Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, February 6, 2011

All the Naked Horses

Feb 5, 2011
Temp: above freezing!  Man, it's been a cold winter and this is the first thaw we've had so far.

Winter blankets all-in-a-row

This morning while feeding horses, I was so hot & sweaty that I stripped not only my polarfleece hat but my parka as well.  I was outside in a single layer of fleece plus my Carhartts, boots, & gloves.  It was nearly balmy.  If I was comfortable sans hat & jacket, the horses also would be comfortable sans their winter blankets, so I started stripping blankets on nearly everyone as I fed out grain.  Unfortunately, our horses have been pretty much locked into their blankets 24/7 since early to mid-November.  It turns out, I am "anti-blanket," despite the fact that two of my horses regularly wear them.  I don't think blankets are good for their skin, their necks & backs, or their range of motion.  I wish my horses weren't wearing them.  But, Rhio and Cricket have both been in blankets nearly continuously since November.
Cricket in his back-up winter blanket

Cricket is almost 29 (birthday next month!) and has no extra weight to speak of.  He is happy & healthy and grows a respectable winter coat, but without an extra fat layer (his body condition score is a 4 on a scale of 1 - 9) he expends too much energy to stay warm in our harsh winter weather (which we've had more than usual of this winter!) and would lose weight without extra help.  He gets help in two forms: extra calories and a winter blanket.  He also is the lowest ranking member of his herd of 4, and as such is rarely allowed in the shelter (although there is ample room for at least 6 horses in there!).  Cricket has a wardrobe of garments for different weather conditions, including a waterproof but unlined rain sheet for use during wet but warm weather (around 40 and above), a midweight blanket (also waterproof) for use during mild cool temps (his spring & fall jacket), and 2 heavyweight blankets (1 several years old with the accompanying wear & tear as a back-up, and his main blanket which is in its 2nd winter) for winter wear.
Rhio sporting his layers

Rhio is young, healthy, and the "top dog" in his pasture, but this winter he, too, has required a blanket.  I believe this is due to his athletic condition prior to winter starting and to our earlier-than-normal onset of a colder-than-typical winter.  He is also a body condition score of 4 on the 1-9 scale.  He was in top shape at the end of October for our last endurance competition, very lean & fit.  Winter pretty much started immediately after that ride, and he did not have a chance to put on a little insulating layer of fat before the cold set in.  I resisted blanketing him as long as I could; he has a history of abusing blankets severely and wiggling his way out of them unscathed if he doesn't want to be wrapped up & cozy.  In the past, he has only worn a blanket during the most severe winter weather (windchills and/or air temperatures well below zero).  Early this winter, however, I would find him nestled in the shelter while his herd was out eating their hay.  He was choosing shelter over food.  I didn't think that was a good thing, so I gave in and started blanketing him.  I knew he welcomed his "binkie" when he stood still as stone, unhaltered in the pasture, to have it put on.  I was doubly sure he liked it when it was still on and intact the following morning!

Rhio's wardrobe also consists of a waterproof sheet for wet weather, a midweight turnout blanket (all he has worn even in the coldest temperatures in the past), and now a "system" of warmer layers for the cold weather.  He wears an insulated stable blanket for warmth, plus the waterproof sheet over the top for wind & damp protection.  Recently he has developed a rub on his chest from the binding on the stable blanket, so I have also added a base layer of lycra to prevent rubbing.  My "tough" endurance horse looks like a stall baby this year (how embarassing!). But, he is warm & dry and doesn't hide in his shelter anymore.  He still looks as trim & fit as he did in October, so the blanketing is maintaining status quo.

I was thrilled to have the horses go naked today - they & their blankets both had a chance to air out a bit in the 30+ degrees.  They seemed pretty thrilled, too - especially Rhio who spent quite a lot of time cavorting and playing while unencumbered by his outerwear.  I was dismayed, however, to discover Rhio's new hue - purple!  His black lycra chest protector has dyed his white hair purple, so he is now tri-colored with a yellowish-tan head & neck (dirt/manure), purple chest & shoulders (lycra protector), and white barrel & rump (clean & protected by his blanket).  Boy it's a good thing he's not a show pony!  (Will the purple shed out with his winter fur?  Or sweat off in purple streaks running down his legs when we start seriously conditioning this spring? Or will I have to actually bathe my horse with shampoo to restore him to his natural state?)
Yep, that's my tie-dye pony!