So, I was walking up to this barn, and I see a client strolling down the aisle, shaking her head, obviously concerned about something. “What’s the matter?” I asked.
This is the sort of instance where you can easily blow a doctor:client relationship by saying something like, “Oh, what an utter and complete waste of time and money!” Being somewhat wizened to client psychology at this point, instead, I wondered, “What did she say?”
“Well,” my client offered, “my horse hates the color red.”
Perplexed, for among other reasons, because I know that horses are mostly colorblind, I asked, (somewhat reluctantly, because I knew that some answer would be forthcoming), “Why is this a problem?”
Turns out that the horse had red leg bandages, in which his legs could be wrapped at night. Worse: he had a matching red blanket. The poor beast was covered in red. Fortunately, there was a solution.
“I’m going to have to go out and buy blue leg wraps and a blue blanket this afternoon,” she said. “It’s the only way he’ll be happy.”
At once nodding sympathetically, and pinching my forearm as hard as I could so as to maintain my composure, I offered her some obviously needed support. I held up pretty well until she said, “Doctor Ramey, I never knew horses were so materialistic.”
“Neither did I,” I said, moving quickly towards a quiet spot where I could lie down and hold my sides.
Actually, the whole idea of blanketing horses is pretty silly. Horses originated in some of the coldest parts of the world (the central Asian steppes). They’ve got a nice coat of hair to provide insulation. Their body mass makes it fairly hard for them to get rid of heat (bigger animals have more problems getting rid of heat – there’s less body surface, relative to their size, than in smaller animals). Honestly, unless you live in Finland, and it’s January, and you insist on keeping your horses outside all of the time, you never have to worry about your horse getting cold. The idea that horses might ever get cold in southern California is pretty laughable.
Now blanketing certainly does do a couple of things. It may help keep some dirt off of your horse, which can be helpful if you’re at a show, perhaps saving you some grooming time. They provide a barrier against flies. Blankets certainly adorn them in a delightful color of your choice, which, hopefully, you can indulge without personal embarrassment. However, blanketing does NOT do anything to limit the growth of the coat – coat growth is controlled mostly by day length (as the days get shorter, the coat gets longer, and vice versa).
The facts are all well and good, but my experience has been that you’ll probably keep blanketing your horses anyway. That’s fine – it certainly doesn’t hurt them. But remember: it’s mostly for you, not for them.