Blanket? Or not to blanket?


Do you and your horse live in a cold climate? Do rain and snow frequently fall while your horse is turned out to pasture? Does your prize-winning show horse relish a roll in mud and manure – after you’ve spent countless hours grooming her for the competition lights? Regardless of your situation, blankets may be the answer to many of your troubles. In fact, a suitable horse blanket or sheet may be one of the most important investments you can make when it comes to your horse’s health and beauty.

Blankets defined
Horse blankets and sheets are an easy and often economical way to protect your horse from cold, inclement weather, excess dirt, manure, and mud. Some also protect against insects or potentially damaging ultraviolet rays. In addition, frequent grooming removes natural oils from your horse’s coat, but blankets and sheets help add a much needed layer of protection regardless of the weather.

Blankets and sheets are available in numerous styles and materials. Generally, a blanket fits over your horse’s entire body – covering the withers, back, barrel, and hindquarters – from the shoulder to the tail. The length usually falls around mid-leg. Those with open fronts or shoulder gussets allow your horse more freedom of movement while she is turned out in the pasture or field. Regardless of style, however, a strap around the girth area and rear leg straps will help keep the blanket in position at all times.

The following are some common questions and answers about blanketing your horse:

Should I blanket my horse?
Whether you blanket your horse or not depends greatly on your individual horse and the climate you live in. Here are some instances where a blanket may be beneficial for your horse:

  • If your horse is visibly uncomfortable or shivering in the cold weather
  • If your horse is older, weak, ill or recovering from an illness
  • If your horse is very young
  • If your horse is clipped
  • If you show your horse
  • If your horse does not have a sufficient winter coat
  • If your horse was from a warmer climate and is now in a cooler climate

When should I begin to blanket my horse?
As a general rule, you should begin to blanket your horse when you first notice she is uncomfortable in cold weather conditions. Even if your horse is not shivering, you may want to consider blanketing your horse if the wind is brisk or if it is raining or snowing. If the nights are cold but the days are still warm, you may find your horse benefits from having a blanket at night.

What type of blanket should I use?
The best type of blanket depends on your situation. Consider the weather, overall climate in your area, and how your horse responds to cold, rain, wind, and snow. There are a number of materials available to choose from, including weatherproof nylon, durable canvas, quilted polyester, and polar fleece. A thin sheet is ideal for minimal protection from the sun, or blowing dirt and dust. If your area gets large amounts of cold, rain, or snow, choose a more weather-resistant blanket. You may also want to consider having two blankets on hand so you can wash one blanket while your horse wears the other.

Will I be able to tell if my horse is too hot when she is blanketed?
Your horse may give you physical signs when she is too warm. Sweating behind the ears or along the neck is a telltale sign your horse is too warm wearing his blanket. Be sure to watch for signs your horse is overheating, which include an absence of sweat (anhidrosis) and heavy breathing. Overheating can happen when you blanket your horse when the days are warm, but the nights are still cold and the blanket is not removed early enough in the morning.

What is blanket zap? How can I prevent it?
Blanket zap can be compared to a human getting static shock. Blanket zap is caused when a blanket is taken off your horse, resulting in static electricity which causes stinging static zap to your horse and you. This is particularly common in dry weather or if your horse’s hair coat is very dry. To eliminate blanket zap, do NOT slide the blanket across your horse when removing it from her body. Instead, try to remove the blanket by lifting the blanket up and off of your horse’s body. If you curry or brush your horse more often, your horse’s natural oils will be distributed over the hair coat, which also helps to minimize blanket zap.

How do I know the blanket fits my horse?
Blankets are generally made to fit a particular size range. When you purchase a blanket, choose one with a size range in which your horse fits. However, most feature either adjustable or elastic girth, billet, and leg straps that allow the blanket or sheet to fit different body sizes. To ensure the best fit:

  1. Measure from the center of your horse’s chest around the widest part of the shoulder and hindquarters to the center of the tail. The size to order is the same as the inches measured.
  2. For odd sizes, choose the next largest even size.
  3. Also round up to the next larger size if your horse has a thick coat or if the blanket or sheet will be used predominately during seasonal weather when your horse’s hair coat will grow out.

