The winter months will be upon us before you know it and with the change in weather, the question to blanket or not to blanket is bound to come up. In this post, we will take a look at the pros and cons of blanketing and how to do it correctly.
If your horse has been allowed to grow a full winter coat, that winter coat is more than capable of keeping them warm provided they have shelter from the wet weather. If it’s raining out, the wet weather will flatten the hair coat and destroy those insulating qualities. In this case, you’ll need to make sure you have a well rated water-proof winter blanket or a shelter for your horse to stand under. Similarly, if your horse has even a light blanket/sheet on, the hair will no longer be able to stand up and will lose all of its insulating qualities. You shouldn’t put just a light blanket on – you really need to go all the way with a fully rated winter blanket, have blankets available for different temperatures or let them grow out a hair coat.
If your horse has been body clipped or has not grown a full coat, they will probably need to be blanketed during the really cold months.
Plenty of responsible horse owners have happy horses without blankets. There are, however, some prerequisites to this strategy.
- Your horse needs a full winter coat to protect them from the elements.
- Your horse should have some sort of shelter. A three-sided shed is quite adequate. You may be able to use a windbreak in the form of a wall or line of trees. Three sided sheds should be south facing and big enough to allow room for all horses into the shed. Check out our blog about shelters here: https://www.hoof-it.com/blogs/hoof-it/does-your-horse-really-need-a-shelter you can also check out our blog about preparing your horse for winter here: https://www.hoof-it.com/blogs/hoof-it/horse_winter
- Is the weather going to be wet? If so, that rain will wet down the horse’s hair coat. Once that coat is laying flat, it loses its insulating qualities. You’ll probably need a waterproof blanket unless your horse uses a shed consistently.
- They need to have plenty of water. Make sure it is easily accessible and not frozen over.
- They need to have plenty of forage available. Your forage can be in the form of long stem hay or hay cubes or various other forage sources, but it needs to be available because foraging keeps them warm. You can read what Dr. Howard Ketover says about feeding your horse in the winter to understand why forage is so important.
- Your horse's age matters. Your horse may need a blanket if they’re very young or very old. The very young and the very old may require blanketing to help them maintain their body temperature. Blanketing is also very important if your horse has been ill or is in poor body condition.
GETTING THE RIGHT BLANKET
- It should be well fitted so that they don’t rub at the withers or the shoulders.
- The blanket straps should be fitted close to their body so that they don’t get their legs tangled and it limits the blanket from slipping and rubbing.
- It needs to be rated for the weather they’re turned out in. If they’re rated for colder weather, they may get warm and start sweating. If they’re wearing a blanket that’s not rated heavily enough for the cold weather that they’re in, then that blanket is laying their hair coat down and is probably doing them more damage than good in terms of keeping them warm. This may mean that you need to have more than one blanket for the fall and winter seasons.
- If your horse is out in the rain or sleet, they should be in a waterproof blanket. That may be a waterproof sheet that’s thrown over a heavier blanket or a waterproof blanket. Again, if they get soaked through the blanket, they lose the insulating ability of the blanket as well as the hair coat.
- The blanket should be checked and removed every couple of days. You’ll need to do this to make sure it is still fitting the way it should, and so that you can check the horse’s body condition under the blanket to make sure they haven’t lost too much weight in the cold weather.
Taking these steps will ensure that your horse is warm and healthy through the winter months.
We all love a good horse movie that makes us want to gallop off into the sunset so here are some of the best ones that you won't want to miss.
Bob Champion and his horse Aldaniti overcome numerous obstacles in this 1981 film, based on a true story.
National Velvet stars a young Liz Taylor as Velvet Brown, a young equestrian who wins a downtrodden horse in a lottery and tries to turn him into a champion.
This 2010 Disney film relives Big Red’s unrivaled dominance on the racetrack and his owner’s determination to get him there.
The true story of the legendary filly, Ruffian, from her rise to stardom in the 1970’s, to her tragic downfall on the racetrack.
6. The Black Stallion
After surviving a shipwreck that has left young Alec stranded on an island with a mysterious Arabian stallion, the boy and the horse are forced to find common ground. The Black Stallion tells the story of their rescue and the bond they form as they prepare to race the fastest horse race in the country. You will also want to check out The Black Stallion Returns.
Starring Tim McGraw, Flicka is about a young girl’s attempt to tame a wild mustang and make it her own, while proving to her father that she has what it takes to take over the family ranch.
8. Phar Lap
An incredible true story, Phar Lap was a beloved Australian racehorse in the 1930’s. The film explores his successful and dramatic life as he races in events across Europe and in the United States.
