If I hadn’t seen it happen every year for the past 9 years, I wouldn’t recognize one of the two horses that greet me when I throw open the barn door. My beauty truly becomes a beast! My gorgeous, refined Arabian gelding turns into a woolly mammoth every winter. I have never seen a horse put on a coat like he does. Gone is any semblance of a lower jaw line; instead, it is replaced with massive amounts of thick white hair. It doesn’t help any that I only trim bridle paths if we are going somewhere or I am going to ride… That happens rarely after November and before March. So 4 inches of bridle path hair sticking straight up really adds to his chic look…
This is my second winter with Finn, and he doesn’t get that hairy. He looks like a fuzzier version of his summer self. Whereas Finn was blanketed when I purchased him in October of 2017, I don’t blanket my horses. I let Mother Nature provide their blanket. But whether or not to blanket your horse is a question many horse owners ask. Here is an article that talks about if and when to blanket, and I agree with the recommendations. There are occasional times I will put on a blanket, but there are extenuating circumstances when I do.
I also keep my horses shod during prime riding season, and pull shoes during the winter months. My farrier was just here. He returned my horses to their barefoot state, although about a month later than usual. It has been warm here, and very, very wet. If I hauled the horses to the State Park (Hillsdale Lake) 10 minutes from my place, it would be a muddy ride. Nevertheless, I’d love to go ride the nice, soft trails and their bare feet would do just fine. I guess I’d probably have to trim that 4 inches of mane sticking straight up…
I am acutely aware of the fact that allowing Finn to sit idle all winter is not going to do him any favors when it comes to maintaining his education. Kadeen is pretty solid in his training, and he has coasted through many winters. I do see a significant improvement in Finn’s ground demeanor this year versus last winter. He’s much more relaxed and predictable.
My trainer, the gal that sold me Finn, always said he remembered and maintained his lessons. She just picked up where she left off the previous session. I am counting on that, as I put a great deal of effort into bringing him along last summer and I don’t want to have to start all over. I have the option of hauling both horses to my trainer’s indoor arena. Perhaps Alan and I will try and do that if we can’t handle the mud at Hillsdale Lake.
I have yet another issue to resolve before I begin riding in earnest again this spring. Unfortunately, I need to refit the saddle I am using on Finn. I am kicking myself because apparently the saddle was rubbing his withers and I didn’t know it. I DID put about a hundred pounds on him (finally!) last summer, and clearly, that filled out his withers. As he started putting on his winter coat, I noticed some white hairs… I am sick that I allowed that to happen and desperately hoping that a properly fitting saddle will allow that unhappy area of his withers to heal.
Chronic trauma from the saddle damages the hair follicle and the pigment-producing cells. As much as I’d like it to go away, chances are I will forever have to look at the results of an ill-fitting saddle. Interestingly enough, I had no other indicators (at least that I was aware of) that we had saddle fit issues. I think they developed as a result of his significant weight gain. So off my saddle will go to the manufacturer, plus a wither’s tracing, and it will be fit to Finn before spring. Here is an excellent article about saddle fit.
One other tidbit of information I’d like to share. I recently started Finn on a Purina product called Outlast. It is pretty amazing stuff! The reviews are extremely positive and I can understand why! I do think Finn was a gastric ulcer/gastric distress horse and his “Type A” personality contributed to that. (Like owner, like horse…) Since I started him on Outlast, I have seen a significant improvement in his comfort level, and correspondingly in his attitude. I have long been a fan of Purina products, both large and small animal. I often tell clients searching for advice on what food to feed their dog that Purina, Royal Canin and Hills are the only three large pet food manufacturers that have a veterinarian on staff. (Side bar…. DON’T feed your dog grain free food!) If you have a horse with gastric issues, check it out!
I hope you had a great start to 2019 and may you find plenty of time in your day to enjoy your equine buddy. Stay safe!! And watch for the next post where I tell you about bushwacking through the Rocky Mountains after losing my landmarks because of the Flood of 2013!