Remember, slightly looser fitting blankets and sheets are more comfortable and look better than blankets or sheets that are too tight. If in doubt, order one size larger. The best fitting blankets and sheets allow you to slip your hand between the blanket and your horse’s withers.

Five Fly Control Tip

horse fly

Those pesky flies! No one likes flies, but they’re inevitable around a barn. Or are they? Some equestrian facilities seem free of flies, while other places resemble Egypt during the plagues. What’s the secret for good fly control around horses? These five tips will help you keep flies to a minimum and make your barn more pleasant for both you and your horses this year.

Fly Control Tip 1: Know Your Flies

Not all flies are created equal. Tabanids (deer flies and horse flies) bite horses and suck blood to feed their larvae, producing painful welts on horses. Their bite is also painful to people; if you’ve ever been bitten through your jeans or riding breeches, you’ll know exactly what I mean! Most tabanids don’t like to enter buildings, but prefer wooded areas and the edges of woods and fields. Stabling horses indoors during peak horse and deer fly season can reduce bites. Other types of biting insects prefer different habitats. Knowing the types of flies and biting insects in your area can help you plan a course of action to minimize bites and reduce their numbers. Talk to your local agricultural extension agent for advice on identifying and treating specific pests in your area.

Fly Control Tip 2: Pick Up Manure

Certain kinds of flies like to lay their eggs in manure and hay or straw piles. Does that sound familiar? It sounds a lot like the manure pile at your barn, doesn’t it? Manure piles are like fly breeding magnets. Schedule regular manure pile removal as well, especially during the warmer summer months when flies are at their peak. During peak fly season, it also helps to walk around the pasture and riding ring with a wheel barrow and pitchfork and pick up smaller manure piles. This reduces the number of separate breeding areas for flies and keeps flies down inside the arena or turn out area.

Fly Control Tip 3: Add Fly Parasite Predators to Manure Piles

Fly parasite predators are burrowing nematodes that when added to manure piles destroy fly maggots and pupae. When added to a manure pile, they keep fly populations in check by disrupting fly breeding cycles. During warm weather, they reproduce every week or so; once added to the manure pile, you may not have to add any more during fly season.Fly parasite predators will not harm the environment, don’t harm songbirds or other insects, and do not harm people. You can find them online through biological supply houses.

Fly Control Tip 4: Wipe on Insect Repellent

Wiping on insect repellent, rather than spraying it on horses, provides greater coverage and longer-lasting action on your horse. Pour a little repellent onto a clean rag and wipe your horse’s legs and belly with an equine-safe insect repellent before turning him out or before your ride.

Should you use natural repellents or synthetic ones? Both offer advantages and disadvantages. Many horsemen swear that a little apple cider vinegar, added to their horse’s feed or water, reduces the number of flies visiting a horse. Others make a wipe of vinegar and water for their horses. Whatever you do, use common sense. Follow package directions for commercial insecticides and consult your horse’s veterinarian before making changes to his feed or water.

Fly Control Tip 5: Use Insecticide Misters Inside Barns

Some types of flies, such as stable flies, actually land on vertical surfaces. Barn misters or sprayers that provide a steady, regular burst of spray reaching walls can reduce the number of stable flies landing near your horses. Fly tapes or traps can also reduce the number of flies by capturing them before they have a chance to multiply.

Flies are a perpetual challenge for stable managers and horse lovers alike. Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the number of pesky flies bothering your horses and you during your rides.

