When temperatures drop and days get shorter, some owners blanket their horses. Others opt out of adding layers and let their horse’s coat fluff up.
I am not generally someone who seeks out controversy. I love a good discussion with differing opinions, but for the most part I strive to keep a healthy distance from heated debates on passionate topics. However, my neighbors are out of town and we are taking care of their animals, which means I can’t help but bring up the touchy, personal and somewhat controversial topic of blanketing horses.
Some horsepeople are pro. They break out day sheets, slinkys and weatherproof blankets as soon as the leaves start to curl and change color preparing for winter. I know others who are strongly against it. “Let ‘em grow a coat and do as nature intended!” I hear. “It’s better for them without blankets.”
At my place, it’s a hassle and ultimately a waste of money, as most of our horses are yearlings and 2-year-old colts that live together outside and destroy anything that comes into their paths with their curious little noses. No fly mask, no sapling tree and definitely no blanket is deemed safe on our place unless kept under lock, key and quarantine.
I’m not really saying that I’m opposed to blankets. Every person has their program, and I understand when it comes to performance horses, sale horses or even mares that have to be under lights for reproductive reasons there’s no way around a blanket system. In volatile conditions with a summer coat, it’s just unfair to keep them without cover. Shoot, I suppose some folks even have horses that tend to run cold, or have a bit of age on them, and they require some sort of protection from harsher winter conditions. Sure, we occasionally have a very specific and particular client who sends a horse with day sheets, night sheets, fly sheets, heavy blankets and bubble wrap. We do our best to accommodate and follow the needs that they require. But for the most part, the blanketing process is something I have happily been able to bypass.
That’s not to say I don’t own any. For some reason, there’s a corner of my tack room with three large Rubbermaid tubs that offer a retirement home for anyone’s blankets that are no longer wanted. I always say yes when someone offers me the sheets and heavies they never use. It’s an odd hobby — perhaps compulsion — that I have. Of course, every so often, when I’m forced to dive into said tubs for some sort of cover for a slick horse during the wrong part of the year, I find everything but a functional and fitting blanket. I’ve got torn rugs and sheets missing their straps. There are knots tied and baling twine rigged up and patches sewn and ungodly smells that come off of each and every piece of horse pajamas that I have stored in there. Every year, I feel the urge to heavily cull (keep the one or two blankets that work well, get them cleaned, fold them neatly and ditch the rest) but it seems like I never find the chance. I always just roll them up and shove them back in the tub after they’ve served their purpose.
It’s tough here in Texas, especially, working in the time to have a proper blanketing regimen. The nights are cold and often damp, with temperature indexes that flirt with freezing. And a lot of the time, the days are pleasant, even warm, and would be detrimental to any horse wearing a heavy blanket in the middle of the afternoon. My neighbors have bodyclipped their gelding and I’m realizing what a time consuming process managing the whole thing is. I’m very much looking forward to their return.
My hats off to all of you who stay dedicated to the cause and dutifully pull blankets on and off, day after day, as your hands are cold and the nights get dark early.
And to those of you who shrug your shoulders at your fuzzy horses in a snowstorm and say, “Eh, heck with it, spring will be here soon enough,” I applaud you as well.
(But make sure to holler at me if have any extra sheets, slinkies or blankets you want to get rid of!)