Jockeys in the Rain, Degas, 1886

Yesterday was one of those days when I had horses to dry.

There aren’t many days when it’s too warm for blankets, it’s snowing, the horses have winter coats, and the temperature is going to drop precipitously when the sun sets.

Most of my turnout sheets won’t stay dry after all day in the snow, so neither do the horses.  That’s when it’s good to have horse-drying know-how as well as options.  I use a modern horse-drying method as well as an old-fashioned one.  I’m sure there are others, like hair dryers and heat lamps, but those are outside my purview.

The modern method I use couldn’t be easier.  It’s nothing more than a good quality Polarfleece cooler or blanket.  If I use coolers, I keep my eye on the horses, since I don’t want anyone getting tangled up.  If I use blankets, I don’t have to do anything but wait until I see bubbles all over the surface. That’s when I know that the Polarfleece has wicked all the water it can from the horses’ coats.

The modern method wasn’t in the cards for me yesterday, since I haven’t replaced the Polarfleece blankets I wore out and I wasn’t able to keep watch on the horses in coolers.  So I went with the old-fashioned method — Irish sheets and some straw.  Since I bed with straw, this is easy for me, and I think it works even better than Polarfleece.

I just put the Irish on without fastening the leg or belly straps…stuff bunches of loose straw underneath…then buckle up.

Horses look like puffballs, but are happy.  This might come as a surprise (the happy part, not the puffball part) since you might well imagine, especially if you have Thoroughbreds, that your horses would become alarmed when they feel you putting bedding on their backs.

I have to guess they’re happy because they start getting warm right away, and appreciate how light everything feels on their bodies (especially if they’re Thoroughbreds).  The straw acts as insulation, warming the horse and allowing the horse’s hair to fluff up as it dries.  Could that be why horses like the old-fashioned method so much — because it’s how they naturally keep warm?

Or is there just something about straw that animals like?

I should also mention that if you have Polarfleece blankets and Irish sheets and your horse is only slightly damp, you can just layer those on under your regular blankets, and it will help your horse dry out without getting a chill.  But I bet you already knew that, especially if you ride all winter and don’t have any time to spare doing silly things like stuffing straw under your horse’s Irish.

I would be lax if I didn’t mention that wool works, too, of course.  I’ve used my wool Newmarket when I need to.  The Witney Squares have always appealed to me, but then, so does a staff of stablehands.

How do you dry your horse?  Or do you let him drip dry, as they used to say in the 1950s?

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