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?