Equine Summer Sores

Simple Ways to Help Protect Your Horse from Summer Sores
Summer brings fun to any horse barn. Unfortunately, summer also brings a barrage of insects and an increase in wounds and injuries as horses play and work around the pasture, riding trail, and at competitions and shows. As such, painful and unsightly summer sores can develop amidst all the fun. However, there are simple ways to help protect your horse from these external skin lesions.

equine summer sores defined Summer sores are parasite-caused skin lesions. They develop when common house, face, or stable flies deposit stomach worm larvae on abrasions, wounds, or near moist areas of the body like eyes, ears, or genitals. These infections cause extreme skin sensitivity and itching. As a result, horses chew, bite, or scratch at the infected area to help alleviate the pain. This often causes unsightly bleeding. Worse, it also delays the healing process and can result in more involved injuries or secondary infections.

These infections mostly occur during the summer months for a number of reasons. First, summer is when flies, which transmit the larvae, are most active. In addition, warmer weather and higher humidity can prolong the healing of scratches, abrasions, and wounds like proud flesh. However, there have been cases where summer sores have appeared to heal during cooler fall and winter months, only to reappear the next spring or summer. Treatment requires a multi-faceted approach and may vary with severity and location of the lesions. Therefore, it is best handled by your veterinarian. Treatment may include Ivermectin-based dewormers, medications to decrease the itching, and antibiotics for secondary infections.

summer sore prevention Prevention is the best way to protect your horse from summer sores. Thankfully, summer sore prevention is tied to basic horse husbandry, including deworming, fly control, and wound care:

Ivermectin Paste 1.87% deworming Control of stomach worms is the best way to help prevent summer sores. Adult stomach worms thrive in your horse’s stomach and release their larvae into the digestive tract, where they are passed in your horse’s manure and ingested by fly larvae. The fly larvae matures into an adult and the adult fly then deposits the stomach worm larvae onto your horse’s wounds. To help break this cycle, use a strict deworming schedule with at least two yearly treatments of Ivermectin, which kills both stomach worms and their larvae.

 fly control Endure Fly Repellents by FarnamSince flies serve as the intermediate host of stomach worm larvae, effective fly control is also essential. In addition, even if your horse is on a strict deworming schedule, horses in nearby pastures might not be and the stomach worm larvae they pass could be easily carried to your pasture or barn. To combat flies, set perimeter traps and use topical sprays. Spot-ons or suitable insect-repellent salves can add insect protection to your horse’s more sensitive areas, including open wounds. Furthermore, fly masks and sheets can also help protect your horse’s eyes, ears, mouth, and other moist body areas. Insect repellent supplements may also help kill fly larvae in your horse’s manure.

Vet Kit by VSI wound care Wounds, cuts, and abrasions are vital entry points for stomach worm larvae. Therefore, wound-free horses may have less chance of developing summer sores. Of course, horses often get wounded. However, immediately cleaning and dressing any skin abrasions, cuts, or wounds helps speed healing. Similarly, a clean horse, including the genital area, may have less chance of being infected by stomach worm larvae, since they also seek moist body areas.

Important USDA Article in Beef Magazine

Important USDA Article in Beef Magazine

Hello Livestock Owners,

“Animal ID” or “Animal Traceability” has been a scary phrase since we all first heard it. It means different things to different people because it affects Horse Owners, 4-H Livestock Exhibitors, Rodeo Contestants, Contractors, Cattle Ranchers and Feeders – all very differently.

Think of it as disease traceability and maybe it makes more sense. Just think of the Ebola Virus – how scary and how quickly it spreads. Some diseases in our livestock are just as frightening.

How do we trace it to the source?

For Cattle Producers – read more on this


Equine Wound Healing By Dean A. Hendrickson, DVM, MS

Moist Wound Healing in the Horse

By Dean A. Hendrickson, DVM, MS
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Dr. Hendrickson is a Professor of Surgery and Interim Hospital Director at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. A specialist in equine surgery and lameness, Dr. Hendrickson can be reached at the hospital by calling (970) 297-4472.

Wounds come in all types and varieties. Horses can be injured with anything from a simple scratch to deeper cuts and lacerations that involve tendons, joints, major vessels and nerves as well as a host of other important structures. Due to this wide variance, it is of utmost importance that your horse receives a thorough physical examination to determine the extent of the injury as well as to determine the overall health and status. If a major blood vessel has been severed, it is easy for the horse to loose a substantial amount of blood.

