Monday, February 24, 2014

"Another Reason I'm Anti-Horse-Blanket"



Howdy Folks,
 
I really wasn't going to blog about the incident which took place yesterday. But this morning, while having coffee with Kessy, it was 35  degrees, and knowing as I sipped my Folgers and listened to her contented hay chomping it was going to reach 60 again today, I got really angry all over again. Yea, ol' Dutch gets downright ornery sometimes … and being a horse advocate first, I always take the horse's side, in any argument, discussion or situation. Just my way.
Kessy & me
You need some background first; I drive a hundred miles one way for Kessy's hay. She being Insulin Resistant, we of course need low sugar hay. Buying and testing after it is home has proven not to work, neither has testing before buying as by the time the test comes in, the hay can be all sold. So last year I learned of a great outfit up in Culpepper, VA who tests everything they bale, and give the results, and you know what you're getting from the get-go. It's a second generation outfit, and they REALLY take care of their customers. They farm over a thousand acres.

So every 3 or 4 months I fire up our geriatric Tahoe, hook up my relic of a 2 horse trailer, and take a delightful drive through some of the most beautiful horse country in our state. Usually Ravishin' Robbie goes along and we work in a fun lunch at a quaint eatery or do a little touristing along the way – But she was away and I had to go alone. Had she been with me, I doubt the incident would have happened.

Bright blue skies and a gorgeous sun saw me off, even if was only in the 30's. I sang along to George Strait, Willie Nelson, and ABBA. From the start, roadside bird watching was great, and I was in high spirits. I truly enjoy this drive.

Of course every pasture with horses, or cows, for that matter dragged my eyes off the road as I admired them. Most of the time I stay on the road. Ravishin' Robbie declares I'm a terrible driver. I'm not really, I just get distracted by beauty.

I couldn't help but notice how many horses had blankets on this fine sunny morning. Halfway to Culpepper it was already in the mid-forties … Sad, I thought. By now I was in the really neat horse country and just about every mile boasted a pretty pasture with horses enjoying the day. Many of them wrapped in blankets. Just as a side note, does anyone ever wonder why cows can be in the same field and not need blankets?

As I drove and saw horse after horse out in the sun dealing with the foolishness of being overdressed, my mood began to deteriorate. I felt so bad for the poor horses. Even ABBA failed to lift my spirits …

I got to my destination and we had a delightful visit as we always do, and loaded 55 bales in the trailer and 8 in the ol' Tahoe … I like to pack my rig full! The old girl squats down a bit, but she still has what it takes. And, for home we set out.

It was after noon when I started home, and 60 degrees. Of course I thought of the blanketed horses and told myself surely I'd see none still being so wrongly treated. Of course I knew better. Forgive me for this, but abuse comes in many different forms.

 Not more than fifteen minutes from the hay outfit I saw blanketed horses. My heart sank, my mood soured, again. I couldn't help it.

As I traveled by the pretty farms I found myself searching for blanketed horses, and sadly there were plenty. Not as many as the trip up, but within half an hour of leaving the hay outfit, I'd counted over 20 horses standing in summer-like warmth, blanketed.

I drove by a bank whose sign said, 64 degrees, and within 5 minutes came upon a beautiful big boarding outfit with pretty board fenced pastures, a long lane back to the buildings and lots of horses turned out. As I drove slowly by, I counted 12 with blankets. I think my head almost exploded.

Unable to stop myself, I looked for a place to turn around, and went back. I knew I was out of line, but could not convince myself to mind my own business. Turning around all loaded down was, well interesting. Driving up the lane I counted 21 horses, 13 with blankets on. I noticed several folks riding, all with helmets on and thought, "Yup, you'll take care of yourself, but what of those poor horses out there in the sun cooking under the blankets."

I turned around before I stopped, wanted to be facing the exit in case they shot at me, and I got a lot of strange looks as I stepped out of my squatted down, paint worn Tahoe and rusty trailer. I remember thinking about that line in "We'll Have The Summer," when Sam is thinking how easy it was to spot his old rig among all the fancy deals at the fair. Well that about summed me up there yesterday.

Two young ladies riding by stopped at my signal. I asked, "Why do all the horses have blankets on?" They shrugged and rode away, I'm certain they thought me a cook. Probably they're correct.

I made another inquiry and was directed to women standing not far from my rig. She was the owner or manager or something. She approached me wearing a pleasant smile; I think my smile had stayed in the Tahoe.

