It’s been probably a solid decade since I’ve had a riding horse who wasn’t getting at least two body clips every winter. This is Texas, it can still be 80+ degrees in the winter (it was last week actually), and it’s difficult to have a horse in full work that isn’t going to die of heat stroke if they grow a lot of hair. As has become usual by now, I clipped Henry for the first time in early October – it was still 90+ degrees so he was DYING – with a plan to clip him again in November. He grows so much coat that only clipping him once, at the beginning of Fall, tends to leave him with a winter coat about the same as that of most other un-clipped horses. If not for the fact that I leave his legs and a saddle patch untouched, by November you would never know that he’d already been clipped. He grows a really thick, long coat.
And then he hurt himself, so I held off on the second clip. If he wasn’t going to be working, there wasn’t much point in taking the hair off. And then I started riding him again, but not enough to really NEED a clip, and then before I knew it we’d gotten to the end of December and he started shedding. He’s hairy enough to where he really could use less hair when I’m riding on these warmer days, but he’s not struggling, so for now I’ve decided to just leave it.
The main motivation behind that decision? Blanketing. The complication of clipping is of course all the subsequent required blanketing, and blanketing is really really REALLY tricky when you leave the farm at 5:30am and don’t get back until 3:30pm. It could easily be 40 degrees when I leave in the morning, but 70 degrees by the middle of the day. Trying to blanket for that becomes nearly impossible, and obsessing about has already driven me relatively insane.
I have always felt like horses handle being a little chilly much better than being overly hot, especially Henry in particular. I’d much rather he be a little bit cold for the first couple hours of the day than to be standing under a blanket sweating for 6 hours. It’s also been beaten into me from an early age that it’s Very Bad if a horse is sweating under a blanket. They’ll be wet to their core, the blankets will be wet, and if I can’t get them dried off completely, they’ll end up way colder once the sun goes down. It’s not a cycle I want to opt into. Naturally, if they’re shivering then they’re TOO cold (and I will stand there for an obsessively long time staring at them to make sure they aren’t) but generally if they aren’t clipped, then most Texas days it’s better to err on the side of no blanket.
This would all be a lot easier if I could just work for home or be independently wealthy and not have to spend all day at work… then I could just take blankets off or change them throughout the day as needed. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so instead I drive myself absolutely bonkers trying to make the best decision every day.
Presto and the older mare are easy – they’re so freaking hairy I think it would have to be legit arctic for them to even notice, and they’re both pretty hardy. They don’t wear anything unless its really cold, and gonna stay really cold, and/or there’s a possibility that they might get wet while it’s also cold. Which is rare. The yearling got his coat a lot later than the others, but he puffed up quite a bit in December and is now sporting some really impressive 6″ goat hairs on his chin. I’ll put a blanket on that one before I put one on his other two pasturemates, but I also have to be careful because he is by far the most active and runs around so much that he makes himself hot once the day starts to warm up.
Henry is the trickiest one. When I was debating clipping him again I thought long and hard about it, imagining what I’d do in all these scenarios if he was clipped. I also considered doing just a partial clip of various styles. But really there’s just no good answer when the temperature swings so much between turnout time and noon most days. Since I already agonize way too much about how to dress the horses, I decided to not add any more stress to that unless I absolutely have to. He’s not going to any important shows, and he seems ok temperature-wise in his work for now. I’ll just keep trying to shed him out a bit, and if, once we get through February, he seems like he’s getting too hot or taking a while to shed out enough to be comfortable, I can always just clip him later.
The ability to do blanket changes might be one of the very few things I miss about the other barn… the worker was always happy to go pull Henry’s blanket off for me mid-morning. What I’ve noticed I’m NOT dealing with though, for the first winter in… 5 years? No little ulcery minor gas colics, and no skinny Henry. I’ve always had issues with him in the winter, keeping his weight on and battling some other ulcer symptoms. I think it had to do with increased stall time and not enough forage, mostly. But the ground at this farm is nice and sandy so it’s extremely rare that they have to spend much time cooped up, they get a longer turnout time every day, this is probably the best quality pasture he’s ever had in the winter, he’s got more turnout space and moves around a lot more, and I’m able to give him more hay at night than he’s had before. He’s never looked this good in January, and – knock on wood – no tummy issues. He’s also eating the least amount of grain ever for this time of year… I’ve been able to cut it in half, which I’m sure also really helps his stomach.
Aside from the blanketing turmoil, keeping the horses at home is quite possibly the best thing ever. I probably won’t stop fretting about blanketing decisions on a daily basis though… it’s my newest hobby and I’m real good at it.