Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blankets and More Blankets

We certainly had a busy weekend around the retirement farm. One of the more fun parts was welcoming our most recent new arrivals. Our one remaining hen hatched nine checks sometime in the wee hours of early Sunday morning. This hen, to be blunt, is simply an unfit mother. She does a terrible job of keeping up with her chicks and at one point was wandering around with one of her chicks while the other eight had gotten separated from her. She didn't seem to have noticed or to care. Jason and I reunited her with the rest of her flock with no thanks from her. This is how she has parented every other flock she has had. Too bad there is no such agency as Chicken Protective Services because she would definitely be reported!

Day old chicks, they are too cute

We spent the weekend getting ready to start the blanket grind again. It will probably be several weeks before we need them but it is always best to be prepared ahead of time. We picked up our giant load of cleaned and repaired blankets from the wonderful person who does this for us on Saturday. The bed of the truck and the back seat were both crammed full of blankets. It is so nice to handle clean blankets instead of dirty ones.

Jason had the job of hanging a few more blanket racks in the barn. It seems like such an easy job but he certainly seemed to have some trouble keeping track of those little screws! While Jason was doing that I was sorting blankets as we store them in two different locations on the farm. Some are in the barn and some are in a completely enclosed shed where I also keep blankets, halters, feed and feed bags for a few of the pastures.

Jason standing on a ladder hanging another blanket bar for me

It is such a production messing with all of these blankets. I ask myself often if I create a lot of unnecessary work for everyone with blanketing. We don't exactly have harsh winters here. A few inches of snow a year that usually melts the day it hits the ground. We are always really excited when snow hangs around for a few days!

Blankets sorted and ready to be taken to different areas

I try hard not to fall into the classic trap of assigning human wants and emotions to animals. I am not sure that I avoid it when it comes to the whole blanketing thing. I think in this area I am an example of classic anthropomorphism. *I* feel better when they have on their waterproof blankets or sheets when it is going to be cold and wet. Some of the horses will shiver when it is cold and raining although most are perfectly fine. They never seem to use their shelters at what I would consider to be logical times so I comfort myself knowing they are wearing their shelters. I ordered a sheet and blanket for my horse Bonnie a couple of weeks ago. I bred and raised Bonnie and she has never worn a blanket in her life and has always lived outside 24/7. I have no idea *why* I felt I should have blankets for her this year. Jason was a bit puzzled by this as well. On the other hand my retired mare Bridget has always had a nice selection of blankets in her wardrobe. Since I had no idea about Sky and blanketing as this is my first winter with her I ordered her a sheet and blanket as well.

Jason strapping down a load of blankets on the trusty Kubota

I pretty much have a blanket or sheet on everyone if it is going to be cold and wet. I am much less aggressive about using blankets for just cold. A few residents are blanketed much more aggressively for cold and in certain temperatures there will only be a few horses wearing blankets while most are nekkid. Of course there are plenty of times when everyone will be sporting some clothing. It is just my approach but I think if it is questionable whether to put a blanket on or not it is far better for the horse to be without a blanket than to be hot and sweaty with a blanket.

The goats had a leisurely weekend; while we were busy bees putting up more blanket bars, sorting blankets, and hauling blankets around the farm the goats just relaxed in the sun. Of course the black and white goats are Mina and Jo, world's cutest fainting goats, and behind them are Billy and Bubba, world's luckiest stray goats

I also break out the sheets and blankets if it is supposed to be windy. Although I probably greatly exaggerate the effects of it in my mind, it would seem that the wind would really interfere with the loft in their coats and make it harder to stay warm. A lot of farms will not blanket horses that are not in a stall. I understand why because it is a huge pain. First you have to get the blankets to the pastures, and more importantly to wherever the horses happen to be in the pasture. Secondly, the horses are not standing in their stalls with nowhere to go while you put their blankets on, they can leave or choose not to be caught if they don't wish to participate. We usually try to do all of our blanketing and un-blanketing in conjunction with feeding times. That way the horses are near the gate, occupied with eating and are not moving around.

Jason was convinced he saw a mouse in the shed. He stands here ready for battle with a huge stick in one hand and a rock in the other. Sadly this picture was not posed!
My next step in preparation for blanketing season will be to re-waterproof a few of the blankets. In my experience when the blankets start to lose their waterproofing you can usually do a good re-proofing with Nikwax and that will get you one more season out of them. What I have found is after that the re-proofing just does not hold anymore. Thus a few of the horses had to have some of their clothes replaced this year. I do attempt to re-waterproof their old clothes with the Nikwax so I can use them as a back-up for them if needed. I have also heard of a lot of people using Thompson's Water Seal to re-proof blankets as well. I've never tried this myself so if anyone has share your experiences. In fact share anything you have found that works for re-waterproofing!
The blankets were hung in the shed with care in hopes that winter would not soon be there
My last step in preparation for blanketing season will be to order several pairs of replacement leg straps. Inevitably the hardware fails or the straps get broken on the rear leg straps of a few blankets. I always try to have a few replacements on hand. I am absolutely not handy with a thread and needle so any big repairs like broken surcingles have to be handled by the wonderful person who does blanket cleaning and repair for us. Hopefully now that I am ready to go we won't need the blankets for a long time!

Leo; Leo is a Dutch Warmblood who showed through 4th level dressage before beginning a very successful career in the hunters

Norman and Sparky in the front and Traveller in the back; too bad the sun was at the wrong angle for this picture.

Levendi; Levendi is an Oldenburg and retired from the hunter ring due to complications from arthritis in his neck

Chance and Homer; Chance is a Thoroughbred and Homer is an Irish bred gelding. Both are retired from the hunters.

L-R Apollo, Ivan and Levendi. Apollo is a Hanoverian who is retired from a dressage career due to EPM. Ivan is a Thoroughbred and retired from Grand Prix jumping due to arthritis.

Two of my girls grooming each other, Bridget and Sky.

Ogie and B-Rad walking through the pasture. Ogie is a Thoroughbred and retired from three day eventing. B-Rad is a Belgian Warmblood and retired from the jumpers.
Asterik trotting towards me. Asterik is a Holsteiner and won at the biggest shows in both the hunters and the jumpers, not many horses can do double duty like that successfully. Unfortunately he stepped on a nail at a horse show and it went through the collateral ligament of one of his front hooves.

Trillion and Winston; Trillion is a Dutch Warmblood and retired show hunter. He was nationally ranked in the Regular Working Hunters (4' hunters) and circuit champion at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Winston is a Thoroughbred and retired from the hunter ring as well.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

As I read your post, visions of blankets danced through my head.
I blanketed my horse for literally years and every year I experienced what you describe. 20 odd horses and double as many blankets (just in case). Fall and spring nightmare.

Last year we just quit. Now they aren't blanketed anymore at all. Do you want to know what the difference is? They are fuzzier, that's it. We ride more walk and less canter. That's it.

I love not having blankets anymore. :-)
But I loved reading about yours anyway...