Breathable In Winter Weather

Comfort is paramount.
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Comfort is paramount.

We missed a great deal of the horrible snow and cold weather that paralyzed the nation last week. In fact, at one point, our weatherman's map showed winter weather a few miles north of us and a few miles south of us. We were a little circle on the map where the snowflakes didn't fall. That's changed.

We're sharing the season with our horses, too!

We're sharing the season with our horses, too!

It's snowing now with the anticipation of quite a hit overnight. The temperature is in the low tens with wind chills in the single digits. And where are our mares? Standing just OUTSIDE of the indoor arena, which is open for them to come and go as they please.

No, they're not blanketed. And, yes, they're covered with snow. But they're happy. 

They have hay to eat (apparently they're not hungry), and the solar-heated water trough is full and ice-free.

We don't blanket them. I like the look of a furry horse (well, not at a show; I remember a show as a teenager where my still-winter-coated hunter looked like a goof; he didn't care, but I felt like an idiot). I also think a natural winter coat is usually healthier.

We don't blanket either, unless we have to. Bonnet needed a blanket the last two years of her life, and I never minded putting it on her. She was grateful. But I made sure that the blanket was waterproof and breathable, because I know we're supposed to do that. Like most people, I carefully evaluated the warmth of the blanket also, as I didn't want to over blanket. I just realized she needed a little help.

I've experienced the waterproof-breathable thing first-hand now, and it means a lot more to me now than a proven blanket-selection recommendation. Horse Journal has always warned its readers not to take a blanket label to be true when it comes to breathable. Instead, pick the blanket up and put your hand underneath it. Then blow through the opposite side to be sure you can feel your breath on your hand. If it's breathable, that means air gets through it and you will feel your breath.

And what does it mean if it's not breathable? Uncomfortable, that's what! 

We purchased a barn jacket for me at a local wholesale club late last year to replace the one I could no longer duct-tape shut. It's toasty warm walking up to the barn, which is about 300 feet from our house. I love it! But, as soon as I start doing stalls (or anything else for that matter), off it comes. 

I would rather be slightly chilled than risk even a minute of being too warm in that coat. I cannot describe how uncomfortable it becomes quickly. Makes my skin almost crawl, and I tear it off immediately. That's when it dawned on me . . . I wonder if this coat is breathable? It's waterproof. I figured that out in a downpour. But is the "uncomfortable" problem that it doesn't breathe?

So, picked it up, put my hand inside the coat and blew through the outside. I felt NO air. Hmmm. I took Bonnet's blanket out of storage and did the same thing. Warm, moist air from my breath immediately hit my hand. Ah ha! I'll be blowing through people clothes, too, before I make another purchase.

Along the same line, my husband's favorite socks are a brand called "Heat Holders" (www.heatholders.com). He loves them so much because of their thickness (and warmth) that he even insists on wearing them in his work boots during the warmer months. 

I thought he was out of his mind, but he got me a couple of pairs and I totally understand. Why can he wear them in warmer weather (not that I am recommending others do that, of course!)? Because they're breathable. The moisture from sweat leaves them, and you stay comfortable. They're really thick, though, and I can't fit them in my current paddock boots.

Earlier, donning Heat Holders and my not-breathable winter jacket, we put up the wreath on the barn (see photo) and added a couple of non-breakable Christmas balls to the top rail of the barn gate. The horses can't get to either decoration, of course, but I like to think they enjoy the festive look as much as we do. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday, filled with fun, family, horses, and fun!