We shook hands, and I pointed to the blanketed horses. "Why are all those horses blanketed?" I admit, I jumped right in, but by golly it had been building all day. I did ask gently though. 

She looked at me with a combination of, who are you, I'm busy and it is none of your business.
Finally she told me they were boarders' horses and they want them blanketed.

"It's 65 degrees!" I blurted. "They're probably well over a hundred under those blankets, it's messing up their thermal regulation and it's going down to the thirties again tonight. Don't you think you should yank the blankets off?"

With a look meant to put me in my place she said, "That's up to the owners." And politely invited me to leave.

I wanted discuss this more, but I was just too angry to be certain I wouldn't get out of line, so I left. 

As I drove out the long lane my heart ached for the horses, and I carried with me the sadness of knowing I'd let them down.

A recurring theme in the long life of the horse is, "It's up to the owner." – Why can't it be up to the horse more often?

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

38 comments:

  1. Oh Dutch.....Your Love for the Horses..and their "unheard voices" goes beyond many.....it goes with the sayin..some people..just "love their horses too much" even tho what they should be doing if they love them so much is research and find out what is best for their Horses...instead they just "think" they "know" what is best.... Or you have those that only care about the "show ring" and "how they and their horses 'look' " and they also want the blankets Not having their horses "best interest" in mind at all.... I must agree with you... the whole "blanket your horse" thing is a "pet peave" of mine as well...Protect your horse by letting them be a "horse" .....however there are "certain" very few circumstances that may merit a blanket....I'm not sure if your a "brave" soul....Or a "crazy" soul.....but it is a good hearted soul.. Hopefully...it may make that person think a little deeper and just maybe she went back into her house and did a little research on what is best....and maybe she will share that info with those that choose to "blanket" than not to "blanket" their horses for next year. ;) Tina Mae Weber

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  2. Bravo, Dutch! We HAVE to stand up and speak for those with no voices and no choices .... GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!!

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  3. Good for you! I never blanket mine and her fur just fluffs up or lies down depending on the temperature - doing the job that nature intended, keeping her warm or cool.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The majority of horses do not need blankets. And I have always been bothered by the statement that horse owners make: "I'm cold, so my horse needs a blanket". And seeing horses still wearing blankets after a cold night (cold being subjective, as I consider temps being truly cold enough to evenn remotely warrant a blanket as being in the single digits!), when the temps have already riden above 40 degrees is purely animal abuse...often because the owner is just too lazy to remove the blanket before they go off to work. So the horse suffers all day. I'm with you....it's heartbreaking!

    Lisa Westfall
    New Mexico

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  5. Oh My Goodness, I loved every single word. And can empathize wholly with you here. "As I drove and saw horse after horse out in the sun dealing with the foolishness of being overdressed, my mood began to deteriorate. I felt so bad for the poor horses. Even ABBA failed to lift my spirits …" For sure as I drive around I do the same thing...looking for the horses I know, or just horses in general, and look to see how they are doing (swerved one too many time to the left or the right, depending on which side of the road I'm lookin' at)....I see so many with halters on, blankets on (two are blanketed with those fancy ones that cover all the way up to their ears! Pretty purple ones that match each other - gag), in small paddocks, or no where to be seen (cuz we all know stalls are the best place for a horse when it's cold out)...sorry, I get angry just like you and my sarcasm tends to ooze out. I don't know you, so I have no idea if this will go over well or not, but the first thought that came to mind when I read your blog here was, "Dang, he has balls!" :O) Not sure I would have the guts to do that - although I would want to. Maybe some day we can go for a ride together (I'm much braver with someone else along) and lambast all the farms, boarding facilities, breeding farms, etc. that just plain piss us off. Prolly wouldn't help a single horse, but sure would make me feel better - at least for a moment. Sigh....

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    1. Thanks Harbor Lights! - Yea, I reckon if we traveled around together we might stir up some dust.

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    2. Love your thoughts Harbor Lights!

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  6. I've was a boarder many, many years ago and relied on the stable to manage proper blanketing. I still blanket when it's below freezing with severe wind and/or rain. With that said, they are NEVER blanketed when it's even remotely warm and that stable owner KNOWS darn well she is responsible for the comfort of the horses. The owners are probably hard at work trying to earn the money to pay for their horses' board and can't get out to check whether they are blanketed or not.....