Also, it is very important to realize the areas on your horse where lacerations could result in a career or life ending injury. These areas include…(give examples). Consequently, it is important to get veterinary care as soon as possible to rule out any significant injuries. Early intervention can make or break the outcome for your horse.

The veterinarian should clean the area carefully, in most cases clipping the hair around the wound. I use a sterile water-soluble, lubricating gel (such as K-Y jelly) to fill the wound prior to clipping in morder to prevent contamination with hair. Once the surrounding hair has been clipped the lubricant can be removed with sterile saline or water if necessary.

There are many options for wound cleaning and it is very important not to cause further trauma when treating a wound. Everything veterinarians have to work with has the potential of causing increased trauma to the wound area, and all therapies must be evaluated to determine if the benefit will outweigh the trauma that occurs. In general, I do not recommend the use of antiseptics in wounds as they can kill the healthy cells we need for healing, and will not kill all of the bacteria in a wound. Saline is the least disruptive of all washing solutions and should be used frequently. Surfactant-based wound cleansers work by reducing the surface tension around the wound, allowing for the removal of fluid, cells and other substances that naturally seep from the wound area without the need to scrub the wound. This leaves healthy tissues to continue their good work of healing the wound.

A key concept that veterinarians are beginning to understand in wound healing is the idea that a wound that is kept moist will heal more quickly with fewer dressing changes when compared to a wound that is left exposed to the air and allowed to dry out. In most circumstances, the wound area discharges fluid called exudate, which contains substances that help the horse’s body fight infection and support the growth of healthy tissue. When a wound is kept moist, this allows exudate to help support an environment that stimulates healing. Clinical studies have also shown that wounds kept in a moist environment have lower infection rates than wounds treated with agents that tend to dry the wound.

Veterinarians are also coming to understand that the wound will go through multiple stages of healing, and that different dressings will provide more benefit during the different stages. Consequently, it is important to evaluate the stage of wound healing and to use the appropriate dressing. The most commonly used dressings can be broken into four major categories: debridement dressings to rid infection, moistening dressings to moisten the wound, granulation and wound contraction dressings to encourage early stages of healing, and epithelialization dressings that encourage skin formation.

Debridement dressings are used to remove bacteria and dead tissue from the wound. These dressings can be traumatic to the wound area, and should only be used when there is infected or tissue in the wound. One good example of a debridement dressing is a hypertonic saline dressing. This dressing is a very concentrated salt solution that kills bacteria and removes diseased tissue. Once the wound has been cleared of dead and infected tissue, the debridement dressing should be discontinued in favor of a different type of dressing.

Moistening dressings are used in wounds that have dried out. These dressings supply moisture to the wound through a mixture of water and glycerin. They are very effective in providing moisture in dry wounds; however, they completely seal the wound and so should only be used in dry wounds. Once the wound has been moistened, they should be discontinued in favor of a different type of dressing.

Granulation and wound contraction dressings are used to encourage healing granulation tissue formation, and to stimulate the wound to close. A good example of this type of dressing is the calcium alginate dressings. These dressings are made from a derivative of seaweed and create a mild inflammatory response, sending infection fighting cells to the area that will encourage a healthy bed of granulation tissue. Once the wound has enough granulation tissue present, they should be discontinued in favor of an epitheilaization dressing.

Epithelialization dressings are designed to help normal healthy skin tissues form over the wound. These dressings increase the surface temperature of the wound by 1-2 degrees which encourages the skin cells to migrate across the wound.

In many cases, the use of moist wound healing concepts will dramatically speed up the wound healing time, and provide a more cosmetic and functional end result for the horse. It takes a bit more effort, and evaluation of the wound, but the outcome is definitely worth it. Wounds over areas of motion should be supported with a cast or splint to improve healing.

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