Can you stop blanketing a horse that's been blanketed its whole life? - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 45 Old 09-24-2014, 02:16 PM
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I agree we shouldn't see horses as we do humans - but they are warmblooded mammals so capable of feeling many of the same discomforts we do
Horses with good coats will be OK in most extremes but if they're shivering then they're not
Rain, especially the constant kind, flattens the coat more than a light blanket ever will
When I remove a blanket from my trace clipped horses to groom them their coats immediately fluff up, blanketing doesn't stop that happening at all and neither should it make a coat 'matted and flat' if you do it correctly
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post #22 of 45 Old 09-24-2014, 02:37 PM
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I recently stopped trying to blanket our older Warmblood/TB mare because she absolutely hates them. She bites and rips holes in them, pulls them all askew, and generally fusses about the whole thing (pawing, head tossing, etc). I figured that she would be more likely to settle down, eat well and enjoy life if I just gave in to what she was clearly telling me: blankets just aren't her thing. She did great all last winter, but she was living in a stall attached to a run (with daily turnout), she had free access to hay, and our area is very temperate overall -- snow is sort of a rare event.

We did have a cold snap last winter where it was getting down to 15-20 F at night, which is very unusual for us. I made the "mistake" of throwing a medium weight blanket on her at night (foolishly thinking that just maybe it was cold enough that she might actually appreciate the extra warmth and leave it alone). I came back an hour later to find it all twisted up and pulled off to one side, with her giving me the stink eye.
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Last edited by Eolith; 09-24-2014 at 02:44 PM.
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post #23 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:09 AM
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I had only a short window to write last time, and wanted to say a little more about winter rugging in southern Australia, and related issues. Skip this if you prefer short posts.

Our horses free range in large paddocks much of the time, and we have planted shelter belts on the paddock perimeters since buying our place, which are already becoming popular with our animals as well as the adjoining neighbour's. For our horses this is not quite enough, and we have gone with selective rugging for them, while the donkeys, dryland creatures who absolutely hate getting even just their faces saturated, can now access a new walk-in-walk-out shelter in bad weather.

What winter rugging at our place does not look like: A horse disappearing into a rug at the end of autumn and only re-emerging at the start of spring except when they are actually being ridden. Some people do it like that, but I think that kind of wall-to-wall rugging has major drawbacks. Even our southern winter has calm and mild environmental conditions at least 50% of the time, and during that time, healthy horses have no need for a rug and dislike wearing it. Horse skin benefits from regular exposure to fresh air and sunlight, and horses like to roll, scratch themselves effectively, etc. It's also not great for horses (or humans) to be in constant-temperature environments around the clock.

One nice place where I agisted years ago offered around-the-clock turnout in small social groups, rotating through a series of interesting paddocks (mix of terrain, trees, views of landscapes and human and equine activities), with a balance of grazing and two daily supplementary hay feeds. Also, daily owner attendance was expected, and for those of us who rugged in bad winter weather, the centre owner would un-rug in the morning if the forecast was good, for a small additional fee. You could then re-rug in the evening if necessary. It was a very good arrangement that got around some of the practical difficulties of rugging in agistment.

I've already discussed that, in the absence of adequate shelter belts or walk-in-walk-out shelters, horses can get distressed during cold, wet, windy weather. The particular valley we are located in appears to act as a wind tunnel for cold south-westerlies, and indeed our entire regional coastline is so relentlessly windy that 70% of our regional population centre's electricity is produced by less than two dozen wind turbines perched in a cluster on sea cliffs facing Antarctica. Rugging clearly has a place locally for staving off discomfort and hypothermia in paddocked horses (at least in the light horse breeds that are most commonly ridden and raced around here). But this discussion would be incomplete without also mentioning a major problem that comes with injudicious rugging: Hyperthermia, which is also distressing and potentially deadly.

Hyperthermia (heat stress) is lamentably a common condition in horses who are over-rugged for the purposes of retaining a short coat for showing, and in horses whose owners live away from unsupervised horse paddocks. These horses can end up basting in their own juices during sunny weather, and the RSPCA in Australia encourages people to report horses who are left in this predicament, as horses continue to suffer (and in some cases die) from being over-rugged. Some horses in Queensland recently were found standing up to their backs in a billabong in attempts to cool themselves when their owners had neglected to remove their rugs in warm weather.

Hyperthermia can also occur in horses who are not rugged, but live in paddocks with inadequate shade. We have to remember that fenced-in animals, unlike their wild ancestors, are not free to range around a landscape to find places which keep them comfortable in excessively hot, cold, windy or wet conditions. Providing some kind of protection from such conditions adequate for a particular species, breed and constitution is, in my view, therefore an ethical responsibility for livestock owners.
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post #24 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:12 AM
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A little anecdote from 1980 on the topic of “toughening up” horses: At the time we were agisting two horses in a European facility with horses in barns at night and in bad weather, and with group turnout for at least 4 hours daily (many facilities offered none – horses were in loose boxes unless ridden by owners – which we thought was little better than living standards for battery hens). A couple who were also agisting their horses at the facility used to talk at length about horses not being suited to an indoors lifestyle – so far we agreed – but their solution was to “toughen them up” and expose them to the elements by sporadically taking them out of their stables and exposing them for prolonged periods to particularly bad weather. Their two horses would get rained upon for hours tied to the courtyard rails, or loose in small turnout yards, while their owners sat in the heated common room drinking beers.

