December 16, 2018

Happy Summer Solstice!

            Summer solstice. The longest day of the year. June 20th. However you put it, this a very important day in the life of your horse. Or at least your horse’s winter coat. Winter coat you say? Whatever are you talking about? It’s just the beginning of summer! The days are getting hotter. Horse don’t need a winter coat now. It’s nice to have them all in a short, sleek summer coat. They don’t sweat as easily. They look all pretty and shiny. It’s so easy to groom and bathe them. Why in the world would you be thinking about a winter coat now? Winter is months away!

            Summer Solstice, that’s why! Once summer solstice has passed, the days start getting shorter. The number of hours of daylight will get fewer and fewer right up until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. What does this have to do with a horses winter coat? Everything!

            When the days begin to get shorter, mother nature signals our equine friends that winter is coming. It’s time to prepare. Mares will begin to lose their heat cycles and summer coats will begin to shed out. Once the short coat is loose, the longer winter coat will begin to grow in. This process usually takes a few months, but by the end of August they will be shedding in earnest. You might not notice because the hair is so short it’s easily missed. Not like the winter coat that covers the ground, clogs up drains and gives the birds lots of material for lining their nests. No, this short summer coat is just enough to mess up a brush or curry. But it’s happening all the same.

            So, what should you do, if anything? Well this depends on what you want in the way of a winter coat on your horse. If you don’t care about a heavy coat, do nothing and let nature take its course. By the end of September you should have a cute, fuzzy pasture buddy. However, if you want to thwart mother nature, now is the time to take action.

            As I stated above, the number of hours of daylight is what triggers the response to grow a new coat. Shorter days=shed & grow winter coat. Longer days=shed & grow summer coat. I know it’s not nice, but you can fool mother nature by putting your horse under lights.

 Here’s what you will need-

  1.  A two- bulb 4 ft. florescent light fixture for each 12 X 12 ft space. Indoors or covered works best.
  2. 2- Daylight light bulbs for each fixture. Must be daylight bulbs. Regular ones won’t work as well.
  3. A timer that can be set to turn the lights on and off.     

        How to begin-  

           Install the light fixture(s) in the stall. Be sure to take the horse out first! Add the light bulbs and plug in the timer. Make sure any cords, pull chains, etc. are out of reach of any and all critters.

            Set the timer so the lights are on equal to the summer solstice. Here is Southern California that’s about 14.5 hours. Check the sunrise/sunset times and set your timer accordingly. You can either have them come on at night before dark or early in the morning before the sun comes up. I have mine come on in the morning, because I never take the horses out at 4 am, but I often ride at 6 pm. The horse must be under natural or artificial lights equivalent to the longest day of the year. If you take the horse away from the lights for even a few days, they will start to shed out and grow a new coat.

            Make sure you reset the timer every few weeks. As the days get shorter you will need to have the lights come on earlier or stay on later. If you don’t keep up with it, the effects will end and you will have a fuzzy friend.

            Once winter has set in, be sure to blanket your horse with a good blanket and hood if necessary. You have taken away all their ability to keep themselves warm, so you must do it for them. If you can’t be available to put blankets on or take them off anytime during the day or night, best not to start them under lights in the first place. You can fool mother nature, but you have to be willing to take her place or your horse will suffer.

            Using lights this way will also keep your mare coming into heat year-round. This is great if you want to breed early in the year, but maybe not so great if she gets really mareish when in heat.  Also, if your horse is in a pipe corral or other type of stall where the light will spill over into the next stall, that horse will be affected as well.  If the neighbor doesn’t want their horse under lights, it’s best to move it elsewhere.

            If you need your horse to have a short, shiny coat year round- you can! Just remember it’s still lots of work, the work just changed. If you have any questions about blankets see my previous blog about blankets. Have a great winter! 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

            Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com

Shiny As A New Penny!

Shiny As A New Penny!

Should I Body Shave my Horse? This question was posed to me just the other day by a student. She owns a very fuzzy pony that she wants to get ready for the shows. Shows that are going to be starting in just a few short months. I understand why she would ask this question. Her pony, Tony, is the typical Thelwell pony. Short, stocky, and really hairy. Every time she rides him, poor Tony sweats up a storm. She spends hours walking him dry after each workout. Grooming him has become a nightmare (no pun intended). It is nearly impossible to keep Tony even slightly clean with all that hair. Plus, now that spring has sprung, Tony is shedding like crazy. It looks like someone laid down a chestnut blanket after each grooming session.  Bathing is out of the question unless his owner has a full day of sunshine to bathe, rinse and dry Tony before the cool of night sets in.

            So what’s a pony or horse owner to do? Shaving is simply not a possibility for Tony. His owner does not have the time or money to supply the needed blankets. So what should she do to get Tony ready for shows? The best chance she has of getting Tony show ring ready is this four-step process. But with the proper time and attention, Tony will be looking spiffy in a jiffy!

