Blanketing is something new to me. When I was a kid, I didn't know that whole horse blankets existed, or maybe I am just so old that blanketing became a thing between my youth and my middle age (Yes, I am going to live to be over 100, so there.) My horses were never blanketed. In fact, they were turned loose on 60 acres in the fall and put on weight eating the grass buried under the snow. They grew nice thick winter coats and were shaggy and rotund from October through May. Grooming them the first part of May was one of my favorite things to do, as they dropped thick handfuls of hair under the brushes and curry combs. I made more than one horsehair saddle blanket but stuffing a gunny sack with horse hair and then stitching it shut and using it under my saddle for the summer.
The idea of blanketing, or clipping and then blanketing, had never occurred to me, nor was I around people who were showing and keeping their horses clipped for that reason. I guess my philosophy is that I would prefer to leave my horse natural, housed outside with shelter and plenty of food to eat during the winter. I want him to be able to experience the elements and changing temps, to have some say in how he experiences the weather. I might at some point in the future, decide to do a clip, but I would need help and direction and a pair of clippers. Ultimately, I prefer to manage the hairy beast and monitor my riding/his sweat in a way that precludes clipping. Not that I'm dead set against it, I just don't know enough to know how to do it without creating issues.
When I first brought Ashke home, I purchased a heavy weight horse blanket to help him until he gained enough weight to maintain his body temp. He was still wearing the blanket six months later, when the weather turned in October of our first year. Then I moved him to TMR, with it's heated barn and the absolute refusal to have the doors open if the weather is colder than about 50 degrees. This means that for the past two years, Ashke has not been in normal weather. He was locked in a box stall if it rained, if it snowed, if it was windy, if it was cold. His winter coat is slightly fuzzy, but certainly not a real shag fest. Even so, many of the horses at TMR are blanketed all year long, from sheets and coolers to heavy blankets. Some of them were blanketed under two sets of blankets when it got cold. In a temperature controlled barn.
When we moved to SQA, one of the things I was really excited about was the fact that Ashke could pick and choose his surroundings. He is in a box stall with a run. The stall and the run are separated by hanging plastic curtains, which he has learned to negotiate. He is on four flakes of grass hay a day, plus two feedings of the barley fodder. Howcver, the feed is not enough make up for the lack of a winter coat. He is still fairly slick and as he has demonstrated, he is not very good at making the choice to stay inside when there is inclement weather. I have found him shivering several times, even with the blanket on and so was very afraid when the weather turned bad this week.
I talked to the BO about buying an extra bale of grass hay. One of the key things you can do to help eliminate shivering is to ensure your horse has access to unlimited grass hay. This morning when I got to the barn to check on Ashke, he was warm and still finishing his breakfast in his stall. There was a bale of hay sitting on top of my tack box (Thanks Mike!!) waiting for me. I gave Ashke his first mash of the day and then put about half of the bale of hay into a hay net and hung it in his stall. Ashke finished his mash in record time, then turned around and saw the hay net, spooked violently (I honestly think he would have kicked out at it with a hind foot given the chance) and bolted out into the balmy 10 degree weather.
When we went back tonight to check on him, he was standing in his stall munching on the grass hay. He got more Triple Crown Senior with carrots and felt toasty warm under his heavy blanket. I had planned on layering his BOT under the heavy mlanket, but since the temps outside were close to zero and he was nice and warm, we just dumped a bale of shavings into his stall for warmth in case he laid down overnight. He still had a flake of grass in his feeder and a little more than half of the hay still left in the hay net, plus a pile underneath the hay net. I picked his stall (he prefers to pee in the shavings but will almost always go outside to poop), and then spread out the bedding. I plan on going back tomorrow morning to replenish his hay net and give him another wet mash.
I am hoping this process helps him make it through the cold spell. I felt really bad for all of the other horses standing and listening to him munch on his unlimited hay. It is good to be Ashke.