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The Horse Blanket Bandits
 By Saferaphus   •   2nd Jan 2017   •   702 views   •   0 comments


It’s blanket time here again. We’ve gone from rain sheets to heavy rugs in the space of a few weeks as the temperature dips from cold to downright frigid. While making the change from sheet to the rug, I looked over the sheet and felt a moment of triumph. No rips! No tears! No teeth marks anywhere! The sheet had come through the rainy season with no damage beyond the mud and manure stains that are unsightly, but not fatal.

Even without a blanket, my mare has only had few dings in her hide recently. This means that all is quiet in the paddocks... good. I hope it stays that way. If you have a barnyard bandit or two living with your horse you have my sympathy. I’ve had a few to put up with over the year, and have even owned some. It’s likely that these are great horses to ride or drive. But, in the paddock their destructive tendencies are frustrating and sometimes, expensive.

Related: Five Blanketing Myths

So how to dissuade the blanket shredders from destroying your new expensive turnout rug? I’ve tried the bitter sprays and I don’t think they are very effective. The tiny bit of bitter flavor that is left on a horse's teeth after they’ve latched on to another horse’s blanket doesn’t seem to faze them. Some people paint on homemade concoctions. Some of these recipes might affect you in a bad way - like pepper paste used for cribbers. You don’t want that on your hands, which is exactly what will happen every time you remove the blanket. Maybe I haven’t used the right kind, and others have had a better experience.

Tougher blankets stand up better to abuse. Thin textiles will rip even if the blanket catches on a tree branch or fence rail. The denser the weave and the slipperier the fabric is, the harder it is for another horse to get hold and the less likely it is to snag. Lots of nylon type textiles are measured by ‘denier'. The higher the denier, the tougher the textile. This means a more expensive blanket, however, and that might not be in your budget, or you quail at the idea because you’re afraid your more expensive blanket will get shredded too.

One of the best ways to stop the destruction is to remove the destructor from the mix. If it’s a youngster, it might be effective to pasture it with an older more dominant horse that doesn’t wear a blanket so it learns that sinking its teeth into someone else’s hide is going to get them in trouble.

If your horse is ripping its own blanket or rip-the-blanket has turned into a non-stop game, boredom could be the problem. Horses with lots of hay to munch on are less likely to chew other things. Toys like Jolly Balls, safe rubber buckets or traffic pylons to toss around and other safe items to play with may distract some horses from blankets.

Overcrowding can be another problem. If the horses are constantly jostling for space around the feeder or crowding into a small shelter, things might get ugly. The only solution then is to break up the herd somehow, which I know can be tricky on small acreages. But being in a larger space, or with fewer horses might help.

Occasionally, it’s the herd underdog that ends up with streamers of nylon, and clouds of batting hanging from its blanket. Changing around the herd and separating gangs of bullies can alleviate some of the destruction.

If a situation exists where there is simply no way to separate out a blanket shredding bandit, a grazing muzzle might help. Chances are this bully also hogs the round bale and could stand to lose a few pounds. But, using a muzzle means you have to be very careful to ensure the horse is eating and drinking enough.
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