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Under The Horse Blanket
 By Winniefield Park   •   23rd Jan 2018   •   796 views   •   0 comments


With the recent cold weather, it occurred to me that I hadnít had removed my horseís blanket in a while. It was so cold, I didnít want to remove that layer of warmth, nor did I want to take my mittens off to undo all the buckles and snaps. Thatís a lame excuse on my part. Leaving a blanket on a horse without checking on what is going on underneath is just a bad idea. I did lift it enough to get a good look and feel of what is going on underneath there. And as soon as the weather gets a bit milder, Iíll be removing it, and giving her a good brushing, as Iím sure she is itchy.

Horses massage and scratch themselves by rolling and that helps clean and stimulate their hair and skin. It may not look clean if your horse rolls in dirt or mud, but rolling helps clear away sweat and oils that may otherwise irritate their skin. When a horse is constantly blanketed, rolling isnít as effective. And, it is possible for a horse to become tangled in a blanket, especially if it doesnít fit just right. So, to minimize vigorous rolling and let the horse do itís own natural cleaning cycle, itís important to let your horse go without a blanket when the weather permits, or give it a good brushing all over once and a while.

Dirt and oil arenít the only skin irritants that can make your horse itchy. Lice love to hide where itís warm and dark. The moist, warm, dark environment of your horseís long winter hair, covered by a cozy blanket is the perfect place for lice to take up housekeeping. If you donít check under your horseís blanket, you might not notice that lice have moved in. Because the horse has these little itch generators trapped under its blanket, it may roll, rub, squirm and almost appear colicky in an effort to find relief. Lots of people think that lice only live on horses in poor condition in dirty stables. But, thatís not entirely the case, at least not at the start of an infestation. A bad lice infestation can drive a horseís condition down and lice donít care how expensive a horse or stable is.

Blankets can rub and pull on your horse. A poorly fitting blanket can cause a lot of damage. And, if you donít check it, you might not notice whatís going on until the damage is done. I know someone who ran a blanket cleaning service who told of receiving blankets that had not just hair, but skin attached in some spots. That means the blanket was left on the horse far too long. Blankets that continually rub in one spot, such as on the points of the shoulders and over the withers can cause nerve damage. Eventually, the hair might turn white in these areas.

Even if your blanket fits properly at the beginning of the season, doesnít mean it will fit the same if the horse gains or loses weight or muscle over the winter.

Of course, if your blanket becomes saturated, itís time to take it off. Blankets lose their waterproofing over time. If you donít check, you might not notice that your horse isnít dry underneath. This can be just as chilling as no blanket at all.

Itís not a bad idea to check the condition of the blanket itself. Broken belly straps, rips, and missing leg straps might cause the blanket to shift and become a tangling hazard. With horse blankets, the old adage Ďa stitch in time saves nineí is so very true. That little rip you noticed yesterday can easily turn into a three-foot tear overnight. That wonít be keeping your horse warm, and it can become a hazard, so take that blanket off, and get out your sewing needle and thread.

And of course, you want to check the condition of your horse frequently. Has it lost or put on too much weight? Is itís coat good. Has some sort of skin condition cropped up? You wonít be able to tell until you take off that blanket.
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