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    1. Yes, you have point ... And it reinforces why I'm generally ant-blanket ... It is darn hard to get it right, and it matters to the horse ...

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    2. actually to blanket like that causes a worse situation with their thermo regulation as the top is warm and the legs are freezing. What they do if you don't trim their tails at the top is it fans out and they turn their hind end to the wind and it keeps them warm. It really is important for their well being, as we worry and love them so, is to leave the blanket off. Mine go in and out of the stall or they crowd together. Running keeps them warm but they stand and their whole system takes care of the cold. just sayin. Dutch I do the same thing will pull off the road if the Lord tells me to and "oh sorry just the messenger". Have done that at shows also if I see abuse and one time with a roping group saw this guy lifting the calf by the tail and I banged on the window "hello what are you doing that is their spine." Road gets narrow. hugs

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    3. Actually even in that cold of weather their backs are warm and their legs are freezing. Haven't you ever done that with a jacket and a skirt no less below freezing and your legs are like ice. So what happens is it really messes with their thermo regulation which is extremely important in that type of weather to the point of sickness. If you don't trim the top of their tails they fan them out and turn their backs to the cold and stay quiet along with being warm. You go Dutch I have stopped many times even at shows if I see abuse and if the Lord puts on my heart to go help or teach an owner another way I will. One time at a roping saw this guy the calf was stuck in the shoot cause he was too fat and lifting it by the tail, I'm like banging on the window "hello that is his spine." Makes me crazy. So the gal blames the boarder for the blanket and needs the money so she goes along with the abuse; then the horse colics and "oh well you wanted the blanket on>" don't start me. Dutch you know who I am you just friended me. hugs and we will keep on. :)

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  7. lol, you're better than me. I probably would have hopped the fence and started taking blankets off. lol, atleast for the ones in the fields (where nobody could see).

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  8. I was taught that the best way to keep your horse warm is to provide more hay. Digestion keeps the horse warm.

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  9. I always find this topic interesting. I grew up in the mountains of California. Nearing 7,000 feet elevation, even in summer, the nights got bitterly cold. Winter chills could easily drop into the single digits, but most nights were in the teens. Other than out newborn foal or illness, we never blanketed them. We only had a run-in shed and the woolly equines never had a problem coping with the cold, even in bad weather. When I moved off the mountain, things changed somewhat. Now our horses were still kept outside, but in small corrals with roof. We covered our horses at night with a lightweight blanket. This eliminates the need to body clip. Even in winter, California can reach temperatures in the 80s, this is way too hot for a horse riding tough terrain. They sweat heavily and cooling them off when arriving home is a big long chore, because that lovely 80 degrees in now in the 30s. When we moved to NY, everybody at the boarding barn is blanketed. (and wear shoes, but thats a different topic). We moved in mid-January so our horse was well blanketed and lived the rest of her winters this way. When I adopted another horse and rescued another, things changed again. Horses are individuals, not all needs are the same. Our senior gelding is a bit of a hard keeper in winter, he grows an okay coat, but he looses weight, so he gets covered. Our large rescued pony, even though she is a fatty, does not grow a coat. I have rescued her shivering body from the cold too many times, them getting them warmed up and praying they dont get sick. We all know these big creatures and extremely fragile. So, pony gets covered too. I prefer to have their blankets pulled when the temps are planned to go above 40 degrees. This trick is to watch the horses and see how which one copes with the temps, the weather, the wind, available shelter . . . . I dont body clip my horses, but the majority of the working horses at my boarding barn are. Like most horses here, they are stalled at night and turned out all day, covered. My boarding barn is very concerned about the horses well being and uncover horses as often as practical. The upside of keeping horses covered, they dont get as dirty.Its easier to maintain their coats when there isnt 4 inches of fur to groom, especially if its been caked down with dry sweat. So bottom line, I prefer to see horses
    in turnout with some covered and some uncovered. It tells me that somebody is monitoring the horses. You didnt mention if the horses covered you saw were body clipped. Thank you for reading this.

