Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Winter is here, and the pasture is hellish

If you click on this image you can see both my little rascals wearing winter pasture finery: Montana in his burgundy lightweight blanket is off to the right and far away, Johnnie in the foreground is wearing his 'waterproof windproof breathable' sheet.

I'm always puzzled how any fabric can keep water and wind out, but let horse body heat and perspiration escape. However I won't have long to puzzle over this because John destroys horse-clothing as fast as he can. My personal best with him is 25 minutes for a fly-sheet.

Yes, at Time T I placed the $39.95 fly-sheet on his body, and walked away feeling proud of myself. I'm such a good horse owner! No flies on him, and no chemicals either! la la. At Time T+25 I drove down the road leaving the barn, only to spot John standing with rags, tatters, and straps hanging all about his head and neck, and when I unburied it, his face had a satisfied expression. Been there, shredded that.

So the clock is ticking on this windproof etc. but I had to do something because winter arrived with no advance warning. No gradual chilling of the nights, just two weeks of warm rain followed by 3 nights of a sudden hard freeze producing pastures that look like this:

The horses hate to walk on these frozen mud-lumps and little ice rinks, and so do I. When I took this picture:

John was just hanging at the fence trying to procrastinate on the ouchy walk to the haybale. So now we are all praying for snow, so much better for the horse feets to step upon than frozen mud! Tis the season.

And last night I spent a happy 15 minutes at the barn talking with other confuzzled horse owners about 'to blanket tonight or not to blanket???' It's not going to be windy, it is going to be cold, it's supposed to warm up to 40 tomorrow, but....and there's no right answer. Horse life = There Is No Right Answer!!


Grey Horse Matters said...

They both look awfully cute in their blankets. That question of to blanket or not it always confusing and there is no right answer. Hope he doesn't shred this blanket on you, it's really nice. I don't think anyone likes to walk in the frozen craters, horses or humans. Keep warm.

jesterjigger said...

Ooooh, I love that plaid blanket. Sophie would look great in it! I obsess over the winter temps once I start blanketing, trying to figure out what weight of blanket my horse needs and when I should put it on, I'm like an addict!

lytha said...

i was about to say, what a minute flying lily, our winter paddock is so much worse - there is *nowhere* to step without sinking in up to your ankels in watery mud slop that actually splashes up your legs..the horses' feet are black up over their fetlocks.

but then you mentioned the ground is frozen solid. OK that's bad.

no matter how reluctantly your horse moves around his frozen muddy paddock, he is grateful to not be locked up in a stall breathing ammonia fumes and shifting his weight from leg to leg in stationary discomfort.

pretty blanket! hope it works well this winter!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate here. No offense is intended to anyone who does choose to blanket and it works for them, because as you say there is no right answer, only what works the best for you.

We never blanket a healthy horse that has a full winter coat, provided that horse has access to a shelter or windbreak and plenty of feed. Eating creates warmth, so sometimes blanketing a horse that has access to plenty of feed can make them too warm. Even if it is going to be 40 degrees the next day, they will feel chilled when you pull the blanket Blankets make the hair lay down and that reduces it's effectiveness as insulation, increasing the chance of them being chilled when you do pull the blanket.

Now that is just my experience and that being said, I have seriously thought about blanketing my old mare this winter. She just doesn't have enough weight on her to help her repel the cold and she can't seem to eat enough to feel content. Thin and sick horses can benefit from blanketed because they burn less calories trying to stay warm.

Most of our horses live in the pasture and handle sub-zero weather just fine, since they can graze at will. The one thing we are adamant about is water. Plenty of water is really essential for horses in the cold. They will stop eating as much if they don't have access to water and that is when they can start to feel the effects of cold weather; get sick, lose weight, etc.

And boy do I feel for your boys-frozen, lumpy ground is the pits.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

And good lord-please forgive the poor grammar and punctuation on that comment. Sheez-obviously I'm not literate yet this morning...more caffeine and nicotine required-LOL.

Flying Lily said...

GreyHorse: Thanks and yes, stepping around in that frozen tundra hurts my feet too, and I can also get tripped up easily.

Jester: The blanket thing is a constant source of angst for everyone at our barn. The trainer will come after us both for not blanketing, and for leaving blankets on when it's too warm, sometimes on the same day!; can't win.

Lytha: You are absolutely right about even stumbling around in the pasture versus standing in urine-stinky stall, at least for these 2 horses. the 24 hour turnout is clearly their preference. The herd moves around slowly all night, so constant gentle activity broken up by naps.

BrownEyed: I agree with your anti-blanket view in principle. I worry about the mashed hair coat under neath. Montana just grows nothing of a winter coat, ever. And he shivers so hard his whole muscle systems are jumping - when it is damp and cold and windy. They do have access to shelter in the run-in but they also exclude each other from it for recreational bullying and sometimes he ends up outside. Johnny is a fuzzy bunny but even he gets shivery when the wind and wet and cold come together in a perfect storm of awful weather. His blanket is off now. All this gives me something to worry about in the dark of night.

c2b said...

I have never rugged before this year. A british native with a very thick double winter coat she hasn't needed rugging. Now Zo has been clipped for the first time I have now joined the obsessive "is she warm enough?" brigade. Ah well just one more thing to add to my worry list.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I was rather hoping not to come off anti-blanket. I think if people have a reason to blanket-they should. If people are wondering if they really should or not...they are often better off not doing it. As you know, keeping up with the on and off is a pain in the butt.:)