Here in the North East we had a cool, wet summer. The first week of fall was spectacular – lots of sun, warm but not hot, the mosquitoes finally called it quits and the riding was easy. Enter week two of Autumn 2009 and the weather has not been anything close to wonderful. The temperatures are dropping and the rain is falling AND the real kicker with regard to horses and weather is the wind is blowing. Horses being creatures of flight do not like high winds as it distorts their ability to assess danger – rustling leaves blowing from the wind could in fact be a predator and with the wind whipping one can never be sure from where that scary scent is coming.
There seems to be two rather conflicting schools of thought regarding turn out in this sort of weather. Those that think horses should only go out on pristinely quiet days without any sort of challenge for their equine wards and those that think – they’re horses – they’ll survive. As you have read through many of my past articles you know I am an advocate for turn out and by following some basic common sense horses can cope very well with adverse weather during our very changeable fall season.
On very windy days there are several considerations that must be assessed. If your pasture has trees that are not in good health it would be better to either move the horses to a different pasture or to keep them in. If you do see limbs breaking and or notice dead limbs at any time of the year it would be best to get them trimmed so this is not an issue. Any wind that blows continuously above 30 miles per hour should be considered unsafe for turnout regardless of your pasture situation unless there is adequate shelter for each horse.
Rain in the autumn is fairly standard here in my neck of the woods. Horses can shed rain from their coats very well for almost two hours as long as you have not been too liberal with shampoo during the hot weather – shampooing removes the protective oils from the coat and makes the coat less water resistant. However despite all precautions not to remove the horse’s natural oils you must be aware that their full winter coat is not yet grown in so their tolerance for rain and lower temperatures is not as good as when the winter coat is completely grown in. Add wind to the mix and the chill factor gets even more important to take note of.
You must assess individual horses for their ability to repel water. Thoroughbreds tend to grow less coat and often need augmented assistance by way of waterproof sheets to stay warm and dry and other breeds, like the Norwegian Fjord, have such thick heavy coats that they may never need a blanket. That said the ability to stay warm and dry is not entirely breed specific so take some time to make sure your particular horse is not shivering in the cool wet days of fall.
There are many horse wear products out there and most people have their favorites. If you need to purchase a sheet or a blanket for the first time or if the ones you have used in the past have been less than stellar in their performance I would ask others in your area. However before making this rather hefty purchase consider the following criteria. The conformation of your horse greatly influences the fit of the clothing he or she may wear. Long backed, low necked horses do not wear blankets well that are more suited for short backed, high necked horses. As you ask around check your horse’s conformation against the horses who are wearing the blankets that others recommend. If your horse has a similar body type then you will probably do well to buy the same brand. If the body types are at opposite ends of the spectrum then look further into your blanket choice. The catalogue customer service people can be very helpful with this as well.
Two products that I use and recommend are the Rambo brands for Thoroughbreds and those similar in conformation. And for those with higher necks and broader shoulders I like the Schneiders products with the adjustable neck openings.
I love the cooler temperatures of fall so blanket up and ride happy.
Rambo products are available in many tack stores and catalogues.
Their web-site offers some great information - http://www.horseware.com/
Schneiders are only available through their catalogue.