THE SISTERS ARE at it again.
Those show-going sidekicks Terri Winters, Lisa Hopper and Tina Johnson — who’ve traveled the country to participate in breed specific “World” class shows — have showed the joys of all things equine to their own youngsters and are now eagerly tutoring Winter’s grandson, Aidan Bentley Johnstad.
The 5-year-old son of Jeremy and LeAnne Johnstad, the lad’s been competing in leadline (in which an adult leads the rider) for three years.
Under the sisters’ guidance, Aidan won this year’s Washington State Horsemen State Championship in leadline, receiving both a trophy and WSH sweatshirt with “champion” emblazoned in bold letters across the back.
In leadline, children are typically ages 3 to 8 and it’s often a fun introduction to showing.
At the local level, the classes are usually just for fun and frequently all the riders receive a ribbon or little prize.
At the more competitive shows, judges tend to look for riders to have a confident seat with heels down, shoulders back, quiet hands and to display some knowledge of how to steer their mounts.
Aidan also won highpoint Olympic Peninsula Zone leadline for 2016.
In September, Aidan was thrilled to be able to compete in the Washington State Pinto show in leadline with Johnson and pee-wee cart driving with Hopper and her mini-horse Chrome, winning both classes.
When cart driving with his Hopper, Aidan likes to sing out, “bub bub bub bub” and “let’s go faster” in sync with the clippety-clop of Chrome’s quick trotting hoofs whisking around the arena.
The family is looking forward to 2017 with Aidan wanting to compete a ride or drive by himself — or so he thinks.
To blanket your horse or not during the winter tends to make many a conscientious horse owner squirm with uncertainty.
Does a horse really need one? If so, when?
At the first sign of rain? Of snow?
What type of blanket? Can you blanket a horse and just leave it on all winter?
The decision to blanket or not tends to become a heated topic; some stated a vehement no while others consider it an act of animal cruelty not to.
I typically don’t blanket during the winter, finding my horses’ own coat hair is their best insulator from almost all types of cold weather.
There is scientific proof their hair can actually warm a horse up during cold weather.
Heat rising from the body warms the air, but that air doesn’t go anywhere because it’s trapped between the layers of hair on a good winter coat.
I do blanket during times of harsh, freezing winds and rain.
In my opinion, the phrase “chilled to the bone” applies to horses, too, because cold rain penetrates the hair and chills the skin, flattening the hair’s insulating loft of fluffy hair.
Freezing cold wind, too, whips away their body heat.
Yet cold air itself doesn’t always chill a horse, nor does snow.
Snow, in fact, can also be an insulator — until it starts to melt and the weather suddenly turns freezing again.
This can leave a sheet of ice along their backs and I’ve seen my horses shiver.
Each of us needs to keep a keen eye on our horses to see if or when they might need a blanket.
And believe me, if you know your horse, it will let you know though his body language if he’s in need of help.
If your horse is thin-skinned or older, a blanket might be beneficial.
My friend Zorina Barker lives on the West End and she’s decided a good, sturdy shelter is better protection for her horses than blankets.
“I’ve done the blanketing for years and with all our rain and mud it’s just not the ideal situation here,” she said.
“We’ve had 140 inches of rain this year so far, so the ground never dries out. I buy waterproof blankets that eventually end up soaked through.”
Surrounded by mud, it inevitably gets inside the blankets when horses lie down or when they poop, and “with the blankets not getting a chance to dry out, you can’t just brush it off. It’s mud and mucky mess,” she said.
Living in a small home, she said her family tires of her bringing inside wet, dirty and smelly horse blankets to dry out in front of the fire.
Tired of spending so much money on blankets, which get torn and soaked through anyway, Barker decided to build two more horse shelters, making a total of four on her property.
To make sure her horses aren’t standing in mud, the shelter floors stand six inches or higher above ground.
“All my shelters have elevated floors of pressure treated wood that are covered with rubber mats,” she said. “There’s also a nice slant on the roof to shed the rain and snow.”
She also tries to keeps her hay nets full so her horses can nibble all day. Free feeding gives the horses the fuel to stay warm all day.
“Out here I see a lot of horses with no shelters or trees to stand under and they just look miserable,” Barker said.
“Others put a blanket on at the first sign of bad weather, put their horse out to pasture and never take it off until spring. Then they get open sores and rain-rot — it’s horrible for the horse.”
Whenever a blanket gets put on a horse, we need to take it off and check every couple of days for signs the blanket is rubbing the hair off in places, which also can lead to bad sores.
Also, every time you feed, feel the horse’s chest inside the blanket to see if he’s sweating.
If so, take it off because this, too, can make a horse chilled.
And remember, ensure your horse has access to clean, unfrozen water.
Stock Tank deicers are available at feed stores.
If there’s no electricity nearby I’ve heard some place small plastic bottles filled halfway with water and lots of salt to prevent freezing. Supposedly it prevents water from freezing.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.