Life, Members Question

 

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‘Clip Me’…the mini horse beg for a haircut after moving to Texas!

The mini’s finally made the trip to Texas! They went to Maine last summer so this wasn’t their first long ride in the trailer. I postponed bringing them when we moved down in February because I knew they would need to be body clipped as soon as we got here. They grew winter coats for temperatures -24 degrees Fahrenheit and Texas was significantly warmer. We had blanketed the horses in Ohio to prepare them for the sudden temperature change but the minis had to wait.

I got the message from them that they wanted to be clipped….

 

CLIP ME!

CLIP ME!

this mini Mini horse being brushed by small girl Texas has been about 30-40 degrees warmer than Ohio so I had the clippers ready to help them remove their coats. These mini’s grow hair coats that are NOT like horses. They remind me more of a Husky dog with an undercoat that is incredibly thick.

They have never been body clipped before but were pretty tolerant of it. It was taking me on average, three passes with the clippers; one to remove the outer layer, another to remove the undercoat, and a final pass to clean up the remaining fuzz.

I used a pair of regular clipper and a pair of body clipper, alternating them to allow each pair to cool. Even so I had to stop after clipping for several hours straight. I’m headed out to finish the job now as it is headed up to 81 degrees today.

Some people consider blanketing, body clipping, etc. to be ‘unnatural’ for horses. In a way they are correct because horses in nature are not body clipped or blanketed. However, they are not telling the whole story when they make these statements. Horses in the wild don’t have their feet trimmed, or their wounds doctored, or many other things that we routinely do for our horses to improve their lives. A horse moving from Ohio to Texas in two days is also not natural…so we step in and help out.

This mini is mostly clipped

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Life

 

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Handling the transition to high temperatures with a horse.

Jac hot hereAbout three weeks ago I wrote a blog titled, ‘How cold is too cold to ride a horse?’ but due to moving to Texas (at least for awhile) Jac is wondering about the heat.

We knew in November that people were seriously interested in buying our house and because of it we made sure we started blanketing all of the horses. We did this because we hoped to be headed to Texas to stay with some friends for awhile and Texas is generally warmer than Ohio:)

When we left Ohio the temperatures had been dipping to the lowest I had seen while living there with many day time highs in the single digits and nighttime lows in the negative numbers.

We have been here three days and all of them have been in the 70’s!Bowie 75degrees

It has been beautiful weather to ride in….at least for me. The horses, on the other hand, have mixed opinions. They start out frisky (we didn’t ride the last few days in Ohio due to packing) but they quickly run out of steam.

If we hadn’t blanketed them we would have needed to body clip them to help them cope with the sudden change in temperature. For the most part we just need to take it easy with them for awhile while they adjust.

This involves shorter training cycles as well as easier training cycles. I might still ride for an hour but I am actually doing less than I was when I was riding for an hour in 20 degree weather. Once we both get accustom to the heat I am sure that will change some..plus Jac is shedding like crazy…but still…..

I never thought I would hear myself say this…but it is actually easier to get a lot of hard riding done in the cold!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Training

 

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Just a bit further down the road….blankets, horses and traveling

With the crazy-late night we had before we left Ohio we haven’t been making the best time as we travel. On the flip side we have met some great people and are managing to catch up on our sleep (in the hotels…not while we drive).Jac blanket

Most of our horses were blanketed this winter in Ohio which is going to come in handy with this move to Texas. As we travel we need to take the ever changing temperatures into account as well as the idea that the horses are working a bit as we travel. Here you can see Jac is taking off a layer before loading up in the trailer.

Today as we travel we will be leaving while it is 30 degrees but within two hours of driving it will be 59 degrees and will be 69 degrees later than that. With five horses in the trailer the plan is to take blankets off and then regulate the temperature by keeping the trailer closed up at the beginning and then opening rear windows as needed. It is important to remember to leave some windows in the rear cracked because five horse breathing in the trailer does create a lot of condensation. Have you ever noticed in the cold weather that a car load of people in a vehicle makes the windows hard to keep defogged? Same idea but inside the horse trailer.Horse motels are very helpful on the road.

Signing off for now, I have to go load up horses. Jac is almost as excited about being ridden as I am about riding him…lol. He is so full of energy because I didn’t ride him the last few days in Ohio as we packed and he is very, very fit from being ridden in 20 degree weather at home. I hope he and Newt behaved last night in their side by side stalls. Maybe I will ride in the next few days?

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Training

 

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How cold is too cold to ride a horse?

Jac is HOT

Steamy Jac taking a break before heading the other direction.

I went to an equine college and on really cold days we tried to make an argument that it was too cold to ride.

We were told by the learned scholars and the riding instructors: It will be too cold for you before it is too cold for your horse.

The two main issues people worry about in the cold are hurting the horses lungs and getting them sweaty.

The scholars informed us that horses have an incredibly long air passage; the air passes through the nostril to throat latch and then down the long neck, which allows the air to warm before reaching the lungs.

The riding instructors taught us to use coolers on the horses; a blanket type set up with moisture wicking properties i.e. wool or wicking synthetic, to both keep them warm and speed in drying them out to prevent chilling.

Coolers are amazing. In the photo the cooler isn’t dirty…the white dusty look is caused by the moisture rising up and sitting on top of the cooler instead of on him.

Jac wearing a cooler

Jac wearing a cooler; look at the steam rising through it and the moisture gathering on top instead of on Jac.

While googling for info I found a great article on Discoverhorses.com quoting Dr. Joyce Harman, “There is no temperature where it is too cold for a horse to be ridden or to go outside if they are adapted to it.”

Now as for me, I need to go thaw my toes…

 
66 Comments

Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Training

 

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