Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Blanket Dilemma

This cold snap took me by surprise.  I was not at all prepared to be chilled to the bone.  I remember that last winter I spent in the Eastern Sierra brought out my ugly side, as I struggled to search for a coat warm enough to help me be comfortable.  I finally found that coat, only to move to Arizona a couple of months later.  But with this latest storm, even that warm coat left me shivering each time I went down to the barn.  I suspect that I've become acclimated to extreme heat, so getting down to the 30s at night and the 50s during the day feels like murder to me.

I knew that if I was suffering that bad, it was time to break out the horse blankets.  Easier said than done.  They were covered in spider eggs.  I had to put on gloves, shake them out, hang them up, beat and sweep them with a stiff broom.  Of course, I was doing all of this in a rain storm, and I broke my thumbnail in a very painful place, so now my thumb is wrapped in a bandage.

Between the broken nail, the wind blowing my hair into my eyes and mouth, and the leg straps continually springing up and wrapping themselves around the broom handle to hold it in a death grip, I was doing a lot of cursing.  Oh yeah, and two D-rings broke right off of Lostine's blanket.  The fabric had just rotted in these wild, extreme temperatures.

So, Lostine's blanket was down to one leg strap, while Bombay's was fairly new and intact.  There was a third blanket that belonged to Bombay that would fit Rock better than Gabbrielle, but it was getting dark outside and I had no idea if Rock had ever worn a blanket before.  I didn't want to mess around with possibly introducing him to a new concept in the dark, so I put it on Gabbrielle, and it was hanging off her.  One of the belly straps was missing.  I didn't have a fourth blanket, so Rock had to make due with his own fur.

In the morning, I held Gabbrielle's blanket up to Rock and he startled and ran away.  I guess neither of his previous owners blanketed him.  So, I hung the blanket over a railing, and all he needed was 30 seconds of playing with it to be perfectly happy holding still while I tried it on him.  Yes, it fit him much better than Gabbrielle.

Tonight I have been shopping online for a new mid-weight 1200 denier turnout for Gabbrielle, but I don't like most of the prices.  If I knock it down to 600 denier, the prices are better.  But the prices are best if I settle for a sheet instead of a blanket.  It's tough spending close to $100 on a horse blanket when I've already spent so much on Christmas gifts.  The prices are better in the summer, but I won't remember to buy one in the summer because the last thing I will be thinking about in 115 degree heat is buying blankets.

Then there's the concern that I may sell one or two horses before next winter.  The blanket won't arrive in time to help Gabbrielle during this drop in temperatures, and I don't know what January and February have in store for us.  The horses may not need to wear blankets until next December, or this could end up being a very cold winter.  It's all a gamble.

What are your experiences with horse blankets?  Is there a big difference in quality between the 600 and 1200 denier?  Do the sheets keep a horse warm enough in below freezing temps if there is no snow?  Any recommendations?


Crystal said...

I have horses I never blanket all winter, as long as they can get away from the wind and move around I don't worry about it. I only blanket those I ride and honestly its a pain! But the couple I been blanketing are real good with blankets I don't have to worry about too much denier cause they are gentle with the, I sold Jessie's 3 year old blanket last fall with no tears in it, which is nice. I use a midweight cause I feel cold, not sure if a sheet would work, if its just cold and rainy probly be enough to keep them dry would help a lot.
But I am no expert, just speaking from my experience.

fernvalley01 said...

I am stuck on the freezing temps in AZ!!! that is just weird! I suppose the horses haven't grown any kind of winter coat either? I dont blanket here, but mine get good and wooly and a blanket can be a detriment as it keeps the loft of the coat down flat and counteracts their own insulation. That said we are miles apart in our mean temp so I have no idea what works there. is it wet too? or just cold I would think if they can stay dry and out of the wind they might be fine or just need a sheet

Mrs Shoes said...

I can absolutely believe you are freezing!!

Grey Horse Matters said...

