Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, December 5, 2010

At the barn #25 - More blanketing issues / How about using some common sense...

I noticed about ten days ago that the boarders were starting to blanket Cowboy overnight. At that time, the temperatures were lows in the mid to upper forties at night. If that. Some days they were pretty late showing up in the mornings, so it was way too warm for a blanket by the time it was removed.

I watched without saying anything for a week. VERY HARD FOR ME TO DO. My horse / barn management knowledge, at least the valuable parts of it, came from a woman whose two horses I exercised regularly, and cared for during her frequent travels. Her standards of care were super high. She had fifty years of experience with horses. I was her barn backup for a number of years and the experience was invaluable. Unfortunately all good things come to an end. (It's a very sad, but interesting story - I'm working on it for a future post... How to survive a "barn breakup")

So I held my tongue for a week. The blanket didn't fit well, was much too heavy for the temps, and the waterproofing in doubt. A few days ago the topic came up. I took jumped at the opportunity to have a blanket chat. Here is a sampling of the conversation:

"Does Cowboy have a rain sheet? [No]
The great thing about a rain sheet is he'll stay dry without overheating. [Blank stare]
Getting cold and wet is mostly what we need to worry about around here. [His blanket is waterproof]
You can always layer a rain sheet over another blanket if it actually gets cold enough..."[Another blank stare]

As per usual, sharing helpful information elicited defensiveness. They said that (weird quilty) blanket is waterproof!!!! I asked how old is it? Has it been washed much? If that blanket is still waterproof I'll eat my hat I was thinking...

Right on cue, last night it rained / snowed and was actually cold. When I arrived at the barn this morning Cowboy's owner was removing his blanket. She hung it on the hitching post as they were leaving. Just before I took off, I felt the inside. Couldn't help myself. It was absolutely soaked. That poor horse had worn that cold, wet, heavy blanket all night long.

This afternoon we were at the barn together again. I mentioned the wet blanket. "Oh yeah - we know. We ordered another blanket. We're going to shut him in the run in until it comes. That way he'll stay warm and dry."

I nixed the "shutting Cowboy in" idea, as the run in is about 9 x 9... too small for a sixteen plus hand horse to lay down in safely... not to mention that their plan for locking him in was hanging a 2 x 4 across the opening. Not to mention that was a ridiculous idea...

Don't get me wrong - my boarders are really nice people... really nice people who have never taken care of their own horse until the last 8 months, as my boarders. I have refined my technique of "sharing" horse care info (which frankly is getting tiresome). I have led by example, mostly to no avail.
I have watched Cowboy go without water, be under and over fed, be very difficult with vet and farrier, get run off his feet with almost no warm-up...

Because I care about Cowboy I will continue to try to help improve his conditions as necessary. I will pick my battles. I will also try to perfect my delivery of advice. Casual hinting? And I guess I will have to just chalk the experience up to character building aka sucking it up.

Edited to add: I hope this post doesn't sound too snarky. My tolerance for foolishness goes way down when I'm hormonally challenged:)


  1. It's hard for people to understand that horses have a different thermostat than we do. Personally, I love layering a cotton or fleece sheet with a waterproof rain sheet. I have total control over warmth - which varies from the mid 20s to the 40s here - and BONUS, the underwear is washable. Good luck with the boarders. ...but I'm not holding my breath. It seems like those who know a lot, keep quiet and the ones who don't are experts. sigh.

  2. Not snarky at all. It's so hard to try and educate people tactfully who aren't willing to learn. We had this same problem when we had boarders. I can't give you any advice because I'm not sure it would help but I'll try. Between the two of us my daughter was the more tactful . Some people just don't get it and if you say something they get defensive. They think they are doing the best for their horses even if you know differently. We always tried to show by example too or would say things like: "this has always seemed to work out really well for our horses" or something like that.

    About the blanketing we used to post a temperature, weather condition chart (easily seen) with suggestions for how to blanket in different conditions. You could try that. Also, how about posting articles about how important warm-up and turnout is to a horse. You could make a sort of collage in frames on one wall of the barn. Sort of a 'you don't have to say anything to get your message across tactful thought'. You could do a barn rules one too so they don't think the blanketing,warm-up etc is directed at them. Or a bulletin board as a special new feature for New Year's.

    Good luck, keep your cool.

  3. Wow, Grey Horse Matters has such great ideas. For Cowboy's sake I hope you don't give up. Poor thing.
    When I came back to horse ownership and care a few years ago I really appreciated advice (still do), so maybe the friendly but direct advice route would work too?

  4. It's hard when people just don't know, and when they find out they know, they get defensive. A lot of people get confused by blankets/sheets and when/how to blanket or not, and the distinction between a (not waterproof or even resistant) stable blanket and a turnout blanket. And then sometimes people are just plain cheap, to their horse's detriment. That's one of the hardest things in a boarding environment, particularly if the barn owner/manager doesn't step up and provide leadership.

    Does someone have a used sheet and turnout that would work for him, and fit him, that they could offer to sell to his owner?

  5. Annette-

    I'm going the fleece under the rain sheet route myself. Good point about the washability factor :)

  6. Arlene-

    Those are great suggestions - thank you!

  7. Carol-

    I'm with you. Everything I "know" was passed along to me from more experienced horsewomen. I always appreciate getting the benefit of other peoples' experience :)

  8. Kate-

    I have found blanketing confusing as well, but am comfortable with my plan for this year. Less blankets (unless it's raining) and more hay.

    I think there is a well meaning tendency to over-do with blankets...

  9. That's got to be tough, a constant tension if they are not caring for the horse consistently and with good sense. They could at least read/try to learn. Character matters. No need to apologize for being justifiably upset.


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