Another toughening-up strategy they had in winter was to trail ride their horses fast until they sweated profusely, bring them back into the courtyard still wet and blowing, and leave them tied to the rails for an hour while the snow fell on their backs and they started shivering profusely (which the owners, if anyone brought it up with them, explained was very health-inducing). Goodness knows where these owners got their wisdom, but one horse was always coughing, and by the time the veterinarian was finally called, chronic bronchitis had turned to emphysema. The prognosis was poor and he was promptly turned into pet food. The owner was not visibly distressed and explained to us children that she took him to the knackery herself and put VapoRub in his nose so that he wouldn't be able to smell any blood. She also told us that his weak constitution had been the problem leading to his demise and that she was going to buy a more hardy horse. Poor Rusty – that was his name, and suited the friendly red roan gelding – even his death didn't teach his owner a lesson in animal husbandry.

More natural is great, but my version doesn't include predators, hypothermia or needless distress. I applaud anyone here who, going against mainstream cultural practices in many places, doesn't lock their horses in stable blocks for the majority of each day, and provides for turnout, exploration, exercise and socialisation more in keeping with letting a horse live like a horse. I also applaud anyone here who, through cultural norms and the practical necessities of their situations, has horses agisted in conventional barns and is looking for ways to increase their turnout, exercise, stimulation and socialisation. When we started out with horses 35 years ago, we faced similar issues, and it's a complicated road. I am always encouraged to read the many posts on HF that show there are a lot of people who are highly interested in the quality of life of the animals in their care, and I think it's wonderful that there are so many good ideas floating around that allow us to learn from each other, and make things even better for our four-legged creatures.
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post #25 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:21 AM
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Yay!

In order for me to blanket right here I'd have to have 3 different blankets for each horse and a backup for cleaning, drying or repairs. This time of year I could go from well below freezing to 80F in a single day. I'd be chasing blankets from now until May.

One of the things I most despise seeing and I see it a lot here is a horse in a wet blanket.
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post #26 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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I have a walk in shelter and trees all around. There is even an extended roof from the shelter so rain won't get in at all
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post #27 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:29 AM
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If he can come and go in and out of the barn as he pleases and you feed plenty of hay then I wouldn't bother with a blanket. Horses can handle cold. It's the wind and wet they need relief from.

Even with my fierce winters the horses use the barn more to escape the summer heat and bugs.
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post #28 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:33 AM Thread Starter
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The worst it ever gets here is small hail, living in WA. What's about right for the hay, a bale a day or more? I don't mind I just need a rough estimate.
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post #29 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:34 AM
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Shelter belts: Australia was broad-scale cleared instead of retaining hedgerows, so this is where the creation of suitable shelter belts becomes relevant. Shelter belts are great for livestock, wildlife, landscape aesthetics, reduction of soil erosion and waterlogging, and for reducing secondary soil salinisation in Australia.




Our main western wind break is now three years old. Brett surrounded by Netbushes, Spotted Gums, Tuarts, Marri, Red-Flowering Gums, Golden Wattle, etc. It's a 100m x 10m triple-row shelter belt in what was previously open paddock. Only some of it is visible on this photo. It's going to need a little more growing time to become really effective, but is already significantly reducing wind speeds, with the result that animals either side of this property boundary like to graze in its vicinity during windy weather. The horses and cattle are also using it for summer shade.








The two photo above show a natural shelter belt formed from remnant roadside vegetation, which we take pains to encourage by controlling invasive weeds and rehabilitating disturbed areas with effective pioneer species like local acacias.


An overall view of what we've done on our place so far:



Behind the deep green of our northern neighbour's pastures, the bitumen road is just visible via the straight line of assorted roadside vegetation running left to right in the middle background, and behind that our driveway paddock between shelter-belts and the road. Our driveway belt stretching between the house and the road is three years old and composed mostly of acacia and eucalypts. Three-year-old tagasaste belts (high-protein fodder trees) can be seen stretching west of the shed, and all around the fruit-and-vegetable area behind the shed and west of the house. New plantings of native bird-attracting shrubs are starting near the house. In the paddock, near the red figure of 29yo Romeo in his winter rug (don't be fooled by the postcard picture, the wind chill was significant and we took the photo in a half hour rain break), are some of our four-year-old shade clumps planted when we first bought the property. Much work still remains to be done, but we are happy with our start.

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post #30 of 45 Old 09-25-2014, 08:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pony Paradise View Post
The worst it ever gets here is small hail, living in WA.
Not so, PP. The worst thing about SW and Southern Coastal WA is the wind chill in wet conditions. Sheep losses are common as a result, unlike in England, where weather is less varied and extreme, and hedgerows and shelters are more common.

As your horse has a shelter, rugging isn't needed. Rugs are just portable shelters!

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