Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Winds of Change

Can anything look as huge as Hudson in double blankets?

These cold winds have introduced a major change in my horsekeeping methods.

If you’re a horse owner, you probably know that the question is always floating out there: Is it better to blanket or not to blanket?   Well, everyone agrees that a clipped horse needs a blanket in the cold, because he doesn’t have enough hair to keep himself warm, so that’s not even part of the question.  The question revolves around horses who have their full, winter coats.

And there are two, basic camps: the camp that blankets because it seems better and the camp that doesn’t ever blanket because nature provides exactly what the horse needs in the winter in terms of a thick, insulating hair coat. 

Stormkite, lost in a heavy winter blanket
So, while people are usually comfortable in their camps, there are always questions and controversies, particularly the concept that blankets actually make a horse colder, because it flattens the horse’s natural fluffiness which creates the insulation.  No matter how many times I read this one, I can’t believe it because it sounds like nonsense.

That being said, I have always been in the non-blanketing camp, but decided to go with the concept that I have read many times and that made sense to me: If the horse is shivering, he needs a blanket. 

For the past eight years, living in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania, where winters get below zero, sometimes for extended periods, I never saw a shivering horse until Hurricane Irene blew through last September. At that time, the horses didn’t have their winter coats yet, and Irene brought a lot of rain and near-freezing winds, and I found them shivering, so they got blankets.  I saw immediately what a difference in made in their comfort, and this was so noted in the horse-keeping annals of my brain.
Sorry, DeCato!  I know it clashes with your pretty coat.

A couple of weeks ago, before the weather turned cold, I was fretting because their coats did not seem to be as thick and fluffy as in past years.  I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an illusion, and I think it’s because the weather has been so unseasonably warm all fall and early winter.    

And then, as soon as the cold weather blew through again, accompanied by strong north winds, I found them shivering.  So I blanketed them and gave them plenty of hay.  When I checked on them later, they were all dozing on their feet, exhausted, but warm and comfy for the first time that day.

Since then, the weather turned warm and off came the blankets, but now it is uber-cold and, folks, I have switched camps.  My horses are, at this moment, bundled in the crazy array of end-of-winter sale blankets I have accumulated over the years, the same ones I had been planning to sell because they take up so much space and I never used them. 

And this time, I put them on without seeing a shiver.  I have observed with my own eyes the difference it has made in their comfort.

Patty Duke and her identical cousin.
The two reasons for my switching camps are that, one, the wind on this hill where we now live makes it significantly colder than in our old place.  And two, I have realized, the horses’ shelter doesn’t fully block the wind.   

We will be adding a wall, in short order, but until then, and maybe even afterward, they are going to be snuggly bundled in their colorful pajamas.



  1. The wind is crazy on that hill. Wait until the drifts start. Fortunately the town highway guys are good about getting after the roads

    My pony is blanketed and I let her mane grow in the winter for extra protection. She has a thick QH mane that is a pain to pull but it keeps her neck warm in the winter.

  2. It does blow up here!
    Your pony must be a very comfy girl. I know all about those thick manes!

  3. Yes, she is very comfy. Has also been inside the past few days and was a wild woman today. Had to lunge her a bit, then she was fine.