Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Cold, Hard Rain

The rain started on Monday evening, as the cold front I mentioned yesterday hit our lovely warm mid-70s temperatures.  The temperature dropped steadily all night and never made it past the mid-30s on Tuesday.  The rain continued all of Tuesday and into Tuesday night.

Aside from the general misery associated with cold rain, I had another problem.  I had discovered last week during another rain/sleet/snow fest that Nimo's super fabulous, used-for-only-two-months, and washed-only-once-in-super-expensive-blanket-wash turnout sheet was no longer even remotely water resistant, much less waterproof.  Now, if I was boarding at a different barn, chances are about 100% that my horse would never have seen the light of day during such a seemingly horrific weather event.  Most barn managers would never even think for a half a nanosecond about turning their full care horses out into cold, wet weather.  Luckily, I now board at a place where the horses pretty much go out every day, regardless of the weather, unless there are blizzard or hurricane conditions.  Every field has a very nice run-in shed, so the horses can have shelter if they choose, but the only time I've ever really seen them use it is during the late afternoon heat of summer.

My aforementioned waterproof sheet issue was compounded by the fact that I had converted Nimo's care into a hybrid of full care and field board for the winter and early spring.  He comes in to his stall for maybe 30 minutes for breakfast and dinner and spends the rest of the time outside.  I thought for sure when I'd asked the barn owner for this type of care and she agreed, other boarders would jump on my bandwagon.  I always hear boarders complaining about how much their horses stay in during the winter, how bad it is for them to stand in dirty stalls all night and breathe the ammonia fumes, and how they worry if their horses have enough to eat during the night.  So when I came up with a solution to all of these problems that was supported by the barn owner (I still pay for full care, with a very slight discount because Nimo doesn't need his stall cleaned, which I am very comfortable with because the board at this particular barn is pretty reasonable in the first place), I expected my brilliance to be almost universally adopted.  (I actually have this expectation about a lot of my other thoughts, so my husband has expressed the opinion that I might be a slow learner...)

Sigh...not a single person at the barn has asked for anything similar, so I have to admit that I now wonder how much concern these people really have for their horses.  It's one thing to board at a barn where your options are limited.  I've boarded at those places for nearly 30 years, and the most you can do is mitigate the uneducated care that your horse gets by coming out during "bad" weather days to give your horse some turnout, supplying your own hay to supplement the barn's inadequate ration, and cleaning the stall in the evening before you go home.  I'm not saying all full-care barns provide bad care, but without exception, every barn I've boarded at (and I've boarded at 12 different barns in 3 different states, plus I've looked at tons more) has had issues with providing enough turnout, unlimited hay, and sufficiently clean stalls combined with good barn ventilation to alleviate the respiratory damage that inevitably occurs when the barn doors and windows are shut and there are 15-20 horses pooping and peeing all night on not enough bedding to absorb all the odors.  The barn I'm at now isn't perfect, but I very much appreciate the barn owner's willingness to try a new type of turnout option (she currently offers both full care and field board).

Anyway, my whole long rant was to bring me to the point that I didn't have a good waterproof turnout sheet for my horse who is now on 23 hours of turnout a day.  And while he does have shelter, that isn't where the hay is, so I knew that during this 30-36 hour long rain event, he was going to get wet.  I had to decide whether to bring him back into his stall for the night or leave him out in the rain.  What I ended up doing was putting some hay out in the run-in shed at night, but near the opening, so he could stand in or out, as he chose.  (There were also two round bale feeders out in the field that he could eat from.)  He'd still be blanketless during the day, but I decided to hope that he was smart enough to get out of the weather if he got cold.

I will note that on Monday night, he chose to stand in the rain eating his hay, rather than be under the shelter.  However temperaturs were a little warmer then, so I was interested to see what I'd find when I went out to the barn last night.  I knew the barn staff would likely have called if he was shivering when they brought him in for feeding, but I've discovered that barn staff cannot always be counted on to notice if your horse is OK, so I admit to being a little anxious.