            First, It’s Elbow Grease Time! Tony the Pony needs comprehensive grooming each and every day. Twice a day is best, before and after his workouts. My school horses are always the first horses to shed out each year. Some are blanketed but most aren’t. However; they are groomed to within an inch of their life nearly every day. All my lesson student’s are required to groom before and after each ride. It is not uncommon for the school horses to be ridden 3-4 times a day. That leads up to 6-8 grooming sessions per horse-per day. Even those who have a really heavy coat will be slick and shiny by the end of March.  So, break out those curry’s, dandy brushes, rags and elbow grease. Tony needs a good grooming each and every day to get all the shedding hair off his body. It will also make his new summer coat grow in short and healthy.

            Second, let’s feed for a great coat! Tony will need a coat supplement. I like to begin feeding good quality coat supplements around late February-early March each year. My personal favorite is Nu-Image, but I’m sure there are plenty of others that will work as well. The proper supplement will give the horse the correct nutrients to grow a healthy, shiny, new summer coat. It will also help the hair grow in the proper color. This is especially important if your horse is black, palomino, buckskin or any color that is difficult to keep from fading. Once the coat is established, you may be able to discontinue feeding the supplement. I have found this method works well at keeping the coat looking excellent well into the summer without lots of added expense. Just doing those two things alone will make a considerable difference in your horse’s coat, but there is more you can do.

            On to step three- Cleanliness is next to Godliness– Bathing your horse will help keep the coat clean and free from stains. However; if you bathe your horse often, be careful of shampoos. If used too frequently, they can be drying to the coat. A dry coat is a dull coat. To keep the coat clean and shiny, rinse the horse with plain water after every workout, weather permitting. Once a week or so, bathe your horse with a mild horse shampoo like Corona or Orvus. Stay away from human shampoo or dish soaps. Both have detergents to remove oil. We want to get out the sweat and dirt, but keep the oil in our horse’s coat. I also reserve the whitening shampoos for the day before the show when my paints need to be really white. When the weather is too cold for a full rinse down, spot clean with warm water and a clean towel. This is really important when your horse is sweaty from a workout. If your horse has lots of white, especially on the legs, keep those areas treated with a product like ShowSheen or LaserSheen. This will help keep those white areas stain free. The same goes for white or light colored tails. Spray the tail after every shampoo to keep tangles and stains at bay. Also, keep the tail in a bag to keep it clean, prevent breakage and encourage growth. Of course, keeping your stall clean will help prevent the stains in the first place. Keep your “Tony” on clean bedding and remove manure as often as possible.

            Finally- Shun the Sun! The last thing that will help keep your horse’s coat in top-notch shape is sun protection. Keep your horse out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Strong sunlight will fade and dull any coat. If you don’t have appropriate shelter a day sheet or fly sheet will do the trick. Make sure the sheet covers the horse’s neck along with the body. If you can’t find one with a neck cover, consider a slinky-type hood as well. If heat is a problem in your area, be sure to buy covers in light colors and breathable material.

            If you follow these tips your horse should have a blindingly shiny coat this year.  We’d love to her what you do to make your horse look shiny and new every year.  Please feel free to share your comments and tips!

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.

 

To Blanket or Not To Blanket?

It’s Blanket Season!

By Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg
Published in The Instructor (Fall 2011)

            Ok, I know that as I write this, its 100 degrees outside and blankets are the furthest thing from your mind. But… It’s BLANKET SEASON! This small fact was made abundantly clear today when I went to my local tack shop. I held the door for someone carrying 6 freshly washed blankets. Yep, it’s that time of year again…Blanket Season!

            Why do people in Southern California blanket their horses? I mean really? We don’t get snow or sleet or freezing weather. Heck, most days it’s really nice here. That’s why people move here, for the warm winters. The horses won’t suffer without a blanket. Especially if they have a shelter to keep them dry and protected from the wind. They will grow a nice, warm, fuzzy winter coat to keep them toasty. Horses also possess the ability to make each and every hair stand up or lie down to adjust the amount of insulation the coat provides. Pretty cool! With the natural winter coat, you don’t have to worry about putting it on and taking it off. Horses in the wild do just fine without a blanket, why does my horse need one? Blankets cost money and take up time that I don’t have to spare. Besides keeping the horse warm, what does putting on a blanket really do? 

What Blankets Do (And Don’t Do).

Blankets DO prevent your horse from growing as thick a winter coat. A blanket won’t keep him from getting a winter coat altogether, it will just keep it shorter. He will still get a full coat on his head and neck, unless you add a hood or neck cover. A shorter coat helps keep the horse cool during workouts. Let’s just imagine you are going for a run on a cold winter evening. You put on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, two pairs of sweat pants, two pairs of socks and a jacket. It’s a cold night so everything is fine, at first. Now you have been running for awhile and you’re starting to sweat a little. You decide to take off a layer or two so you don’t get overheated. Good idea! Now you can continue your workout in comfort. When you’re done running, you cool down and start adding the layers back on so you don’t get chilled. Or you go into your nice warm house. Either way, you can manipulate your clothing or environment to your best interest.

