Sign of spring: Horse blankets are washed and stowed

The snow has melted. The green grass is springing up everywhere. Bulbs are budding and blooming. Songbirds are building their nests. Mud season is in full swing at horse farms all over.

Horses are antsy, eager, extra-attentive to surrounding stimuli (Read: “spooking at every sight”).

That’s right. It must be spring.

So I have taken a leap of faith. And it is sort of like daring Mother Nature to bring her worst back. But I have looked at the long-range forecasts (as if those matter), and I’ve gone and done it anyway.

My horse blankets are washed, folded, packaged, and stowed for the year. I’m sincerely hoping they can stay that way till at least November. Given the wildly fluctuating weather we’ve experienced in the Upper Midwest over the past few months, this really is an act of faith.

But here we go. Bring on warm-weather riding! Let’s have those bright, sunny, outdoor arena sort of occasions.

Sure, we have a few more weeks of spring rains and slop to slog through. But brighter days are coming. My horses and I can hardly wait.

Adapted from public domain artwork

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Whaddya do when your 26-year-old horse shreds his blanket?

Here's how I saved a bundle.

Surprise! You trot out to fetch your horse from the paddock and find his sturdy turnout blanket has somehow been transformed into confetti. Or the barn owner texts a photo, showing how your dear equine’s winter rug is now ripped into ribbons. A comparable new blanket costs $90 – or even a few hundred dollars, if you popped for a fancy one.

You glance at the calendar. Spring has just sprung, even though the nights (and some days) are still chilly enough to warrant blanketing your horse.

Plus, he’s a senior. He’s in his late 20’s.

And you have a closet filled with horse blankets in various sizes – just none that will fit this particular one. Uh-oh!

So what do you do?

Sure, you can patch the thing with duct tape, but that stuff will come undone in a stiff wind, a pelting rain, or a hearty horse roll.

Barn-supplied photo.

I fixed my horse’s blanket myself and saved a bundle.

As you’ve guessed, this just happened to me. My cranky, old, dear, saintly Thoroughbred tore the tar out of his medium-weight turnout blanket. It was a wreck. But I didn’t really want to spring for a new one at this point. Sure, I hope he will live a dozen more years. But he’s retired and living out his last years on a quiet, out-of-the-way farm with endless acres of rolling hills – not in a fancy show stable, where horses sport sparkling attire every day.

The barn owner offered to have my horse’s rug laundered for $35 and mended for $15/hour (although he said he had no idea how many hours that might take).

That’s at least two bags of senior grain, I thought.

I thanked him and indicated that I would give the blanket repair a try on my own.

I trekked out to the farm and spread the tattered horse garment over a fence. Then I beat it with a broom to knock off the biggest clumps of dried mud.

I fastened the biggest rips closed with a couple dozen oversized safety pins, folded the blanket, and tossed it in my car.

Toting the soiled and shredded rug into the one laundromat in the tri-county area that still take horse items, I pleaded my case with the lady at the counter.

Three days and $12 later, I picked up the much-cleaner blanket and carted it to my sewing corner at home. 

LAN/The Mane Point photo. All rights reserved.

I arranged the torn horse garment on the floor and hand-stitched the rips. 

LAN/The Mane Point photo. All rights reserved.
Hunting through my fabric and trim remnants, I found several lengths of black grosgrain ribbon. I pinned these over the hand-sewing before top-stitching them in place.

LAN/The Mane Point photo. All rights reserved.
I also had to machine-stitch the torn area around one of the belly straps, reinforcing the region with a sturdy patch on the inside.

LAN/The Mane Point photo. All rights reserved.

Now my off-the-track Thoroughbred sports a few racing stripes on one side of his blanket. We think that’s somehow appropriate, even though his saddle-work days are long gone.

What’s more, the project’s a wrap, and  I can still afford his grain.

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10 handy horse-related applications for used toothbrushes

Mushy old toothbrushes can be extremely useful tools at the horse stables. In fact, plenty of equestrians keep cast-off toothbrushes in their horse grooming kits or tack boxes for a host of practical purposes. (No, most of us don’t brush our horses’ teeth.)

Equestrians and horse lovers probably replace personal toothbrushes regularly – just like many dentists instruct us to do. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends individuals toss out old toothbrushes every three months.

Instead of throwing away those soggy old toothbrushes, smart horse lovers hold onto them for use at the barn. Following are ten examples of ways used toothbrushes may come in handy for anyone who cares for horses. Thoroughly cleaned, soft old toothbrushes can be useful barn equipment for many practical purposes.

Adapted by this user from ABSFreePic image.
1. Applying hoof polishes and dressings

Hoof dressings (such as hoof blackeners, oils, pine tar, polishes, and other products) can be quite sticky and messy. An old toothbrush makes the ideal application tool.

2. Mixing equine medications

Equine veterinarians often prescribe medicines and nutritional supplements for horses, and these compounds may arrive in powdered or concentrated form. Some may even be produced in caplets, which must be crushed and diluted with water before administering them to horses. An old toothbrush serves as a super stirring tool for whipping up doses of medicines for equines, as it fits neatly into smaller containers.

3. Stirring up bran mash or beet pulp

If a horse owner wants to treat an equine to a bucket of warm, soupy bran mash or beet pulp, an old toothbrush makes a super stirrer.

4. Cleaning tack

Equestrians invest considerable funds in their bridles, reins, martingales, girths, surcingles and other leather training and horse show equipment. Cleaning and polishing this gear helps to keep these items supple and presentable and to preserve them for long-term use. A soft old toothbrush can be a useful tool for scrubbing oils, sweat, mildew, and debris from buckles, loops, and leather straps on horse tack.
This article originally appeared (in an earlier form) on another publisher’s property, which is now closed. All publication rights reside with the author.

5. Scrubbing bits

After use, a horse’s bit can be grimy and tarnished and covered with gunk. A soft toothbrush is ideal for scrubbing the bit clean. A dab of whitening toothbrush makes this task even easier – and adds a horse-friendly minty taste as well.

6. Conditioning a saddle

A quality leather English or Western saddle is a sturdy investment for any equestrian. Horseback riders tend to guard their saddles carefully, cleaning and conditioning them faithfully. A brand-new leather saddle must be conditioned extensively. Leather saddles need to be treated periodically (after cleaning) with an oil or leather conditioning product. A clean, but extra mushy, toothbrush is handy for applying these products into the many nooks and crannies of a well-crafted equestrian saddle.

7. Cleaning stall buckets

Each horse’s feed and water buckets must be cleaned regularly. Old toothbrushes are great for scrubbing out food residue, slimy stains, and other messes from these containers.

8. Polishing equestrian helmets

A horseback rider’s own head protection gear may become grimy with repeated use. A clean used toothbrush is super for scrubbing stains from an equestrian safety helmet.

9. Polishing boots

Equestrian paddock boots, cowboy boots, and tall leather riding boots can quickly become dusty, muddy or worse at the barn. A ratty old toothbrush is perfectly suited to cleaning and shining riding boots. The bristles fit neatly beneath laces and zippers, into tooling, along insole lines, and under heels.

10. Brushing a barn dog’s teeth.

Dogs tend to be part of the scene at the horse barn. Pet owners often find old, soft toothbrushes useful for cleaning their canine companions’ teeth every once in a while.

Here’s the most important tip, when using old toothbrushes.

It’s important to mark them clearly for their specific purposes. Of course, it’s essential to label used toothbrushes (with stickers or permanent markers), so they will be devoted to their exclusive uses. No one would want to stick a pine tar or saddle soap toothbrush into a food or oral medication container or an animal’s mouth.

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