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.
The 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, takes places Oct. 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY.
Hundreds of off-track Thoroughbreds, each with 10 months or less of retraining and three days of competition in 10 different disciplines are each vying for a share of $100,000 in prize money. Thousands of spectators are watching online and in person, and at the end, one overall winner will be crowned America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
What is the Thoroughbred Makeover?
The Retired Racehorse Project or (RRP) is a charitable organization, created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds. The competition is intended to inspire good trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers, and the National Symposium serves to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners.
This is the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing.
Who can participate?
The Makeover isn’t an ordinary horse show; it’s a training competition. Trainers interested in participating must submit an application to the RRP Makeover Selection Committee for approval, to ensure that all participants are capable of effectively restarting an off-track Thoroughbred and demonstrating its talent and trainability. Participants do not need to be professional trainers, juniors and amateurs are welcome.
Trainer applications closed on January 15 with a record 812 applications! Accepted trainers were announced on February 1.
When evaluating applicants, the selection committee takes into consideration the need for adequate representation within each discipline; the need for representation by professionals, amateurs, and juniors; geographic diversity; affiliation with institutions that are committed to RRP’s mission; and evidence that the trainer is committed to RRP’s mission.
Trainers may compete up to two horses apiece, but do not need to have obtained the horse they intend to compete at the time of application.
What horses are eligible to compete?
Because the Makeover is a training competition designed to evaluate a horse’s progress in a prescribed period of time, the eligibility requirements are set to ensure that all horses are of similar experience at the starting point. Horses must meet these requirements to be eligible:
- Registered with The Jockey Club and have a lip tattoo or microchip.
- Raced or had a published work on or after July 1, 2016.
- Not have started in training for a second career before December 1, 2017 (other than a maximum of 15 allowable rides).
The RRP has a strictly enforced horse welfare policy in effect at the competition, which covers horse protection, abuse and neglect, soundness, and body condition. Trainers agree to adhere to the United States Equestrian Federation’s Guidelines for Drugs and Medication, and random testing will take place.
How is the competition structured?
Ten competitive disciplines are offered at the Makeover: barrels, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunters, polo, ranch work, show hunters, show jumpers, and freestyle (a free-form division to demonstrate skills of the trainer’s choice). A horse may be entered in up to two disciplines.
First, the preliminary round where each competitor receives a preliminary round score, and the top five in each discipline advance to the finale, which takes place in the Covered Arena and is broadcast via Livestream.
Each discipline competes separately in the finale, and each has their own final test to determine the Makeover Champion in that discipline. The crowd favorite (determined by text message voting) from among the 10 discipline winners is then crowned America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred and earns a $10,000 check!
What does the National Symposium include?
They offer several educational seminars and panel discussions dedicated to the care, training, and marketing of off-track Thoroughbreds. They also offer several mounted clinics that are open to Makeover competitors.
An extensive vendor fair also runs concurrently with the competition.
What is the Makeover Horse Sale?
Many Makeover trainers take on off-track Thoroughbreds as resale projects, and the Makeover provides a unique opportunity for horse-shoppers to see dozens of thoroughbreds successfully competing in a second career, and all in one location.
The RRP has endeavored to help market and facilitate the private sale of these horses by highlighting them at the competition. There they wear special bridle numbers, are advertised on their website, and a printed sale catalog is available to spectators. Designated areas are available for shoppers to try sale horses, and local veterinarians are on stand-by and available to perform pre-purchase exams on site.
About one-third of the horses competing in 2017 were available for sale. All sale contracts are private but are required to include no-slaughter and notification of resale restrictions.
Fast facts about the 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover:
- 578 trainers were accepted to compete during the initial application process, and 509 horses were registered.
- 305 horses actually made it to Kentucky to compete, coming from 38 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
- The most-raced horse in the competition had 85 starts. The highest money-earner had career winnings of almost $1.2 million.
- Total number of horses in each discipline: barrels, 18; competitive trail, 64; dressage, 78; eventing, 90; field hunter, 30; freestyle, 38; polo, 11; show hunter, 84; show jumper, 75; working ranch, 12.
- 100 horses were entered in the Makeover Sale, and 22 were confirmed sold within a month of the competition. The high price was $21,000; the average price was $8,800.
- More than 115 volunteers helped staff the competition.
- 72 companies were Makeover sponsors.
- 71 vendors took part in the vendor fair.
- Over 1200 ticketed spectators watched the Finale.
- The finale Livestream had more than 7,200 viewers, and 62,000 viewers watched on Facebook Live.
- 899 votes were cast for America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
The Thoroughbred Makeover is a $100,000 competition in which hundreds of trainers acquire a recently retired racehorse and prepare it over a period not to exceed ten months for competition in one or two of ten riding sports. Formats for the competition are designed to test the quality and progress of each horse’s training.
The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park October 4-7, 2018. It includes seminars, sponsor fair, horse sale, and the Thoroughbred Makeover itself.
The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to facilitating placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers.
The RRP created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds, and to inspire trainers to secure the futures of these animals through training. In addition to benefiting the horses, the makeover is intended to help trainers establish themselves professionally or as amateurs in their respective disciplines. Without good trainers, Thoroughbred racehorses cannot become great riding horses.
The Makeover also serves as the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing. The event will evolve over time to meet the needs of these groups.
