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When Not To Use a Rain Sheet
 By Winniefield Park   •   14th Nov 2015   •   4,174 views   •   0 comments
When Not To Use a Rain Sheet

If you live in the path of Hurricane Patricia, you will probably have experienced very wet and windy weather. Even though the brunt of the storm was felt thousands of miles away, it still carried lots of rain and gusty winds though my area. When I first read the weather warnings about heavy rainfall, my first thought was - to rainsheet or not to rainsheet? While I wonít argue that at least in my area, horses will need warm blankets during the coldest days of the winter, deciding whether or not to use a rainsheet is a bit trickier.

During the summer, I donít think rain sheets are a good idea. Horses are well equipped to deal with wet weather in warm temperatures. Rain sheets donít do much good, may cause them to become too warm and present all the hazards that blankets do. The trapped moisture from the horse perspiring might even cause skin problems. So, unless Iím at a show, Iím unlikely to get a rain sheet out as long as itís warm out. In the winter, I think rain sheets do a lot more harm than good. When a horse gets chilly, it gets goosebumps like you and I. This makes itís coat stand up, which is supposed to trap warm air and help keep it warmer.

Related: To Blanket or Not to Blanket

Lots of people argue that this makes blanketing unnecessary. But, just like you and I have to get chilled before we get goosebumps, so does a horse. So, the coat standing up is the last line of defense for a horse thatís already chilled. If you put a blanket on without sufficient insulation to replace the loft of the horseís coat, you are taking away the horseís ability to retain warmth. A horse canít turn up its internal thermostat. So as the temperature plunges, a horses natural temperature compensation is limited. If you live where the temperature hovers around freezing, you probably donít need to blanket your horse at all. If you live in a place like I do, where the moisture in your nose freezes when you step out the door, blanketing your horses make more sense.

A rain sheet doesnít have any insulation and I think that rain sheets are a bad idea during cold weather. They flatten the horseís coat, and donít provide any insulating layer. They do block the wind and rain, but when itís really cold, that might not be enough. Several years ago, a cold virus went through the barn in late fall. Most of the horses were wearing winter blankets or nothing at all. One was left wearing a rain sheet. All of the horses recovered quickly, except the one wearing the rain sheet. It took much longer to recover and we speculate that it might have been because it couldnít keep itself warm. Had the owner taken the sheet off, or changed to a winter rug, the horse might have recovered as quickly as all the others.

So right now, my horse is wearing a rain sheet. The rain is patchy. The sky's brilliant blue one minute, and then dark and spitting splotchy rain the next as the wind gusts torrents of leaves from the trees. As soon as the weather settles, her rain sheet will come off. Thatís the key with blanketing I think. You have to use the appropriate one, and be vigilant about the weather and the comfort of the horse. What do you think?
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