Last night when I fed it was almost 50 degrees and dry. At 9 p.m. when the rain started, it was unexpected. However, with the temperature now at 41, I thought it was too cold to leave them out in the rain without blankets even though they have access to shelter.
When I arrived at the barn, sure enough I had four wet horses. Last year, I faced a similar situation. At the time I came to blanket my two horses and, feeling sorry for the other three, threw blankets on them too. A few hours later I got a call telling me that one of those three had started to colic.
The owner told me that she felt I had caused the colic by putting a blanket on him while he was wet which had caused him to overheat. Her preference when blanketing a wet horse was to put a layer of hay on the horse’s back (underneath the blanket) to enable the horse to dry. I had never heard of this practice before she (which is apparently called “thatching”) and the day I threw a blanket on her horse it never crossed my mind. I had been blanketing my own wet/damp horses for many years without any problems.
Ultimately, it turned out that the colic episode was caused by a perforation in the horse’s intestinal tract, so it had nothing to do with the blanket. But the episode did make me stop and think about my own blanketing strategies. When I was boarding my horse at a full service facility, they used to charge a fee for “blanket changes”. At that time (now about 12 years ago) I bought my first “breathable” blankets so that my horse could wear the same blanket in the barn as he wore in turnout. Prior to that, my horse always had barn blankets and waterproof turnout blankets but the turnout blankets were impermeable on both sides, keeping water out and humidity in.
The beauty of the the breathable blankets is that the coating applied does not allow water droplets to pass from the outside of the blanket to the inside but it does allow singular water molecules (humidity released by the horse’s body) to exit. This means that the horse stays dry in inclement weather but water vapor that occurs when the horse perspires or dries, wicks out. It’s a vast improvement over the old fashioned turnout blankets. I concluded that thatching must be a remnant of a time when blankets weren’t breathable and that the woman who owned the horse who coliced simply hadn’t updated her horse care practices to keep pace with technology.
These days almost every turnout blanket that you buy is breathable and many also have mesh linings. Bearing that in mind, I put a breathable blanket on each of the four horses and went home. Everyone was fine this morning.