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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It was so cold....

... this morning the manure balls "plinked" into the wheelbarrow.  Crazy!  Got down to at least 19 degrees last night.  The last time Farley and I saw these temps was at Death Valley doing the multi-day ride in 2008.

Farley was naked last night and continues to be naked.  Guess that answers the question of whether she needs a blanket just because it's cold.

Last winter was the first time she was blanketed, and I only did so because it was a service the barn included in the care, and I thought "why not?".  In hindsight, I'm not sure that deciding to blanket was such a good decision - especially considering that there aren't mitigating factors like her weight (she's quite plump now). 

How much of her inability to deal with the cold temperatures at 20 MT 2011 had to do with my decision to blanket?  It didn't rain - we were strictly dealing with air temperature at that ride.  I had hind end cramping issues that seemed to be related to her getting cold.  How much of the fatigue and compensation for the cramping contributed to her injury and lameness?

Every time I decide to do "more" for my horse, I end up going back to the fundamental concept of less is more.  The more I can mimic a "natural" lifestyle for the horse, the better she seems to do.

There are some exceptions - blowing rain warrants a blanket.  She isn't out with a herd, and doesn't have adequate shelter or a windbreak that will protect her from just being wet and cold, with her coat plastered against her body.  Because I can't provide her a way to deal with that kind of weather condition "naturally", I feel like I do need to supplement her care.  It would be best to supplement her in a way that she could "take it or leave it", but it isn't possible to be perfect all the time - sometimes I just do the best I can with what I have.  :)

Here's some other ways that I keep Farley that attempt to provide as natural an existence in the hopes that it will have a health benefit that will directly correlate to a sucessful endurance career:

- keeping her barefoot as much as possible.
- let her have a natural coat that responds to the seasons and the weather.  
- giving her enough space to move around in, that ideally doesn't make her come to abrupt stops or turns because of coming to a fence (Not there yet, but better than a year ago!).
- Attempting to keep her feeding as natural as possible - free choice when possible, grass hay, fed at ground level (in a fruit bin).
- providing a social herd structure (currently a dismal failure)
- providing freechoice, loose salt (still not convinced that loose is better or worse than a block)
- Encouraging movement throughout the day, every day but the construction of pastures, placement of feed and water etc. (again - not there yet, but it's in the plan for some day)

Does this mean that I don't believe in vaccination, riding, shoeing, trailering, vet care, worming or any of those other "modern" ways that we use and keep horses?  Absolutely not!  I think that Good Sense is walking the line between believing we can (and should) give horses a total natural existence (complete with cougars and disease), and picking those things that give us the most "bang for our buck" and allow the horse to reach it's full potential as it does it's "job" for us.


  1. I wish I'd clipped Dixie's neck along her blood vessels. I did that last year and it helped her cool off faster, but didn't make her cold in a truly epic winter. Otherwise, yeah, I agree.

    I kind of like having neighbor horses for Dixie. She can see them, but she's not so herdbound and of course I have a lot less work to do.

    My feed store just got in some of those small-mesh hay bags and I am delighted with them. I think it gives her a bit more of a natural grazing motion, and there's no waste. If there's something left in the am bag in the pm, I just stuff more in on top.

    Wouldn't a paddock paradise be sweet? Ahh well, not gonna happen anytime soon.

  2. I rarely blanket. My horse's come into the first spring ride in April so sleek that I'm asked... do you blanket? Did you clip her? The answer is always NO. I do follow a good rotational worming program, and start currying the coat in February, give them plenty of daylight, and voila' they start shedding out naturally about a month or more ahead of most horses. I like natural as much as possible, but you just have to do what is best for your own beast.


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