We don't blanket anymore. We used to but that's when they were showing and were clipped. It's a pain to do a herd with blankets on and off every day and they prefer to be naked anyway. Their coats keep them warm and they have run in sheds for wind, rain or snow. I'm sure here in the northeast we get more extreme cold and snow tha your horses do and ours are just fine.

As for blankets to buy, maybe look into the Baker blankets. I think they're a good all round blanket. We used them and liked them. Stay warm.

Linda said...

This is the first year I haven't blanketed any of them and they're all doing fine so far. It has been a mild winter for us. But I think, as long as they have a little shelter, they do pretty well without.

appydoesdressage said...

I usually only blanket when someone starts shivering, except App now gets blanketed anytime it is 20 or under bc I don't want him using calories to stay warm. I am now also blanketing when it is below zero and the horses seem to appreciate it.

The denier matters only if the horses are rough with the blankets, I absolutely cannot use anything under 1200 if App is around because the 800D and less blankets tear too easy. With Rock and Bombay, I would recommend staying at 1200 and above because they will play with the blankets and will end up tearing a 600D-800D one very quickly. They may tear 1200D too, it will just take longer.

How I use them is like this. Sheets have no insulation so it is like a big windbreaker. They will block the wind and rain, but have no insulation so they are basically insulating from the elements, not temperature. Blankets insulate from temperature bc they have insulation. If no one shivers, a lightweight or midweight is sufficient. If someone shivers, then I would recommend trying a heavyweight. Until the App has gotten to his now advanced age, I never had to use anything heavier than a midweight.

I buy most of my blankets from groups.
That is the one I use most often, there are lots of blankets for sale at good prices.
www.tackoftheday.com is another that is really good to watch.

Brands are fairly equal anymore, however Rhino/Rambo/Amigo/Weatherbeeta are at the top of my list. I have Amigo/Weatherbeeta/Schneiders blankets right now, I had a McAllister that never fit right and a Tough1 that wouldn't stay waterproof and constantly ripped. I have some Schneiders that I have no complaints with but love the Amigos. My one Weatherbeeta sheet I bought in 2001 and I still use it, it is still waterproof despite yearly washing and doesn't have rips. All of my Amigos were bought used and have held up exceptionally well, this is the 2nd year for them.

Hope this LONG write up helps :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks, everyone. All good information. It is frosty and muddy. The horses did grow their own winter coats. I just worry because they spend so much time lying down curled up when it is cold, so it is affecting their behavior. I also worry about them expending calories to keep warm, because it has been such a struggle to keep weight on them with crappy AZ hay. I'm spending a fortune on supplements.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Shoot me a text with your mares size. I may have something left that would fit. Even if it's just a sheet (which is all mine are wearing at the moment) that keeps them dry and the wind off them. Otherwise feed a little more to help them stay warm from the inside.

GunDiva said...

I don't do blankets, mostly because I'm a lazy owner.

However, yesterday, I had a moment of "dang, I could use one" when I saw Skeeter shivering. It's been far too warm here and so when the temp suddenly dropped to below freezing with blowing snow, she got a little cold. A bucket of warm mash and a good roughing up of her coat warmed her right up.

Now that winter's here to stay, I think she'll be just fine. Being the only horse at home is a factor as well - she doesn't have anyone to buddy up with right now. Once Copper comes home in January I'll be less worried.

achieve1dream said...

I only blanket if it's below thirty with freezing rain and he's shivering. That happens maybe two or three times a winter lol. In your situation I probably wouldn't buy a new one. Horses cope with the cold a lot better than the heat. If they aren't shivering, they are fine. Keeping them from burning the calories is a different story, especially for Lostine because of her age. If it were me I would probably blanket her when it gets below freezing. Sorry it's so cold! I hope it warmed up quickly.

achieve1dream said...

I forgot to mention (I was running late for work when I left that other comment) that I never used to blanket Chrome, but when he shivers he gets very excitable and anxious and spooky. I had never seen him like that before and that is what prompted me to start blanketing him. That was very unusual behavior for him! I think since your guys are laying down that they probably aren't too cold. Usually being too cold makes them really active in an attempt to warm up. They are probably just napping during the warmest parts of the day instead of at night. :)