9. Sea Biscuit
Set in the depression-era, Seabiscuit tells the true story of an undersized racehorse who inspired the nation.
Exploring the search for purpose in a business dominated world, The Horse in the Gray Flannel revolves around a businessman and his use/exploitation of his daughter’s horse to market and promote a stomach medication. Obviously.
11. War Horse
War Horse is an inspiring 2011 film about the bond between a man and his horse. This remarkable story explores the power of love and friendship during a time of war.
Hidalgo tells the story of a Pony Express courier and his horse, Hidalgo, who together travel to Arabia to compete in a legendary horse race.
13. Black Beauty
Starring an impossibly adorable Dakota Fanning, Dreamer tells the story of a horse-crazy little girl and her mission to rehabilitate an injured horse. Based on a…yeah.
The Horse Whisperer is a film about a handsome horse trainer (Robert Redford) who helps a young girl (Scarlett Johansson) and her horse on the road to recovery after a traumatizing riding accident.
If the saddle fits - Finding the right saddle for you and your horse
Finding the right saddle is not an easy task. With all of the styles and sizes to choose from, how do you know you're getting the right one for the job?
This is an important purchase so it is equally important to take time and do your research into what kind of saddle you are looking for.
First, you need to know your budget. Saddles come in a wide range of prices, from the low hundreds to the high thousands. Knowing what you are looking for, and what you are willing to pay ahead of time are important. Once you know your budget, then you need to decide what type of saddle you are looking for. Are you riding English or Western? Are you doing show jumping, dressage, cross-country, or are you barrel racing, trail riding or endurance?
Choosing a western saddle comes down to how much you want to spend, how it fits you and your horse and your personal preferences. They come in many different styles and sizes, but can be used for anything from showing to trail riding.
General purpose saddles
General purpose saddles are designed so you can do most disciplines in them from hacking to jumping.
Most leisure riders will go for this option, you only need one saddle, but if you compete regularly you may be better off looking at a discipline-specific saddle to give you the support that you need.
As the name suggests these are designed for dressage and flatwork.
The saddle flap is longer and straighter encouraging you to ride with a long leg position and the seat tends to be deeper to help you maintain a correct position.
There is the option of having large fixed knee blocks through to smaller movable blocks so you can find the most comfortable position for you.
To allow you to have a closer leg contact the girth straps are long and you use a short girth to remove any bulk under your leg so there are no buckles under your leg.
These are designed to sit more forward so you can ride with shorter stirrups. They also have shorter flaps because you aren't riding with a long leg as you would in a dressage saddle.
Some will have knee and thigh blocks positioned to help you stay secure and supported when you’re jumping and some do not and they often have a flatter seat.
Endurance saddles are for long distance riding so it is important that they are comfortable for you and your horse. Endurance saddles look like a combination of an English and Western saddle and they have no saddle horn like a traditional western saddle. The stirrups are shaped like an English saddles stirrups but they are wide like Western saddle stirrups. They are more cushioned on the underside to be extra comfortable for your horse on long rides and they have more cushion on the upper side for the riders comfort. Choosing an endurance saddle will come down to personal preference as well.
Leather or synthetic?
Once you have chosen what style you need you will want to decide what material your saddle will be made of.
The leather is typically the first choice of most riders. You can't beat the look and feel of a leather saddle and once they are broken in a bit, they are very comfortable and form to your horse.
Synthetic saddles have come a long way since they were first introduced and are sometimes a more economical way to obtain a saddle. They are easily washable and if you're on a tight budget, they are definitely worth looking into.
What about a proper fit?
The goal in saddle fitting is to have the greatest amount of contact between the bar of the tree and the horse. Keep in mind there is no standardization in the industry for tree sizing-measurements and they differ between tree makers, saddle makers, and saddle styles.
When it comes to the fit of the saddle on your horse, you want to make sure that it sits nicely over the horse's withers and backbone and that it sits evenly across their back. Take into consideration what type of bone structure your horse has. Look at their top line. Do they have prominent narrow wither, or rounded and flatter wither? Does their back bow or is it straight? Most saddles will mold somewhat to your horse's body, but you always want to be on the lookout for places where the saddle may be rubbing them wrong or pinching them. This will show up as patches of hair rubbed off or even sores if it goes unnoticed for too long.
There are also a variety of pads that you can try under your saddle to address different types of backs. If your horse has a back that bows and is bony, you can add small foam inserts between your saddle and saddle pad to fill in these gaps and give your horse more cushion.