What I found was a horse who had obviously chosen to stay outside for at least the bulk of the time.  He was quite wet, but this is what his hair looked like:


Even though the picture isn't that great, hopefully you can see that the water never penetrated his dense coat.  Instead, it just ran off the surface.  Plus, the area under his mane, neck, belly, and the bottom half of his haunches were dry.  He seemed comfortable and happy and when I went out to get him, he was nowhere near the run-in shed.  He might have been at one of the round bales eating or just hanging out - it was too dark to see.  At night, he always knows when I'm coming and just sort of appears from out of the darkness near the gate.

The moral of this story is that I've wasted hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years buying sheets and blankets for this horse.  While I only blanket consistently if I've clipped him, I have always believed that if it was below 50 and raining, Nimo needed a waterproof sheet.  Because the temperature got close to freezing yesterday and it was 36 last night, I have to assume that Nimo actually doesn't need a sheet at all in the rain.  This is great news, but I wish I'd figured it out sooner!

I'm not saying that what is true for Nimo is true for every horse.  I definitely had an older mare who really did need to be blanketed despite her seemingly long winter coat, but she had a couple of health issues that Nimo doesn't have.  However, if you really want good blanketing advice, check out this tongue-in-cheek article:  http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/blanket-clause:)

9 comments:

  1. I'm going to see here pretty soon if Ashke will be okay without, in Colorado weather. I am moving to a barn where he will have access to his run 24/7 and his box stall 24/7. They have heavy plastic curtains over the doorway so a horse can decide whether they are in or out. By spring I hope to have him on pasture turnout 7 days a week, for a couple hours a day.

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    1. That sounds like a great set-up, Karen. I hope it works out well for Ashke. I've come to believe that it really is better to have horses outside as much as possible.

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  2. I'm glad your BO was able to work something out with you! As for the other boarders - too many times, people want to complain just to complain. It seems to be a something of a bonding experience for them *shrugs*

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    1. I'm sure you're right, Melissa. I just feel like there is a time to complain and a time to try to find a solution. Oh well, I can't change the world, just my place in it!:)

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  3. Below fifty?? Unless the horse is clipped everyone here waits until below thirty to even think about blanketing. I bought Chrome a blanket this year because he shivered last winter but I only put it on if it's below thirty, windy and raining. His hay is in the run in shed this year too so that helps. I'm glad Nimo is fine without his blanket! That's good news! :-D

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    1. Oh and I like your new turn out option. I'm glad your barn owner is willing to work with you! I like my horse to be out twenty four seven too. Nimo will love it!

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    2. I guess the below 50 rule was something that I picked up after moving to VA - I think I went a little soft!:) And I hope he enjoys the turnout - He works hard for me and I want him to be happy!

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  4. Heck yeah Nimo! And lol, sorry about the $$$ spent on blankets when you maybe could have escaped that hit to your budget. ;-) But hey, better late than never re: realizing he's cool without! I had to chuckle a bit when you noted how you thought others would get on board with your - IMHO, awesome - idea about turnout and then they didn't. The ammonia smell drives me more bonkers than anything about a barn, so it pains me to think about horses that have to deal with it ALL THE TIME.

    Blanketing. Gah. I never worried about it until the past year! I hate that I think about it now lol. Though it is probably better for the critterbeasts. Griffin is the ultra-wimp when it comes to this cold wet weather. I haven't been out in days because Life. But I'm sure he's been shivering. Q is FINE when he is shivering, and neither has been clipped! Hot Arab blood... My biggest concern of late is the fact that they don't have a run-in shed of any kind in the field. They really don't have anywhere to escape the elements out there; and the field is situated in an east-west valley, so the wind really rips through. Cold, wet, and WINDY. Mmm. My solution? House shopping nearer to the barn so that I can easily change out blankets as I need without having to make excessive *extra* trips throughout the day.

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    1. Yeah, swapping blankets is a pain. My barn will handle changes at feeding times but usually it makes more sense to swap or take off/put on in late morning and aroun 9 or 10 at night. I'm glad to be done with it unless I clip him!

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