Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rain Rain, Go or Stay?


As I sit here typing away at my computer I keep glancing outside, hoping that the rain that is falling down steadily will either lessen up or stop. I had plans for today, but those plans, and basically all of next weeks plans have been postponed or canceled :(

Is the rain a blessing or a curse? 

I can't quite decide! I'm glad it's raining because living through a drought isn't a lot of fun, but is it raining more than necessary? It sure feels like it! Every time it rains, horse people face the facts: rain is needed to keep water levels high for the horses to drink, it helps the grass grow for the horses to eat, it cleans off our trucks and trailers that we might neglect in that department because whats the point if it's just going to get muddy again? But there are lots of drawbacks to it too. Grey horses turn a nice chestnutty red or a really dark black (depending on the type of soil you live on), blankets lose their original color (and you hope they are still waterproof!) shoe sucker mud comes out in full force, and doing basic barn chores just got a lot worse! Not to mention if you don't have a covered arena you are most likely sidelined until your footing dries out, after it stops raining for a few days!
That's a lot of mud!!

The saving grace for the current rain storm is the temperature. Thank goodness it is warm enough outside (or at least where I am!) that you can stand being out there long enough to get all the stalls clean and set up again. There is nothing worse than a damp bone chilling cold that makes every part of your body numb and achey. The only way to warm back up after a day like that is an extremely hot shower and a cup of hot tea! 

There are other reasons that the rain is good. You know all those indoor things you should do but somehow get pushed to the back? The rain keeps you inside so you can get your work done! I have a list as long as my arm of things I should do but keeping coming up with ways to go out to the barn and ride my horse instead... So is today a good day to start on that list? Well I have an entire week of rain in the forecast to get everything done! Though I'm sure I'll be putting on my boots and trudging out to the barn to see my pony on a regular basis- because lets face it, not even rain can keep me inside for to long!!

Oh!! Another great reason to stay inside when it rains- YOUTUBE!!! There are sooooo many great videos out there (and really terrible ones). I'm sure you're familiar with Ed the Naughty Pony, if not- look it up! But I just stumbled across a really funny christmas themed clip! I know it's January, but this one is to good to not share!!! Just think of it as a Candlemas present to you guys ;) Thanks to this post on Hoof Blog for finding some cute videos!

So if it's raining where you are, maybe start on that long "for a rainy day" list, and when you need a good laugh, have an enjoyable moment watching youtube! Or a good horse movie :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Blanket Monsters!!!

I think there is a blanket eating monster in Gus's pasture. It apparently only has a taste for medium weight blankets and doesn't care for sheets- I think it likes the filling, not the crust...

This past month my horse has ripped BOTH of his blankets while out in the pasture! The two days it was cold enough to put him out in a blanket (he's clipped in case you forgot) he came in with rips on his butt.

Day 1) His brown Bit of Britain- it's 1680 denier (apparently) so should be pretty strong- well not strong enough! There was about an inch of ripped shell on his back left hind quarter... nothing bad, but still needs to be stitched up, so off it comes (it had started to warm up to sheet weather by that point) and out comes the spare- a green Weatherbeeta (Oricon maybe???) that came with Gus when we got him.

Day 2) Another cold day and out goes Gus in his green blanket...and returns with a 4 inch gash AND filling falling out! Now Gus has no spare...but thankfully barn owner was able to stitch the green one up because lets face it, I hate this blanket (color aside- it's a real pretty green) and don't care that it's no longer waterproof at the rip point BUT Gus needs a blanket when it gets cold at night.

Blankets in the Snow (from a previous year- 2010?)

So this fiasco gets me thinking- what Blanket is the Best bang for your buck? Does the more expensive Rambo equal a longer lasting blanket? So here are some thoughts about the various blankets I have used in the past and some preferences I have for picking out a blanket/sheet for a horse

What I look for:
High Neck- I like this feature b/c it makes the blankets seem more protective. I prefer the high neck vs. the neck covers (hoods) because it still allows heat to escape but protects from rain. I think that neck covers can get to hot, especially if you have a furnace for a horse!
Neck Cover
High Neck
Standard Neck

Chest Clips- not buckles- There is nothing worse than trying to buckle the front of a blanket with thick gloves on and the strap is not going through the buckle, so you have to take your nice and toasty gloves off and on as you buckle each horse's blanket- boo. I don't care what kind of clips, but really do like ones that just snap on- those are the easiest

 Tail Straps- ok this isn't the end of the world, but they are so much easier to deal with than leg straps. This way you only have to unclip the front and stomach clips before pulling off the blanket. But if your blanket shifts a lot on your horse the leg straps can keep it in place a bit better.

