Sunday, March 22, 2009

Unpredictable Weather

One of the challenges that comes with horse management is anticipating what the weather will be like the majority of the day, so that you can choose the best location to put your horse. My horses get bored and antsy if I make them stand in their stalls all day, so any time that I can let them out to exercise, I do. They are also funny about drinking water in their stalls. They will go all night without touching the clean water in their stalls, and as soon as I put them outside, they slurp up gallons of water from the outdoor trough. That's another reason why I prefer to have them outside. In the summer months I leave them out 24/7 to save on the cost of shavings in stalls.

However, in the colder months I have to decide whether to put them in their stalls with or without their blankets, or put them outside with or without their blankets. It was supposed to snow today, but it looks like we got most of our snow last night. The sun is shining, and when the wind settles down, it's quite warm. However, when the wind blows, it's chilly and miserable. I felt that my choices were to either leave them in their stalls with their blankets off, or put them outside in separate pens with their blankets on. Putting them in separate pens meant cleaning out and filling up two water troughs that had been neglected for quite some time. I did the extra work to make sure that they could get their exercise and drink clean water.

My family and I were going to an 11:30 AM movie. Normally, the horses get their breakfast between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM, and their lunch around 1:00 PM, however I overslept and didn't feed them until 8:45 AM. We didn't expect to get back from the movie until 2:30 PM or 3:00 PM, so I had to choose between feeding them at 10:45 AM before we left for the movie, or at 3:00 PM after we returned. I always worry about feeding two meals too close together, because they could colic from wolfing down too much too fast. I took a chance and fed them the early lunch after the late breakfast and hoped everything would work out alright.

Upon returning home from the movie, we drove into the driveway and saw Gabbrielle lying on the ground. I ran to her and she perked up, but continued to lie there. I straddled her back in hopes that she would give me a clue as to whether she was sick or just keeping warm. She turned her head around and sniffed each of my knees. I laid across her, hugging her neck and letting my feet hang off her rear. She was very warm and fuzzy. She just continued to lie there while I crawled all over her like a monkey. When she was little, she used to lie down a lot, but since she became an adult, she's been sleeping standing up.

I got off her and tried rocking her to encourage her to stand up, but she just looked at me like she thought it was fun. I sighed, resigning myself to having to get her halter. Just then she decided to stand up. She didn't shake, but then again she hadn't been rolling to take a dirt bath. She had just been relaxing on the ground with her legs folded beneath her. I placed my ear against her tummy to listen for gut sounds, and I did hear some. She just looked at me as if to say, "What's the fuss all about?"

I think she probably just got a full tummy and wanted to stay low to keep out of the wind, but wasn't sick. I removed her blanket because she felt on the warm side, though not sweating. Of course, as soon as I did that, a big Arctic wind came up that felt like it was stabbing icicles in my ears, so I put her blanket back on. It's been a battle between the sun and the wind all day. Too bad horses can't put on and take off their own jackets like we do.

With that thought, I'd like to remind people who do blanket their horses to watch the weather forecasts and remove those blankets in the morning before you leave to work if it looks like it's going to be over 50-degrees most of the day. I see a lot of horse owners leave blankets on horses because it is cold in the morning, and then while they are away at work it warms up to be 70-degrees outside, and these poor horses are out there suffering in these heavy-weight turnouts without any shade all day. You can see that they are sweating and feeling ill, because they drop their heads low and won't move from the same spot. It's easier for a horse to find a warm spot of sun in those colder hours without the blanket, then it is for him to keep cool in rising temperatures with a blanket on.


Katharine Swan said...

I thought it was just Panama that was picky about his water! At our old barn he'd never drink the water in his plastic bucket in his stall -- instead, to drink overnight he would stick his head through the fence and drink out of the trough right outside his run! I think he likes the water better out of a metal trough than a plastic bucket -- could that be your horses' preference too? Or do you think they are making sure they don't have to pee too much in their stalls and get them messy?

Kate said...

Sounds like you're careful about your blanketing. Our horses (13) go out every day, and I do the blanketing in the morning if need be. Our pastures have no shelter, which makes it harder. And some of our seniors and a couple of the TBs get cold more easily, and they have different coats, and . . . - you get the idea - complicated sometimes! Your point about horses getting overheated is a good one.

Vaquerogirl said...

I am also doing the light blanket, heavy blanket, light blanket heavy blanket waltz! Sheesh!

Cheryl Ann said...

It was cold and windy here Sunday and our local mountains got a dusting of snow! It was too cold for us to do anything with the horses, darn!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - I have been wondering about the water trough preferences. They have pretty much the same type of troughs indoors and out. I'm thinking it may be that the birds that roost in their barn poop in the water, though I don't see anything. It may be just enough to leave a scent that the horses pick up on.

Kate - I have a hard enough time managing 3 horses, and you've got 13?

Vaquerogirl - Oh yeah, I've never altered blanket types. I usually just get a mid-weight blanket and keep it on or off, but I'm sure you've got some good upper body strength going switching all those blankets in and out.

Cheryl Ann - Curses to Mother Nature! (Although she's welcome to bring moisture during the work week to keep our water resources out of draught conditions. Our horses need that hay, which can't be grown without water.)

Jenn said...

I am so glad I decided two years ago to do away with the blanket juggling. They get blankets only if it's well below freezing AND raining/sleeting. Otherwise, they get to rely on their own hair and fat. And they all have plenty of both!

I used to do the blanket juggle and my poor horses would end up standing at home overheated because I work an hour away from home and our weather can be super wacky...below freezing in the morning and by afternoon, 50 degrees out. You have such an advantage being at home most days!

OnceUponAnEquine said...

I'm lucky with my 2 drafties. They handle the cold really well and I don't need to blanket. I watch the temps closely and toss them some extra hay as it drops 10 or more degrees below freezing. And they have good shelter.

I hear you about the poor sweating horses. When I did blanket a couple years ago at a boarding stable, my biggest concern was getting the blanket off so Misty wouldn't sweat. I used to leave work at lunch time to check on her. Misty would start sweating long before the BO's horses and they weren't good about removing the blankets.

Horses make us very aware of the hourly weather changes. Glad Gabrielle was ok.

Horseypants said...

Glad Gabbrielle is ok. This past winter was the first time I tried not blanketing. It was great to not have to worry about, as you said--too hot? too cold? now vs. later? On the other hand, I had to worry about working my horse carefully so he didn't get sweaty in the winter cold. But overall, I liked not blanketing ALOT.

Laura said...

Glad Gabrielle is ok!! The whole blanket switcheroo thing is a pain - but it is what we do for these ponies we love!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I only blanket my mare when we have cold wet rain or wet snow. She gets so fuzzy and has such thick hair in the winter I know she'd be too uncomfie with a blanket otherwise.

When she's outside in her paddock she has many opportunities to regulate her temperature to be comfortable: large juniper trees to block the wind and tall pinon trees to give her shade and protect her from most of the rain and snow, and open spaces to laze out in the sunshine.

It's funny that your horses don't like to drink out of their stall bucket either. Baby Doll prefers the water bucket in her paddock over the one in the barn and they're both plastic. One is blue and the other black. Maybe her choise is color related? lol!


Horseypants said...

That fuzzy, poofy, perky forelock is just precious!! What a cutie.