By Dr. Melody Campbell January 30, 2021
Brrrrrr! It is cold outside right now but we have the horses well protected! They are all outside during the day, eating of course. Horses are designed to eat small amounts of grass or hay all day long. This is called ‘trickle feeding’. Bobby, our smallest boy, has a stall in the barn where he stays all night. Doc, NuBuck, Stormy, and Frank are outside all night.
Did you know that our horses have clothes? When they are outside all the time without clothes on, some horses can grow a very thick coat of hair that helps protect them in the winter months. Some horse breeds don’t grow very thick coats. The Thoroughbred and the Arabian (Bobby) come to mind. In order to protect horses in the cold, and even rain, there are a variety of blankets (called “rugs” in Britain) and sheets that can be layered one on top of another depending on the weather. It can be a challenge to figure out which blankets and sheets to put on a horse each day as the weather can be so changeable!
Just like a pair of tights, the strength of a horse blanket can be determined by its ‘denier’. This term applies to the outer shell of a blanket that is worn outside in the open air. It is a measure of the thickness of the individual thread used in the yarn weave. The higher the denier number the stronger and thicker the blanket. Some horses can be ‘blanket wreckers’ or a ‘rug Houdini’ in that they don’t tolerate having a blanket on and so they are very skillful at damaging or removing their blankets. At PARD we have a different problem, with Doc destroying any blanket that Stormy is wearing. He pulls the blanket off and shreds it!! As you can imagine, horse blankets can be fairly expensive, particularly when you have someone like Doc in the herd. We have not figured out why he does this, and he isn’t talking.
Lighter weight blankets or sheets can be used in the stable. Rain sheets often serve as the outer layer of blankets when there is wet weather. This keeps the blankets underneath dry and warm. That means that each horse needs to have blankets or sheets for every type of weather, and for wet weather there is a need for more than one of each type of blanket or sheet. When blankets get soaked through, they need to be hung for a period of time to dry. This can be challenging when there is cold, wet weather as the blankets or sheets do not dry quickly in a barn or arena environment.
There are Coolers which are lightweight and made of fabrics that wick away any sweat that has developed during heavy workouts. Horses can be protected from the bugs with lightweight Fly Sheets. Lightweight sheets are also used to protect horses from the sun. Grey and white horses are particularly prone to skin damage when exposed to too much sun. This includes Bobby who looks white but is actually a grey horse. Quarter, Half or Exercise Sheets are used to keep the hindquarters of a working horse warm. They can be under the saddle at the front, or around the rider to provide some protection for them as well. Horses which are ridden in indoor arenas in the winter can be clipped to allow them to cool off more quickly after heavy workouts. Then, if they are going outside into cold or wet weather, they need suitable clothes to protect them from the elements, including Neck Blankets!
Just like in the human fashion world, there are a multitude of styles, colours, designs and bling available to adorn a horse. The PARD boys are in a country setting with weather that can range from very hot to very cold as the seasons change. Their attire is on the practical side, as they have an image to uphold! Handsome, smart, gentle, strong and patient are just a few of the requirements needed for the job they do at PARD. In their more lighthearted moments they do, however, enjoy dressing up for events like costume classes at horse shows, Santa Claus Parades, and Halloween!
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