In or Out? On or Off? Questions of Horse Management

Ice on the butt …
… front doesn’t care.

When the recent cold snap was looming on the horizon, many of my neighbors chose to blanket &/or put up their horses. We chose to do neither.

Human behavior toward horses often reflects our values as a species rather than the way the horses see the world [How I Learned to Think Like a Horse]. In this case, my desire to be toasty warm inside my house and not come out until Spring. If I do go out, I wear enough layers to cause comment from passers-by.

Yes, if you clip a horse’s coat, you are responsible for replacing the defenses that you removed. You are committed to a winter’s worth of blankets, stalls, lights, whatever it takes. This is one reason I don’t clip.

I’m not anti-blanket. Mathilda and Previous Horse wore them for years. Mathilda scoffed at them when she was younger, but became quite the blanket hog in her old age. Rodney doesn’t get them because he shocks himself [Zap!]. Milton points out that there is no reason that HE should be punished because Rodney can’t manage a blanket.

After this bout of weather, I’m pondering that blankets are far less necessary than I had previous thought, provided the horses are healthy, fit, well-cared for, etc. My Shetland doesn’t blanket, except for individual need, and those horses live in far more extreme conditions.

I am mildly anti-stall. I understand that there might be insufficient land or that people are worried about the safety of expensive show horses or that some horses (coughSamcough) would be appalled at the idea of living outside. Overall, the only purpose of a stall is to make life easier for the humans.

Instead of stalls and blankets, we shoveled hay and hot water at Rodney and Milton. I upped the grain a little, mostly for my benefit. Internal warmth comes from the long-term digestion of hay. So they got hay. Lots and lots of hay. Little snacks throughout the day rather than one big load. The frequency of snacks wasn’t a problem since we were marching up to the barn every few hours with buckets of warm water from the house. They love this. Rodney will drop half a bucket in one go. Providing water also meant we didn’t worry when the trough froze over. They have access to shelter at all times, but didn’t use it (unless we put their hay there).

Truly cold weather is rare enough that all of this is feasible. Obviously, we would make different arrangements if we lived farther north, or had more horses.

They seemed fine with it. Some mornings, after thunder and rain, we can see that they are tired from a long night. This week, they were happy and rested for the entire arctic episode. We never had wintery mix, so they didn’t have issues of getting wet. The snow settled on their backs and their dense, plush coats insulated the horse underneath. They seemed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And wanting more hay.

Forty years with horses and I’m still learning.

Snow Posts
[Foto Friday: Snow Day Photo Essay]
[Letter Art: Snow 2018] pending

[Foto Friday: Stella] Guest Photo
[Winter Tournament (S)No Report]
[Foto Friday: Snowrise]
[Snow Day]

[Hay Roll Art: Snowman]

2014 Snowmageddon
[Post Called On Account Of Snow]
[Foto Friday: Snow Day Montage]
[Text Art: Snow Letters]
[Show Today: Winter Tournament, Rocking S] Guest Photo
[Foto Friday: Ice]

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

5 thoughts on “In or Out? On or Off? Questions of Horse Management

  1. It’s been an exceptionally cold winter here (New England) and we haven’t needed to blanket anyone yet. They all have dense coats, though I do sometimes find that in spite of that my mares will show signs of being colder a bit sooner than the boys, even when dry. (I’ve often wondered if there is a hormonal/gender component to this?) Our horses can move around to find their own sweet spot. Two always opt to be in the lean-to shelter while the other always wants to stand out, even in the worst of weather. Last snow storm he had several inches of snow on his topside for two days, with nary a shiver or issue. Lots of hay. Shelter from wind. Ability to move around. Tank defroster. It all helps. Blankets are in the barn and at the ready if needed, but so far even with -10 F, brutal wind and plenty of snow, they’ve all been just fine. (Blanket shocks can be an issue with my mare too, so I know she’s much happier without.) And on a sunny day they’ll all stretch out in the snow for a little snooze. Biggest danger there is of me slipping and falling on the frozen ice angels they leave behind in the snow! 🙂

  2. I think you just have to watch your horse and see what he or she is telling you. Princess had been blanketed when I got her, which I was told was because her former owner showed her year-long and didn’t want a long coat. I left the blanket off the first winter I owned her and she grew a coat like a teddy bear. During her first retirement she went on field board, and ended up needing 2 blankets. After being in to treat an injury, she remained on stall board and used one blanket – she was starting to get older at that point. I don’t know if Chief’s former owner blanketed Chief, but he seemed to be happier with a blanket, so that’s what he got. You can’t just make a blanket – no pun intended – judgement, you have to watch and know your horse.

  3. I’m an overworrier overblanketer from way back!! This year i intend to not be so much.
    wish me luck
    mel x

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