Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Blanket Safely- Part 2

After you can comfortably approach and touch your horse all over with the blanket you can now start the process of blanketing.

Only after my horse is completely comfortable with the blanket do I actually attach it to their bodies. A scared horse can spook and get away from even the most experienced horsemen, and I do not want my horses to injure themselves trying to get away from a scary half attached blanket that is chasing them. If I am not certain a horse can handle the blanket and blanketing process they stay in the barn and or do not get blanketed plain and simple.

Different blanket style require different techniques.

Open Front- Your standard horse blanket has buckles/closures in the front and straps for across the belly. Before I approach my horse with the blanket I am sure that I have it in reasonable order. I generally carry over my on my right arm half folded like the back of your horse with the front of the blanket towards my hand. This allows me gently place the blanket over the back. After it is placed I then attach my blanket in the front first.
Closed Front- These blankets require you to place it over your horse's head like a t-shirt to get it on. Personally I am not a fan of Closed Front Blankets because I find them very cumbersome with tall horses especially when you are short, and are they are hard place on head-shy/ear-shy horses. Not because I do not believe in teaching horses to handle/allow your hands in those areas, but because they do not allow you to release for good behavior when your horse allows you to handle those areas, which is not helpful in the retraining process. But if you do happen to own one you need to put it on your horse like you do your own t-shirts. You don't drag it all over your face and hair, you scrunch it up with the neck hole open and gently place it over your head. I can pretty much guarantee your horse will be better for blanketing if you use the t-shirt approach.
Belly Straps/Bands- Blankets can have up to 3 straps. If there is one strap you should attach it straight across. For two straps you cross them under your horse's belly, and if there are three straps you will cross the outer two and use the middle strap straight across to the other side. If my blanket has a belly band I attach it accordingly. Allow for a hand's width on all straps, they should not droop and hang far below their belly.
Leg Straps- If your blanket has leg straps they can be attached front to back on the same leg or crossed in the center to the other side. All legs straps should be well adjusted and not too loose.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to blanket safely

In response to Dimes Golden Delight comment last week I am going to share how to blanket and unblanket your horses safely.

Things to consider before you blanket

Blanketing should not be stressful. In order for me to even consider blanketing my horse I must first be able to catch them easily where ever they will be wearing the blanket. If I can not catch them I can not safely help them if they become tangled, or injured.   

If you can not comfortably touch underneath your horse's stomach and and handle their legs you should not try to blanket your horse. You first need to teach your horse to handle a rope and your hands before getting into your horses personal space in the process of blanketing. I choose to desensitize my horse to things on their body by using a soft cotton lead rope that I gently throw over their top line (the back and hindquarter) first, then amongst their legs looking for and rewarding the 5 signs of relaxation. The five signs of relaxation are; stopping the motion, blinking their eyes/ not flinching, lowering their head, relaxing a foot, and breathing/ chewing their lips. In desensitization you reward your horse by stopping your behavior when your horse stops or further relaxes. So when you first expose your horse to the rope/ hand/ object/blanket you are watching for and immediately rewarding your horse by stopping your behavior when they show acceptance by doing one of the 5 signs of relaxation. If your horse chooses to move when you first touch or show them your rope/ hand/ object/blanket do not pursue them. Just follow them maintaining the same distance and movement until your horse decides to stop or relax further.  These steps done properly can be used to desensitize your horse to just about anything....................

Stay tuned for part two later this week.        

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blankets and Blanketing Explained

In honor of the great winter weather we have been having and the current blanket 
sales going on I have decided to write about blankets and blanketing today.

Question 1: Do I need to blanket my horse? 

Answer: Unless your horse is body clipped he should be able to do fine without
a blanket.  Some breeds are less tolerant to cold such as the Arabian and
Thoroughbreds.  Some horses don’t put on a thick winter coat and might need a
little help. Mares as with woman have more body fat and are generally more
tolerant to the cold than geldings and stallions.  Young and older horses are at
greater risk and may require blanketing.  Every horse is unique.

Question 2: Do you blanket your horses, if so when? 

Answer: Yes I do blanket my horses’, they each have two blankets
(turnout sheet and midweight turnout).  When it is dry I blanket when it
will be in the 30s or lower for an extended period of time.  When it is
wet and above 50 degrees I do not blanket.  When it is wet and it below 50s I
blanket according to the horses’ needs.  My gelding Charlie always needs his
blanket before my mare Pie.  When it is raining and 40s or below I always 

Question 3: Can I blanket my horses wet? 

Answer: Yes, if the blanket is breathable and waterproof (can only be breathable
if you horse will stalled or otherwise removed from the rain).  DO NOT blanket
your horse in wet weather if your blanket is not waterproof, think about the last
time you got soaked to the bone and was not able to change clothes, your horse
can’t take off the blanket without your help.  Note: over time your waterproof
coating can wear away so it is important that you check blankets regularly,
and wash them using a product made for horse blankets to further preserve the

Question 4: Can I just leave my blanket on throughout the winter? 

