Hairy Beast

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.

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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.

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Presto eating a stick yesterday, as one does

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.

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Henry’s butt hairs tho

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.

not skinny

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.

16 thoughts on “Hairy Beast

  1. I get it, haven’t clipped Remus yet even tho he is a hairy mammoth. HE is in more work this year but the weather hasn’t been TOO warm (only a few days above 60) and it has been VERY damp and cold here so i would rather he have some insulation esp since he gets less food at the boarding barn (he does hav a round bale all day long which i love and he is eating the regular hay there.

    I do hate not being able to change out blankets. I went out on Sat and swapped his sheet for his 100 gram and 100 liner (high of 30 the last with windchill in teens along with cold cold nights the last few days).. The barn will swap around but i just took his medium weight out that day and decided layers were better. But it is a guessing game and no one is as anal as I am about removing layers and putting more layers on when he was home.

    If he gets a trace clip I wouldnt want him naked sooooo I think I will try to leave him be this year since in TN our spring should roll in by March hopefully.

    UGH glad Henry is doing so well and cruising along 🙂

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  2. My horsey bestie and I were just “discussing” (arguing) about this recently! Simon is 6 and HAIRY and he runs hot so I hardly ever put a blanket on him. She is convinced that he’d put more weight on if he was blanketed bc he’s using up energy staying warm. I grew up in Eastern Montana (much colder than Western Montana) and we NEVER blanketed, even when it was below zero for DAYS. And, as you mention, it doesn’t ever really get cold here in Texas, at least where I live (around Fort Worth) for more than a couple days.
    Simon is between a 4 and a 5 on the Henneke scale as far as weight and he’s got the look of a TB who is still growing, but I don’t WANT him to be fatter at this age (or really any age, but especially when he might still be growing). He’s never ever looked cold and he isn’t clipped so I just let him be au naturel. Even though he insists on rolling in mud puddles every damn day.

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  3. Truth. I think I have an ulcer with this blanketing bs and a tummy trouble prone horse. We were at 70 degrees two weekends ago (Midatlantic) here and I body clipped mine in November in anticipation of a cold Jan/Feb where he had a good coat, needed a sheet, but wasn’t bald. I gave him a bib clip during the heat wave and it seemed to work. Now we are back in regular winter type temps and he needs more clothes, but runs hot, and I’m at my office checking outside in the sun to see if I need to figure out how to race home and make an adjustment. I will say that I just switched mine from night turnout to day, so overall it’s been a decent winter with most of the soakers occurring during the day. We just do the best we can, and that has to be good enough!

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  4. I’ve gotta say, I haven’t missed having to go to the barn and swap blankets out this winter. The only plus side of being horseless I guess?
    Also, that last photo… Henny you lookin chonky. I love it.

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  5. My old horse had to be outside 24/7 (his previous owner had kept him indoors 24/7 for over a year – basically abuse – and it means he can’t handle being in stalls for very long) and it was Minnesota! So outdoors all the time even when it got to be like 20 below or even 30 to 40 below. While he had a blanket, he’d sometimes pull it off.

    Luckily – he had no issues because he would grow (and I measured this!) FIVE INCHES OF FUR. Across his body. I once rode bareback without a pad and when I got off it looked like I had worn full seat breeches because I was matted with fur on my ass and legs.

    Weirdly, he was a paint and his chestnut coat would grow longer than his white coat.

    But never once did he ever shiver! What a trooper, that buddy.

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  6. I’m so spoiled at my current barn, my horse is out 24/7 unless it’s going to be pissing down rain for awhile. It’s made such a huge difference with his tum and stiffness. I don’t think I could go back to even part day stall boarding anymore…

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    1. Presto and I would both rather he be out 24/7, and he is for half of the year, but with only 4 horses on the property in the winter the logistics became difficult as far as splits and pastures and friends and shelters and blah blah blah. It just wasn’t gonna work without creating a host of other problems. Henry likes coming inside for a while, he naps hard in his deep shavings in a way that he never does outside, but I definitely don’t want him in for really long periods or have him miss days of turnout. He needs to be moving around. They do have runs off of their stalls too, which I think helps a lot. since they can move a lot more. Previous winters he’s missed several days turnout because of weather or footing and just had to stand in a 12 x 12 for days aside from when I got him out. This year he’s only missed half a day turnout so far, during a particularly bad rain. His real problem that prevents him from being a 24/7 outside horse is heat, he can’t be out in the sun if it’s over 85ish, so during the summer (or really, like May through October here) a stall and fans are necessary to keep him alive lol.

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  7. I finally devised myself a chart so I could stop stop stressing about blankets. And then I made a second one in case the horse is clipped… But then Shiny runs hotter. So I guess my chart isn’t that helpful.

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    1. A chart is helpful if it’s staying anywhere near one temperature, or at least staying cold or staying warm, but I find it difficult to make a decision when it’s cold AF at 5am but then hot AF by noon and I won’t be able to change anything in that time lol. Like… I can’t put him out at 5am in a blanket at 35 degrees when it’ll be 65 by lunch time and he’ll be sweating his non-existent balls off all afternoon. So either he’s gotta be cold for a little while, or he’s gotta be hot for a longer while. That’s the part that stresses me out, since I know one or the other will have to be true no matter what I do. If it could just stay between 55 and 70 at all times, please.

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  8. This is exactly how I am with the horses at work. I’ve been in a “zone” before staring at them trying to figure out if they need a blanket for the day or should I just change to a lighter blanket, and on and on. And unfortunatly there isn’t always someone at the barn who can just pulled them off quickly for me. Luckily my own horse is a hardy, wholly mammoth and doesn’t really get cold.

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  9. here is a really good paper about a study done on rugging. I felt so much better about leaving my horses naked when it was just a bit cooler after reading this. They now always go naked unless clipped or cold and wet basically. It looks a bit odd at competitions as my horse is always one step lighter in rugs than everything else, but he’s always comfortable! https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329156033_To_rug_or_not_to_rug_potential_impacts_on_equine_welfare

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  10. Man, I complain about Midwest winter but at least we don’t have 30 degree temperature swings regularly. That would be very hard to manage.

    And yes for more turnout and hay! This is Mort’s first winter at home and he seems to be loving all the outside time. I’m interested to see if he drops weight this spring like he has every other year I’ve owned him. Hopefully he follows Henry’s example and stays thick!

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  11. Wild temp swings are the hardest to manage for sure. We get that in the spring here. I’ve always preferred to have them a bit chilly in the am and comfortable later on. A friend that boards at my place insists on putting a black rain sheet on her horse that time of year and he is always soaked in sweat when I get home to check him. Ugh.

    Love the pics of chonky Henry!

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  12. I’m southeast of you in Texas, just under the outer rim of the coastal weather effect, and it’s been very mild most of the time. The horses are shedding and the dog is losing huge handfuls of coat like it’s April.

    In my barn we are wondering if this warm damp January will be followed by a cold February, which happens sometimes.

    I’m happy that a very limited clip has kept my horse comfortable with occasional blanketing. I’m fortunate that the barn is good about de-blanketing once the day is warming up.

    Agreed that the horses prefer to be cooler rather than warmer. I doubt I’ll clip again, but will probably attack with the de-shedding gloves as we go.

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