Blankets I've tried

Weatherbeeta- These tend to be cheaper blankets but have many features that people quite like. They usually have shoulder gussets to allow more freedom in the shoulder. I do love the really large tail flaps to protect the tail area from rain/snags/bites/whatever it stops (I think this is only available in the Freestyle versions). It does a really good job of covering the tail area without restricting movement or being to loose and flapping. They have high neck and standard neck designs, but they have the evil buckles. I hate Weatherbeetas for this purpose alone. But to be fair I just looked at their website and some of the blankets have the quick clip option! Yes! Now that is what I'm talking about!! I would consider trying one of those Weatherbeetas! Now back to the review- They hold up decently well, but this also depends on how many blanket monsters live in your pasture! I've heard mixed results about how they fit horses, some horses they fit really well and others not so much. But I think that's a general problem, not one specific to Weatherbeeta. Color option is pretty extensive with the Joules collection, so it's nice to have some fun options! Do really love the Weetherbeeta/Joules bubble dog blanket I have for my dog Jello- it is in it's 3rd winter and has held up really well, and my dog doesn't just sit at home- she's out hunting in the woods by the barn and going on trail rides with me so it's been through some brush!
one of many styes/options/colors from Weatherbeeta
Jello in her blanket

Bit of Britain- Cheap blankets WITH clips! They have the adjustable buckle but with a clip for easy usage once properly adjusted to specific horse. Quite handy. Color options aren't extensive, their strongest denier comes in a not the most attractive copperish brown color. It's not horrible, but they seriously could of picked a better color! But I guess it does hide mud better? They do have a much better blue plaid version of the high neck, but has a lower denier strength. This is important when deciding what blanket to buy for what horse and how rough the horse is on his blankets. The blankets fit pretty well to the horse, but I feel like they tend to shift slightly. Though to be fair, this is most likely a result of me trying to change the leg straps into a tail strap and then loosing the other leg strap. But it didn't fall off, just off center. So as long as it stays place and still covers my horse while being off center I won't complain, to much. The other thing I don't like about it is it tends to be a bit bell shaped when sitting on a horse. Again more of a cosmetic issue, not a workability issues, but I don't like how it seems to flair out at the bottom. The brown blanket I have is a year old and the bell shape hasn't really gone away. Has shoulder gussets so this is quite nice. They tend to go on sale, even in the middle of winter (like right now-25% off!) so this is really nice if you're on a budget!


Rambo- Love Love LOVE my Rambo!!! It's probably 5+ years old and still going strong (knock on wood) Don't like that the Wug sheet version (high neck style) only comes in purple, but oh well. Real men wear purple right? It has all the check marks for my blanket requirement list with easy clips, tail strap, and high neck option (the Wug) They seem to have a really long shelf life because all of our horses have had their Wug's for minimum of 5 years. I know that there are Rambos still in use that could be reaching the age of 10,15, and 20 years- who knows even the very first Rambo could be out there still in use??? The other thing I like about Rambo is the people behind the company are always coming up with new ideas to make their blanket even better. The V neck snap system on the front of the blankets, velcro that now has a double closure system to keep the blanket closed when the velcro starts to get old and not as sticky, removable surcingles because those are always getting ripped up and fall apart before the blanket does, a plastic covered tail strap because poop is always collecting on the nylon ones, and the 3rd surcingle for added security without restricting movement. The only fault that Rambo has is it's price- holy cow the price! Not an easy purchase to make if you're trying to save money or if you have to buy multiple blankets for multiple horses. Horseware Ireland (the company behind Rambos) does make a cheaper option called Amigo. I've only ever used one Amigo and I quite liked it. It didn't have any of the cool Rambo features, but it was also unknown age (probably with in the 5 year range) and had come out of a box of blankets that my mom had as leftovers from when we had a riding program at our old boarding barn. It fit Liaison well and he looked quite dashing in the Green Plaid design.
The Bay Boys in their Wugs

Care and Maintenance of Blankets

Hairballs from blanket after washing
As with any blanket the way you take care of it will determine how long it will last. Washing and waterproofing every year will insure that your blanket will keep out the rain. But remember that regular detergent will strip the waterproofing off of the blanket and ruin it. Also make sure you use breathable waterproofing agents because it can get really hot under a blanket unless it can breathe! The breathability prevents the horse from sweating and then catching a chill (when blanket is used in appropriate temp for weight of blanket)- if you've ever worn a cheap raincoat than you know what I'm talking about

So either take your blankets to a reputable blanket repair person (just like anything in life, not all blanket repair people are created equal) or make sure you wash and waterproof with APPROVED detergent and waterproofing only! I promise this will SAVE you more money in the long run!!! I know someone who ruined their blankets by using some weird waterproofing stuff (I think it was for your shoes?) and while it worked great the first year, it has prevented the blankets from holding onto their waterproofing ability since then. My horse was the only one dry and his blanket is the exact same blanket (and age) as the other ones. It may suck paying for quality work, but it's a lot cheaper than buying a new blanket every year!

Final thoughts about blanket purchase:

 If your horse's nickname is Shredder and you find that the Ninja Turtles are always battling your horse out in the pasture and every year you need to buy a replacement blanket, go with a cheap blanket that doesn't put you in debt when purchasing a new one every year.

 If quality is what you seek, go with a Rambo. If you are able to spend the extra cash up front I do think buying a good quality blanket will pay you back in the end because it will outlast the others.

Not all blankets will fit your horse. There is nothing more unsightly than a blanket rub on your immaculately clean horse at a horse show. You can buy shoulder protectors to prevent rubs, but it's easiest if you buy a blanket that fits (less hassle). If your horse is extra wide (big shoulders or girth area, drafty or Quarter horse breeds tend to be this way) they do make extra wide blankets to accommodate the shoulder but won't be to long for the back. 

But no matter how much money you spend for the initial blanket, upkeep is the only way to ensure longevity in your blanket purchase- no matter what brand you go with!

Johnny staying dry and toasty in his blanket
The Bay Boys coming in to eat