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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.

 
25 Comments

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

 

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I love horse people…

Maybe it’s because I’m crazy…or because they are crazy…or because we are all crazy (for horses)…but I love horse people. I’m sitting here warming my feet after enjoying time with 65 people crazy enough to brave 13 degree weather for tonights “Up Close and Personal Clinic” at Cowboy Perseverance Ranch. Slated to run from 6pm-8pm it really went until 10:30 pm!

As an added bonus the lady who contacted me on Facebook, Dawn Spoltman from WickedPony Designs had the hand-painted glass she made me hand-delivered.  Did I mention I love horse people?

Roxy glass

Enjoying apple cider in my hand painted glass from Dawn Spoltman at WickedPony Designs. The photo doesn’t do it justice!

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Life

 

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I have a mare who is a little cold backed, would the rope exercise help?

“Stacy, I have a mare I started last fall and she is a little cold backed. Would the rope exercise have shown or helped that problem? Have you had this issue with a colt before?”

Usually the rope exercise will help. I do so much groundwork that I haven’t run into this problem with horses I have started. I have had it with horses that were brought to me. The exercises will help it; in some horses it goes away, in others it improves. Prevention seems to be key.

Watch again how much preparation/prevention goes into Jac’s training.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Members Question, Video

 

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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!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Training

 

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Winter Water and Colic; fact or myth….info provided by Buckeye Nutrition

Do horses colic more in the winter? Do horses drink less water in the winter?horses and cold water

Fact or Myth:  Horses need less water in the winter.

Myth!

Horses at maintenance require a minimum 8-10 gallons of water per day regardless of temperature.

Horses tend to drink less water as the temperatures decrease because of the water temperature.

Horses prefer that water be 45-65 degrees F.

The use of heated water buckets or water heaters will prevent the formation of ice and keep the water temperature above freezing.

Fact or Myth: The incidence of impaction colic increases in the winter.

FACT!

With the increased intake of hay, the incidence of colic does increase in the winter if horses are not consuming adequate water on a daily basis.

Owners can encourage the consumption of water by adding electrolytes to water, providing soaked beet pulp or soaked hay cubes, or adding water to grain.

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Have you ever noticed a decrease in the amount of water your horse drinks in the winter? Have you ever had one colic?

Did you know that when I have a question I can ask a nutritionist? Did you know you can too? That’s right, check out this page on Buckeye Nutritions website and no matter what you feed-you can ask them questions!

buckeyelogo

 
10 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Life

 

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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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Keep horses drinking during freezing weather…and all animals.

It is cold! And I don’t know about you but I don’t drink as much as I should in this weather. Keep horses drinking

Just yesterday I was dizzy from dehydration.

And that is my point. Colic rates climb when the weather acts strange. Much of this is related to horses not drinking normally during major weather swings. It was -13 last night and they are calling for almost 50 degrees this weekend. That qualifies as major.

Heated troughs and buckets are amazing. If you don’t have them though don’t despair.

It is amazing what a gallon of hot water added to a bucket will do to improve the palatability.

That goes for barn cats too.

barn cats need warm water too

 
16 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Life

 

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