In or Out? On or Off? Questions of Horse Management
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.
[Hay Roll Art: Snowman]
Thank you for reading,