The End of Blanketing Season?

By Terry Golson

I keep Tonka at a boarding barn in northeastern Massachusetts near the New Hampshire line. There is snow in the winter and days on end of temperatures well below freezing.


Some horses are well-suited for this weather. Cider grows a thick coat and stays toasty warm without a blanket.


He has a shelter, and is smart enough to use it.


When I got Tonka I thought that he’d be like Cider.


Tonka barely grows a coat. He stays sleek all winter.


He shivers when the wind blows, so Tonka wears a blanket. Sometimes he wears two. It depends. Every stall at the barn has one of these charts.


Most of us have filled our assigned blanket racks. I spend more on his cold weather garb than on my own.


This winter has been relatively mild. There have been days when Tonka has gone out naked.


But there have been others when it’s a good thing that he has his blankets. One day he came in with icicles on his tail, but was dry and comfortable under his waterproof rug. It’s better for a horse to be outside than in his stall all day, and the right clothing allows Tonka to get out.


It’s not just blankets that Tonka has to wear in the winter. When the snow isn’t deep, there’s ice, which can make riding outdoors treacherous. Even walking out to the paddocks can be dangerous. Horses that slip on ice can break bones.


It costs $265 for winter shoes with studs and pads. They get reset or replaced every five weeks. Keeping Tonka upright and secure is expensive, but a necessity.


Ice is one reason why I board at a farm that has an indoor. It’s not warm (see his frozen breath?) but it has safe footing, so we can keep moving all winter.


Recently we’ve had a stretch of unseasonably mild weather. Much of the snow has melted. Tonka can go out without a coat. He has dirt (and brown leaves) to roll in, which he is delighted about!

The extra fur that he did grow is shedding out.


But, winter isn’t over yet. It will get cold again and it’ll likely snow. For now, though, my definition of bliss is the warm body of a horse napping in sun.

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