Answer: No, especially in a climate like Texas where it can be 80s one day and
20s the next.  Most horses already put on a fair amount of winter coat, and
do not need a blanket 24/7.  You also need to check your blankets for fit,
waterproofing, and the horse’s skin for any problems on a regular basis. 
Covering any part of the body for an extended time can result in skin 
issues, and sunlight/air is a great preventative for most minor skin problems. If
you have ever worn a cast before, you can probably remember how it felt the
day you got it removed and how your skin looked in comparison.

Question 5: What is the difference between a turnout and a stable blanket? 

Answer: A turnout blanket is generally waterproof, more durable, and
made to be worn in the elements.  A stable blanket is not waterproof or as
durable as a turnout.

Question 6: What is 240D, 600D, 1200D? 

Answer: D= Denier or how durable a blanket will be (this also depends on
the horse who will be wearing it and the other horses around).

420D- Light Durability- recommended for spring/fall when grass is available
and horse does not test blanket.

600D- Standard Durability- Recommended for horses easy on blankets. 
Occasional or monitored turnout.

1200D Polyester or Ripstop Nylon- Superior Durability- Recommended
to withstand the demands of turnout.

1680D Ballistic Nylon/1800D Polyester- Exceptional Durability- Recommended
for horses that are hard on blankets or turned out with other horses who may bite
or pull a blanket.

Question 7: What weight blanket do I need? 

Answer: It depends on your horse’s coat, cold tolerance, and your average
winter temperatures.  Living in Texas my horses both have a midweight blanket
and a waterproof sheet, in extreme weather I can use the sheet to layer with for
more protection.
Warmth of Blanket
Short Coat/Clipped
Medium/Full Coat
Extra Heavyweight
Subzero - 15F

15F – 30F
Subzero – 15F
30F – 50F
15F – 30F
50F +
30F +

Question 8: What if I only want to buy one blanket? 

Answer: Buy a waterproof turnout blanket/sheet based on average temperatures
in your area.  Turnout blankets can always be worn in the barn but stable blankets
should never be worn in the pasture.  Buy 1200D or higher.

Question 9: How do I measure for a blanket? 

Answer: Most of the time you measure from the center of the chest to the center of
the tail.  Not all blankets are measured the same so do your research on the brand
that you are looking to buy as with clothes; one brand’s 6 is another brand’s 8. 
Your blanket should fit your horse properly and not be too big or too small
both of which are uncomfortable.  A blanket that is too big or very ill fitting can be
dangerous as the horse may get tangled up.

Now is a great time to buy blankets if you are in the market for one. 
My favorite places to find blankets are:

Rain and the power of good role models

A good role model can go a long way in educating the inexperienced horse. We had some fun out in the park after our arena work, and came across a park employee carrying sticks on his golf cart. Rain was in front with Pie ponying Charlie behind. Rain sees moving cart/rustling leaves and sucks back and bumps into Pie, Pie and Charlie never move but watch it pass, Rain still pressed against Pie also watches it pass and doesn't spook further. Cart passes and we continue like it never happened. Pie and Charlie kept Rain from spooking further because they did not validate her fear. Had they also reacted, Rain would have spooked further because they would have validated her fear/reaction by spooking with her. Good experiences the first time round make the training process much easier. Chances are that Rain will stand still or react even less the next time she sees a golf cart because of her experiences today. 

Horses like to follow, and they generally follow the reactions of their peers/riders. For example- When out on the trail and your horse gets tense our first instinct is to also get tense/ready for a problem. Because you also got tense your horse gets even more tense, because he thought you thought being scared was a good idea. When riding I always try and lead with my emotions. If I feel my horse get tense, I stay loose and take a deep breathe, while I do have a plan of action if my horse does choose to spook, I expect them to follow my lead and stay calm. 

Lesson of the day- Do not ever validate your horses fears, and when out for the first time try and have a good role model horse around to help your inexperienced horses make the right decisions.

From the beginning

 In the world the horses are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the horse owners, and the horse trainers who help them. These are their stories. 

I am not one for long introductions, I'd much rather just jump in, but it's hard to tell a story without a little background.

I am one of the lucky few who have always had the privilege of a life surrounded by horses.  I literally grew up on the back on a horse, and all my favorite memories involve horses.  I started training and teaching while in college and recently started dabbling in writing.  I'm the proud parent of two registered Quarter horses.  Charlie is a ten year old dun ranch gelding, and Pie is my 8 year old red dun once in a lifetime horse who I've owned since a weanling.  I live in Texas and am lucky enough to live with my horses.  Welcome to my world. - Pie