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  10. Well, let's see, if you didn't SHAVE your horse, it probably wouldn't need a blanket; if you PROVIDED a shelter for your horse to get out of the wind and rain/sleet/snow/hail, it wouldn't need a blanket; if you TOOK THE TIME to RESEARCH how a horses' body works, it probably wouldn't need a blanket. I probably could go on, but the point has been made. I research EVERYTHING! lol So when I thought a bad winter was going to be upon us, I picked up a blanket for Dakota at the local sale barn. It's been darn cold for quite a few days in a row this winter, with this Polar Vortex and all,, and it's truly amazing,,DAKOTA is still standing!! strong, healthy, and...I guess warm and he never has seen the blanket. Matter of fact, it's still in the back of my truck - I've never taken it out! Horses in the wild endure cold temps - God provided for that when He created them... we need to just learn to leave well enough alone,,, and like Tina said, just let the horse be a...Horse! That's my opinion and two cents worth! LOL

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  11. Horses in the wild walk up to 25 miles daily while grazing to regulate body temp. Stalled horses with no hay throughout the night get cold and shiver. The day we decided to stick horses in stalls with no hay throughout the cold winter nights...is the day we needed blankets.

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    1. Lisa, everything about horses should be for the horse. No horse should be confined to a stall. Stalls are for humane convenience, not horse's well being ... I do see your point.

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  12. Grrrrrrr... My sentiments exactly, Dutch. Sick or old is one thing, but as a general rule NO other horse should be forced to wear anything. Good grief, who takes care of the wild horses in the Pryor Mountains, or high in the Sierra Nevadas, or Siberia? It irks the living daylights out of me that people continue to ignore the needs of their horses. It's not a matter of opinion, folks, it's scientific fact. Let them be horses!

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    1. My little rescue filly Hyla, well not a baby anymore went so fast she will be 2yrs. She is an escape artist, thought back then as a baby and we had late winter really cold here last year I would blanket her. Well cross straps underneath, huge velcro strap in front, came out the next morning and it was on the ground. I said, "well alrighty then," I got the message, no blanket. My thought always goes to should we go up in the mountains and blanket all those wild horses? God loves them too, well no guess they survive. just sayin

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    2. You bet Robynne, Let them be horses! -

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  13. Being a horse boarding facility, I discourage horse owners from blanketing their horses at all. I provide them with copies of the most recent studies and date about the magical abilities of the horse's coat. In other words, I teach them what I have learned from a lifetime with these wonderful animals.
    There is only one horse here that occasionally gets a blanket and she is twenty seven years old and doesn't get a good winter coat. When we have single digit temps and wind, she gets a blanket but we monitor the temps close and take it off as the day warms up.
    Thank you for doing what I do,,,teach. Richard

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  14. I agree that way too many horses are blanketed too often. I pass by a woman's horse farm on my way to see my horse every time and every one of the horses are blanketed in thick winter blankets. I won't lie my horse gets a blanket when the windchill gets to be past -30 Celsius, but when that sun is out they are off! people I believe sometimes are just to o lazy and leave them on, not bothered enough to care.

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  15. Hi Dutch

    This is my first time reading your article and I love it! I too believe that horses don't really need to be blanketed. If I blanket my horse (Mr. Jiggers) it's usually when the temp is down to the teens. Jiggers does well with out a blanket otherwise. When I was a kid, I never blanketed my horses and they survived. I love my horse. They adapt to weather very well.
    I will be reading more of your articles. I like them
    Have a great day!
    Tana Warrington -Deer Island, Oregon

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    1. Welcome to the Coffee Clutch, Tana!!

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  16. Was just thinking after my post what really is a head scratcher... blankets hanging off the side or under them; dragging on the ground is a huge risk... so like what were they trying to do? hmmm, just sayin

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  17. Living in the UK temperatures rarely reach the heady heights experienced in the US, but the use of rugs, particularly the New Zealand/water resistant variety are used extensively. The main reason being the prospect of daily drying and brushing, too labour intensive for the majority of working horse owners. Sadly, a great many owners do not decide on a day to day basis, whether a rug is really necessary. I was brought up with a simple assessment, rain washes away condition and the sun improves condition. Horses don't need rugs to keep warm, they will always grow their own blanket for warmth. Rain however is alien to equine evolution, so their owners are obliged to provide protection when rainfall is persistent and rolling in mud does not provide a temporary protective layer.

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  18. Horses that are insulin resistant can be helped by supplementing them with magnesium chloride. Good levels of magnesium are necessary for horses to be able to metabolise simple carbohydrates. :)

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  19. Horses DON'T NEED BLANKETS! Period. God gave them what they need, just like other outdoor animals. Ugh on the fools who pile on unnecessary coats. :(

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