Is It Natural To Blanket A Domesticated Equine (horse, donkey or mule) when the wind chill and snow is horrific?
First let me step back in time and share how I came to my inner peace with the natural equine world. When I was a kid with my horse in the 70’s we did not do the teeth, blanket, and we sure as heck did not do our own worming. Guess what folks we now live in the year 2016 things have improved for our beloved domesticated equine.
My husband and I pick up the poop on ten acres in Sequim, WA every day and compost. I take fecal samples to the vet, I do not worm unless I need to. I make sure I have blankets for all of our eight equine in case of an emergency, serious winter or sickness. I prepare before the blanket is needed as we have four new donkeys in training and three of them are afraid of the blanket. I do not want to be outside in the freezing cold training to wear a blanket. When Rocket Man our mini age twenty had oral surgery a few years ago due to broken tooth that could have abscessed I had to blanket him, his surgery lasted three and half hours and he was very sick for a good week. Additionally he has arthritis and so does Rio our Mammoth donkey as he is 16’2 and this does happen to the big guys even when only eight years old. Any equine that is shaking could be very sick, I recommend a vet. A blanket and med’s are most likely needed along with stall rest.
A few things to consider:
1. Nothing is natural about any equine living a domesticated life, even when we do our best to remove the shoes when not trail riding or use boots for trail riding. My farm is set up so all of my horses and donkeys can choose to go into their stall to eat and drink and get out of the weather if they choose. If they choose not to that’s ok too. Locking any equine in a stall will make them crazy. If the vet orders stall rest yes we have to lock the equine in, toys and lot’s of your time are required until the equine heals. Equine were created to walk fifteen to twenty-five miles a day. Most domesticated equine stand around and wait for their meals. Nothing is natural about living a domesticated life.
I let all of my equine grow a fur coat and I blanket when sick or extreme wicked weather comes I check each and every day for sores, rubbing or a loose blanket/too tight in a place etc., I replace with a dry coat as needed until the weather changes or the equine is no longer sick. Here in the Pacific Northwest, WA we do not have weather that stays in the teens very long. We go back into the 30’s pretty fast, I take the blanket off wen we are out of the serious cold wind chills or a sick equine is well. We do however have high winds and this can cause the weather to be more frigid.
I do not blanket during raining season and let them stand out in the rain. Why?
No blanket is 100% water proof in my experience, must be changed and dried, need to make sure no sores or rubbing, lot’s of work. If you leave on a wet blanket serious illness can occur.
2. When an equine live om the wild they can run and get warm, find a place to get out of the elements.
The farm we lived on for thirteen years before moving to Sequim, WA had two pole stalls I placed at the top of the hill (paddock) to stop mud.
Guess what happened if they ran to warm up on ice down a hill? They fell down and had injuries. Blanketing stopped them from trying to run to warm up and they stood nice and calm. Did I capture your attention?
3. Any equine who has arthritis or is sick, surgery, too young to withstand the extreme cold needs a blanket. Blanketing is hard work as you must check it every day and when it is really wet replace with a dry blanket. Sorry, no blanket is 100% waterproof for the entire winter and fall season. Thus why I only blanket when we hit the high 20’s with a wind chill in the Pacific Northwest pushing me below 0 etc., I never blanket with just rain as they can go in the stall and get out of the wind and rain, unless they are sick. Then they are locked in until well if it is raining outside. Their fur coat, warm water, hay is what keeps them warm along with their shelter.
4. When you keep their water clean and warm along with plenty of free choice low sugar hay in your slow feeder you are helping your domesticated equine to stay warm. When you walk into the barn and your equine are shivering or not moving at all frozen stiff you had better blanket. Death can be avoided from ignorance and high vet bills.
5. Not all equine need a blanket in the winter. Please use common sense and check the blanket leaving it on will cause more damage than good if it is left on wet, sores or the leg gets stuck in it.
Here is an outstanding blog I just read that prompted me to write about this. Select Blanketing is Not Bad And You Are Not Natural to read some more brilliant ways to understand why it is imperative you are prepared for a sick equine, older arthritis or the wicked winter that may or may not come.
Please use common sense when blanketing and locking your equine in a stall, after all you chose the equine and they are depending on you to learn everything you can to keep them healthy and happy.
GOD bless you and your family two and four-legged!