About the Makeover Horse Sale
Horse shoppers! Instead of spending multiple weekends driving hours away from home to see one horse (or maybe two or three if you’re lucky) at a time, plan a trip to Kentucky for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Dozens of off-track Thoroughbreds, many with professional trainers, that have all been restarted in various disciplines. You can see, try, and buy, all on-site and all in one weekend!
At the 2017 competition, approximately one-third of the 300 horses competing were for sale. Twenty-two of those were confirmed as sold within a month of the competition, with prices ranging from $3,000 to $21,000. To date, the average sale price of 2017 Makeover horses is $9,100.
“This is a great place to shop for young horses with upper-level potential,” said eventing professional Bill Hoos at the 2017 Makeover. “Usually you have to travel to California to look at one horse, Canada to see another. Here you see so many in one spot. This is a great horse shopping opportunity. It makes things much simpler and easier."
The Makeover horse sale is not an auction — all sales are private contracts between the buyer and seller. RRP is not involved in the sale and does not receive any commission.
Sale horses are designated with special green bridle numbers, and they also provide a sale catalog with photos, pedigrees, and descriptions, as well as the seller’s contact information and the horse’s stall number and ride times. You can arrange to see horses before the competition begins, and watch them warm up and compete.
Buyers can arrange for trial rides (usually after the competition is over), and veterinarians from the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute are on-call to perform pre-purchase exams during the Makeover.
Competing trainers who decide to participate will enter their mounts in the sale approximately six weeks before the event. Sale horses will be listed on the website and promoted on RRP’s social media. Some horses may sell even before the event takes place.
Finding life and purpose after a racing career for horses can be challenging, but there are many organizations now that are making a change and contributing to the success of these horses finding a new life after the track. This blog will cover some facts of what happens to retired thoroughbreds and also resources if you are interested in adopting one of these amazing athletes and giving them a new purpose in life.
The Jockey Club, the national registry of thoroughbreds headquartered in Lexington, Ky., reports that approximately 35,000 thoroughbreds are foaled in North America each year, 68 percent of which are destined for a career on the racetrack. Of those horses, nearly 70 percent will win at least one race, but only 5 percent will win a bigger-pursed stakes race, and only two-tenths of a percent will win a Grade I stakes race, which awards the biggest purse and creates the biggest superstars.
Thousands of racehorses retire every year and suddenly find themselves displaced with nowhere to go. Most people assume that a racehorse will retire to a life of being a stud or broodmare and will enjoy the pastured life while they sire the next generation of winners, but this is not always the case.
For every horse winning millions in front of sold-out crowds, there are unheralded thoroughbreds that also race their hearts out each day, but for small purses on cheaper tracks to nearly empty stands. Eventually, lackluster performance or an injury ends these horses' careers. At least 3,000 such racehorses are retired each year, usually by age 6 if not younger, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation estimates. Given that most horses live well into their 20s, the question of what to do with them for the next 15 or more years looms. Unfortunately and frequently, the answer is one most horse lovers would rather not think about: Approximately two out of every three thoroughbreds that come off the track, even those that are sound and healthy, are euthanized, abandoned on public land or in empty fields, or slaughtered and their meat is exported to Europe and Japan for human consumption.
The closure of horse slaughterhouses in the United States in 2007, after Congress barred the Department of Agriculture from using funds to conduct horse slaughter inspections, did not diminish the phenomenon much. The USDA estimates that more than 90,000 horses were exported to Canada and Mexico last year for slaughter. The Livestock Marketing Association, which advocates the resumption of horse slaughter in this country, puts the number at more than 120,000. By contrast, in 2006, horse slaughter in the United States and the export of horses for slaughter tallied about 150,000, according to the USDA.
Efforts to stop horse slaughter have gained momentum in recent years as public awareness has grown. Last year in the House and Senate, bills were introduced that would prohibit trafficking in horses for human consumption of their meat. In December, the New York Racing Association announced that it would ban any trainer or breeder who sells a horse to slaughter. Other mid-Atlantic racetracks also have no-slaughter policies on the books, including Pimlico and Laurel Park in Maryland, Colonial Downs in Virginia and Charles Town and Mountaineer Park in West Virginia.
The successful racing career of a colt or stallion who has won some notable races will most likely be shorter, where owners prefer to put him to stud before they must geld him or he suffers injury. A horse of this caliber must race and win only a few races to confirm his talents before he is put to stud.
Most often a colt must be gelded at around 3 or 4 years of age (depending on maturity) in order to continue his racing career. Unless a colt is particularly successful and/or comes from a very popular or respected bloodline, chances are that horse will be gelded to continue racing as he would not be a popular or high earning stallion anyway.
Most successful geldings can race until 7 or 8 years old, sometimes even older.
Mares can continue racing till that age too. However, mares can be much moodier than geldings and some become broody and lose interest in racing before they reach 5 or 6. Other mares and geldings will let you know soon enough if they don't want to race anymore, and it happens. They refuse to jump out of the starting stalls or amble along at the back of the field as though they are sightseeing. This is a sure sign that the horse just doesn't enjoy the racing experience anymore. Some horses really enjoy their race day outings so if they are successful on the track, it is an easy decision to let them continue racing.
There are many organizations that rescue and re-purpose these racehorses and give them a new opportunity to enjoy the rest of their lives. These are just a few listed below.