GOT YOU COVERED
Horses are well designed to handle cold weather. Given adequate calories, protection from driving rain and really bad storms they are quite capable of surviving our relatively mild northwest winters with only the coats they were born with. That said, there are many situations throughout the year where blanketing may be advisable. Yes to blanketing if shelter from wind, rain and cold is marginal or non-existent. Yes if your animal suffers from moisture caused skin infections (but don’t forget to check their skin under that blanket). Yes if your horse is clipped. Yes, if you just want to keep them from completely grinding that mud into their skin and yes, to help keep bugs at bay or the sun from bleaching their coats. Blanket technology has evolved in design and materials and covers the gamut of ridiculous to the sublime as far as protection, comfort and coziness are concerned. Not to mention color and ornamentation…. rubber duckies, laughing llamas or pink unicorns anyone? It’s important to match the needs of your particular horse under your particular living and working situations to determine when and what type of blanket to use. Maximizing fit, blanket weight and waterproofing to each animal in all kinds of environmental conditions is a challenging goal. The tricky part is that all these conditions may change, not just seasonally but through the course of a single day in our climate, especially during transitions between seasons. It's important to understand the purpose of each blanket type, from simple fly sheet to waterproof turnout blanket to heavyweight cold weather rug, and do your best to apply them (or remove them) at the appropriate times and conditions. As far as your horse is concerned, if they are healthy, well fed (plenty of hay to feed their furnace) and have their own coat, what you put on top isn’t going to matter much, however if you decide to clip your horses everything changes.
Many of us are a tough, web footed bunch and nasty winter weather does not dissuade us from riding our horses. When that is the case the question becomes less about applying blankets (yes) and more about clipping our wooly mammoths. Managing a horse in steady work during the winter is a battle waged against muck and sweat. Our most effective weapon in this war is a good set of clippers. Like blanketing, there are many variations of clips that have specific functions, in this case aimed at cooling them off vs. keeping them warm. Clipping strategies also range from the ridiculous to the sublime. From a complete strip down ears to toes for animals in full, strenuous work and mostly stabled inside to a bit of fluff removed from the under neck and belly (called a bib clip) for the horse in light to moderate work often living outside. Then there are the amazingly inventive, creative clips, because, well, humans. Whether your clipped horse ends up looking like a smooth marble sculpture or a surrealist nightmare you are now responsible for helping them stay warm and comfortable through the winter.
Have you been busy in the creative clipping department lately? Do you have any masterpieces (or disasters) on your equine canvas to share, we'd love to see them. Join us over on our RBE Facebook page.