Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rain Sheet Day

Today is the first day since last spring that I've had to put rain sheets on the horses. Our horses go out every day, rain or shine, pretty much 365 days a year. If we get a rainy, windy day in the low 40s or the 30s, sometimes we'll bring them in early - even with a rain sheet on, they can get pretty chilled in weather like that. Today we're expecting temperatures in the mid-50s with a lot of wind and pretty steady rain, so I sheeted the horses before turnout. Our pastures have no shelter at all - not a shed, tree line or tree, so the horses have nowhere to go to escape the rain and wind. Our terrain is very open, so the wind moves right through. A horse that gets soaked to the skin when the temperatures are in the 50s with wind may get thoroughly chilled. Of course there are individual variations in sensitivity - Dawn and some of the seniors are particularly inclined to get cold and chilled.

I ask each owner to supply a waterproof (and preferably breathable) turnout sheet. I prefer the ones without insulation - just a plain waterproof sheet. 1200 denier or better is really necessary, as anything less is likely to rip (or be ripped!) in our group turnout situation. I've had good luck myself with a number of brands - my horses are currently in Weathabeeta Oricans that are several years old, but Jill got a more recent set for Scout and Joe and the fabric just isn't holding up as well. It's also good if the sheet fits and provides adequate coverage on the sides, legs and tail area - a horse with a sheet that doesn't fit can be pretty uncomfortable and can even end up with soreness - say at the withers or in the shoulder area - that can carry over to riding. I have my sheets and blankets washed, mended and rewaterproofed every year, and they usually last for several years. I noticed this morning that several of the horses have sheets that are clearly no longer very waterproof - I'll have to point that out to their owners.

I sheet the horses in their stalls as they are eating their hay before breakfast - with one exception - Dawn gets sheeted on crossties before turnout as she can be worried in the stall. Some of the horses used to have problems with sheeting, but we've worked through that. Scout would race in circles around his stall - approach/release worked really well to convince him that he could stand still. Charisma used to be afraid of her sheet, and would also bite when it was being fastened. One day I just dropped the sheet on the floor of her stall - she wasn't afraid of it when it wasn't moving or otherwise I wouldn't have done that - and let her finish her hay while she kept an eye on it. After that she wasn't worried about it moving. The snappishness was cured by giving her lavish praise when she kept her mouth to herself - in her case corrections for aggressive behavior tend to escalate, but praise works instantly. She and Scout are now the perfect lady and gentleman.

Both Sugar and Misty can be somewhat snappish - I believe in part because they just don't like the way their sheets fit. In their case, I just stick out my index finger and arrange for the soft side of their nose to "accidentally" run into my finger as they try to snap. Misty then bites the wall, but I don't care about that if it helps her.

An interesting thing with Dawn - she's always been a bit crabby about having her sheet put on and taken off - she tries to bite the sheet and also doesn't like the front straps to be fastened - and her sheets fits really well. This morning, she was ears up and relaxed the whole time, which was a first. A different horse, really - I don't know if it's the Mare Magic, the magnesium, the ulcer meds or just the fact that she's just more relaxed in general. Whatever it is, I'll take it!


  1. I am pretty sure you would not agree with this , but it is always so funny to hear about Dawn and her big personality! For instance, the cranky sheet behavior she has had in the past! I'm glad that this time she was better, but she is such the character. I've sheeted my horse for one reason: sunburn. I thought she'd actually hate having the sheet on her, and you know, it must have fit her just right because she didn't seem to mind it a bit.

  2. You ought to give yourself a pat on the back for Dawn . . as much as you've worked with her the past few months - perhaps it's simply that she trusts you more.

  3. I don't have a rain sheet for Panama, because I really haven't needed it in the past -- we don't get much rain in Colorado. Until this year, of course! In any case, he does have the barn for shelter at his current place, and he is the first one to put himself away when the bad weather starts!

    Your post is a good reminder that I need to get out his winter blankets, though, and make sure he's still okay with them. He's always been fine with blanketing in the past, but last winter he developed a fear of them. Whereas we used to blanket him loose in his stall with no problem, now that he's in pasture we have to tie him to do it -- even if he's eating, if he's untied he will either run away from me when he sees me coming with it, or he'll bolt when I'm halfway done, wrecking a strap more often than not!

  4. We don't need to blanket here, although a few horses stay slick for show season and I have seen them wearing blankets. Of course they are all very professional about it, used to the ministrations of their minions.


  5. I have a selection of rainsheets in different weights...in orange. You are right, though, the lighterweight nylon ones do not hold up in a herd.

    Retirement here will have its benefits as I will be able to much better monitor the outfits as the weather changes. The Boys do have ample shelter, but sometimes one horse ends up standing outside...or all three do for whatever reasons I cannot fathom. (reasons...horses...oxymoron?)

  6. Oh my, I guess it is getting to be that time of year up there. I don't miss taking care of them in the cold and I don't think my horses miss it at all. I go on a lot of short holidays here n there and I'm always amazed at how different the climates around the country are this time of year. My horses are munching hay under their fans right now. It's around 92 and the humidity is back. I got in the pool this morning after feeding.
    I know Denver has funny weather. We go there every winter up towards Estes Park. It's spooky going up to the summer towns in winter. And I always like going to the stock show extras in January.
    Isn't the saying in Denver, if you don't like the weather today, wait til tomorrow?
    Anyway, no sheets here for a bit. Wishing you warm winds from the south!


  7. WOW that was a real eye opener of a blog Kate. Cranky ponies when being rugged. I have never had that nor come across is before. The worst I had was a mare who was cautious but if you did it slowly and quietly you were both fine. We rug a lot here is Australia. Horses mostly live out 24/7 here so we normally rug all winter (down south anyway) and in summer a lot of horses live in cottons to help keep the bugs off.

  8. Sheet weather will be upon us in a few weeks. The horses seek out shelter at the oddest times in my opinion. Like when it is 72 and sunny. 40 degrees and raining - no one is near any shelter. Honestly they don't use their shelters hardly at all anyway. Thus rainsheets are our friend here. It makes me feel better even though I know most of my reasoning is classic anthropomorphism. There certainly are valid times to use a sheet and/or a blanket but I know we horse owners probably use them way too much. I can't seem to stop myself!

  9. What great progress with Dawn! I like your finger "accidently" bumping into the soft part of the nose trick with Sugar and Misty. I have to try that some morning when Pie is slightly nervous. He always wants to "mouth" something like a cotton lead when he is agitated. It reminds me of the "puppy-stage" in dogs. I believe he is half-Labradorable.
    I think your rain is coming our way. Darn.

  10. Is it time to dig that stuff out already? Ugh! I hate to think about the rain and mudd. So far in Oregon weather has been perfect. I am now "knocking on wood.":-)

  11. I too have never heard of a cranky horse while being blanketed!Very good about the correction..oops...did you run into my hand there...better not turn your head that way!
    Good news on Dawn.

    I leave the blankets chest closure velcrowed and fastened- hold it up in the air and Wa steps into it for me, with her head down. My sissy taught her that..most likely with treats...she'll do ANYTHING for that!

    I sheet my mare because, I blanket clip her. Also..I have over delveloped muscles in the front of my body and extra mudd brushing makes my hands go numb. Blankets are my friends!She does not seem to mind.

  12. I only blanket the old guy, and he doesn't care. I usually throw it on and take it off while he's eating. My mare doesn't need a blanket- she's plenty chubby, and they ahve a run-in barn if they so choose. Living in AZ, it doesn't rain much, but we've been getting down to the 30's overnight.


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