Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yesterday I had another new experience. I walked into the barn and found Steen hanging out in a stall. Since there are more horses that need to be stalled than there are stalls for them at our stable currently, Steen is on a night-out, day-in schedule, using a day-out horse's stall until Sunday, when that horse will leave and that stall will become Steen's very own. I know for a fact Steen has never been stalled in his life, but I've been getting frequent updates from the barn since they brought him in on Sunday, and while he's obviously been a little jumpy I think he's doing fine.

I've also worked out a feeding schedule for him which I have high hopes will help his thinness and also not completely bankrupt me. We'll see how it goes in the next few weeks. At least I can rest easier knowing he's getting as much high-quality hay as he cares to eat, and six lbs of grain a day is really nothing to sneeze at, either.

So, Steen was clean, dry, and very bored thus extremely happy to see me. I must admit that all three of these things were rather nice. I spent a while working on getting the last remnants of caked mud off his lower legs and noticed his hind ankles were a little swollen, and also that his back legs were stiff when I picked his feet. I'm not too concerned about this yet, as he's never been confined before and I'm sure he just needs to adjust. I didn't ride though, in deference to both his physical and mental discomfort. We did a bit of ground-work, a fair amount of simply hanging out (he was really, really affectionate yesterday) and a lot of me making him walk around me on the line, with the occasional slow trot, to get him moving and get the blood in his legs dispersed. Then I put him back in his stall, gave him his grain so Teri could turn him out as soon as he finished eating that, and left.


Now I'm trying to decide if perhaps I should keep him on the out at night, in during the day schedule. Due to the way feedings are done, he'd actually be turned out for more hours that way, plus any time I spent working with him would then be subtracted from his stall time instead of his pasture time. The only thing that worries me a tad is the cold nights... now that he's only out with another horse or two instead of the herd, I worry that the winter nights would be more uncomfortable for him. However, Iowa really doesn't get the same temperature fluctuations that the more western part of our country does, and in general night temps are only a few degrees lower than the day. Perhaps it really doesn't matter.

Anyway, as ever, having horses sure gives me a lot to think about.


  1. Yeah, the swollen hind legs seems to happen a lot with horses who aren't used to being confined. I'm not really sure how concerned to be about it, but I've noticed that several horses who aren't out much get that. Having always had lots of room for my horses before now, I've never really experienced it before.

    As for the night turn-out, I guess it really depends. Is the barn heated or significantly warmer than outside? If so, he might not grow a thick enough coat to be out at night unless you blanket. If your barn will blanket him for his night turn-out, that might be an option to consider as well. If the temp inside the barn is pretty close to outside the barn, I wouldn't worry too much.

  2. Just came across this article on alfalfa hay for horses and thought you might be interested in reading. Looks like it's a few years old, but matches much of what I'd head before.

    Also, not sure what you're thinking on the night-turnout at this point, but if you do go for it a blanket might not be a bad idea. Since you're trying to put weight on, the blanket may help him burn less calories keeping warm so he can use more calories to gain weight. Really all depends tho, just a thought.

    And yeah...horses do seem to constantly give you a lot to think about.

  3. I have thought of a blanket, but I have been doing a lot of reading about keeping horses in places that have harsh winters, and all the articles and parts of books I've found on the subject emphasize that blankets actually make horses have more trouble coping with low temps because a horse's defense against the cold is in the fluffiness of its coat. Extreme cold causes each strand of fur on a horse's body to stand up as vertically as possible, and then the warmth of the body is actually stored between the individual hairs. Putting a blanket on a horse causes all the hair to lie flat and thus be unable to retain heat in this way. According to these articles, no blanket is warmer than a horse's own coat. From what I can gather, the only reason to blanket a horse is if they have been moved to a cold climate too late in the fall to grow a sufficient winter coat, it is wet and so they cannot fluff their coats out, or they are show-horses and thus supposed to stay sleek, though there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that preventing a horse from growing its natural coat leads it to be very uncomfortable, no matter what kind of blanket it wears instead.

    As far as my barn goes, it is not heated, so is only as much warmer than the outside as subtracting windchill and adding the presence of a number of large animals can make it. Which is definitely a few degrees warmer, but not loads.

    Steen himself seems to have had no trouble putting on an extremely shaggy winter covering of his own, and I don't think being inside sometimes will cause him to shed any of it, so I think it is probably best to leave him unblanketed. It does seem a little counter-intuitive though. It is hard to imagine being colder with clothes than without them...

  4. Yeah, I've heard similar arguments on blanketing and for the most part I agree that letting the horse get fuzzy is the best choice. (I think I've only blanketed like 3 times ever...and always because it was not only really cold but also really wet and the horses were actually shivering. Their coats were pretty much incapable of fluffing at that point.) If Steen is, and stays, pretty fuzzy then the night turnout probably isn't a problem.

    My main concern was if his coat would stay warm enough with being indoors part-time. I don't know if that would cause him to become less fluffy or not, it's not really something I have experience with personally. I'm just wondering based off things I've heard/read in the past. A lot probably depends on the climate and barn lighting, and if the day/night and indoor/outdoor temp difference isn't much it may not matter.

    I think if it were me, and based off just what you've written (which may not be everything involved) I'd probably still opt for day-out/night-in. Main reasons being more "useful" time outside (most horses, in my experience, don't move around much at night; they mostly just stand and doze or lie down and sleep), and less burning of calories he needs to gain weight (even if the temperature is only a few degrees lower at night it might make a difference). Just my two cents. You certainly know your horse's needs and specific situation better than I (especially since I've never even met him :) ).

    Anyways good luck. I feel your pain on trying to decide what's best for a horse. Sometimes I wish you could just ask the horse what he wants (although, I'm guessing that much like people, horses don't always know what they want).


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