But your horse can’t. He can’t take off a layer of hair because he is working now. All he can do to cool off is sweat. So sweat he does. Lots and lots of sweat. Now your horse is soaking wet. Like he just went through a car wash kind of wet. All that long, fuzzy, warm winter coat held in all that sweat.  When you are finished working him you take off his tack. He is cool, but still very wet, plus now he’s going to be cold. He can’t add a nice dry jacket or go in the house. You have to do that for him. You have to put on his cooler (you do have one, right?) and spend loads of time walking him until he is dry. Then you need to brush off all that dried sweat so his coat isn’t matted down. If you leave the hair matted down, he can’t stay warm. Remember that part about horses lifting each hair? That can’t happen if it’s matted down with sweat & dirt.  Hopefully, you love to spend time with your horse and will do all this before you put him away.

Blankets DO keep your horse clean. A clean horse is much easier to groom, thus saving time each day. Blanketing your horse every day will also get them used to wearing clothes. This can come in handy if you ever need to blanket due to illness or injury.

Blankets DO save time.  Remember the scenario I talked about earlier? The one about the horse that went through the car wash? A blanket can help! First the blanketed horse won’t have as heavy a coat to begin with. That means he won’t sweat as much. After you have finished working and cooling him out he might still be a little damp, but not soaked. You can put a blanket on a damp, cool horse and put them away. The blanket will keep him warm until his coat is dry. The blanket will also rub the coat as the horse moves around, helping it to dry. After the coat has dried, the blanket can rub it and help remove the dried sweat just as brushing might. The next time you remove the blanket, your horse will look better than when you put the blanket on.

Blankets DO get smelly, tangled and messy.Horses sleep lying down. On the ground. I know that’s a surprise to most non-horsey types, but it’s just a fact. Because horses sleep on the ground, their blankets will get dirty. Just the fact that a horse is wearing the blanket will make it dirty and smelly. Horses do have a certain aroma to them. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it will rub off on the blanket. Some horses are capable of Houdini-like escape acts to get their blankets off. Once off, those offending blankets must be ripped, torn or made umm… shall we say …“unclean”. 

Lace makes a statement about blankets.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, Horse/Houdini doesn’t quite get it right and gets trapped in the blanket or hood. I have rescued many of these unsuccessful types from their efforts. Often, just the blanket is the casualty, sometimes it’s the horse. Either way, you will need to keep a spare on hand just in case. And hope your horse doesn’t hurt himself.

Lace is only steps away from a problem!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping all those things in mind, should you blanket your horse(s) this year? How do you know? Here are some things to determine if you should blanket or not.

1. Do you ride your horse often at night? Yes- A blanket might be necessary to keep the chill off if he is sweaty from work. Also, a blanket will keep his coat shorter and prevent some heavy sweating in the first place.  No– If you have plenty of time to ride during the day, he will probably be dry before the chill of night sets in and causes a problem.

2. Are you concerned with your horse’s appearance? Do you show your horse year round?  Yes– Then you should not only consider a blanket, but lights as well. A blanket and hood will keep your horse looking great and in show shape year round.  No– If a shaggy coat isn’t a problem, consider leaving your horse without a blanket this year. He’ll get fuzzy, but it’s kinda cute, isn’t it?

3. Is your horse body shaved?  Yes– If you have removed your horses’ winter coat, you must replace it with a blanket. You might need more than one to adjust for different weather. No– He will grow enough coat to take care of his own needs.

4. Can you properly manage the blankets or pay someone to do it for you? Yes– You have the time to remove and put on blankets when the outside air temperature is 60-65 degrees every day. This means you don’t just put it on at night and take if off as you dash off to work in the morning. Often early morning temperatures are colder than evening temps. Taking it off when it is still really cold is worse than not putting it on at all. Or leaving it on as the day warms up will cause your horse to sweat under it. Both are far from ideal. Perhaps your barn manager will do this for you for a fee. They are often in the best position to do this as they are at the barn all day. No– If you are unable to dedicate the time to properly manage the blankets daily it might be best to forgo the blanket. Let your horse get a heavy coat and regulate their body temperature themselves.

5. Can you afford the cost? Yes– You have the means to purchase at least 2 blankets for each horse. You can have the blankets repaired and washed in a timely manner. Blankets can cost $200.00 or more. Repairs and washing can easily reach the cost of the blanket over a season or two. Understand that blankets should be washed every 30 days if your horse is wearing it every night. Neither you nor your barn manager will like putting on blankets that can stand up by themselves!  If you are paying someone to manage your blankets, that cost needs to be figured in as well. No– Buy one blanket to keep on hand for emergencies. You can use it as a cooler also.

So that’s the scoop on blanketing your horse. I hope this helps you make the proper decision for you and your furry friends this winter. These 100 degree days will soon be just a memory, so plan ahead. 

We welcome comments and questions. Please feel free to leave us a message.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful. …Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!