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A Warm Donkey is a Happy Donkey: Rhino Blankets—Not Just For Horses
By: Annie Penfield On October 15, 2012

This is Dazzle in his blanket. Note there is no snow on the ground and Dazzle would like to keep it that way.  He is a miniature Castilian donkey (according to the shady donkey dealer from whom I bought him twelve years ago). With his small hooves, I imagine him better suited to a rocky, dry climate and not the winters of Vermont.  This preference has been underscored by his own behaviors: making haste for the barn at the slightest whiff of moisture in the air.  He seems to handle the cold Vermont winters by producing a helmet of hair, but I worry about his other end, not shaggy at all and sporting a very skinny tail.  Along the way of acquiring small details with which to sell blankets at my tack shop, I stored a fact that horses (and therefore I imagine donkeys) lose a lot of heat from the tail end.  With such a meager tail he was clearly at a disadvantage. So, like I make my children wear hats for a similar fact, I thought my donkey needed a tail wrap.

 

He does grow a substantial winter coat. Due to perhaps his desert genes, he starts to grow his coat at the first hint of frost, about in August, and refuses to shed out until about July.  I exaggerate a little, but truly he is the last in the barn to shed out.  And except for the spindly tail, he does grow a hefty coat.  But I worried and I thought he might join the horses more out in the pasture with a blanket.  He does not wear it much in the winter, restricted more to the cold snaps, mixed weather of sleet and snow, and high winds.  And of course I am aware of theories that a blanket impedes the ability of the coat to properly warm. But blankets today are breathable, and I had plenty on hand, and I had a cold little donkey that really belonged in a sunny desert climate—I needed to take action.  So I wrapped him in the Rhino Pony Wug Lite made by Horseware Ireland, one of the blanket lines I carry at Strafford Saddlery. 

 

Here is more of my blanket-selling pitch, and why it might matter to Dazzle:

 

OUTER LAYER:

The Rhino Wug has a 1200 denier outer layer in order to help withstand the teeth of the 17 hand horses he blithely winds his way through. Although he sees them as no threat, I figured a little extra armor was a good idea in a herd situation.  A good outer layer does hold up better when turned out in groups. I always ask my customer about the environment in which their horse is turned out in as a factor to find a suitable blanket. An important and at times overlooked factor about a suitable blanket is not just the warmth and fit but also be aware of the company he keeps—or maybe no company at all.

 

HIGH NECK WUG:

The Rhino Wug is a good choice for his strange anatomy. I recommend the high cut of Wugs for horses as well because I think it relieves the pressure on the withers (of the horse, donkey have no noticeable wither which allows the saddle to slide both off the back end as well as the front end) and doesn’t rub the mane as much as a traditional blanket (also better for a horse because Dazzle has very little mane). Blankets offer so many style features, like high neck and shoulder gussets, and so many options available in order to tailor a fit to your horse and allow freedom of movement so that there is no rubbing on the shoulders.

 

Vee FRONT CLOSURE:

And I like the big clips on the front that are easy to handle with thick gloves and the higher closure on the chest that better accommodates the shoulder. Again, better for the 17+H Irish Sport Horses and not so much a factor for Dazzle. I want hardware to be easy to handle, adjustable, and durable.   And of course I want the blanket to fit well and secure.

 

TAIL FLAP:

Here is the coverage that relieved my concern.  No longer is his tail clamped down in a vain effort at covering his rear end, or at least not that I could see beneath his well-covered hind end. A tail flap is a necessity and will reduce the heat loss.  And even better than the Rhino Wug tail flap is the Tail Wrap on the WeatherBeeta Orican blanket which really covers the hind end and when the horse points his rump to the wind in a bad winter storm, the Tail Wrap matters. And it’s at the tail when I can confirm that the blanket is the correct size for the horse: the seam of the tail flap should fall at the top of the dock of the tail.  If it falls much below that, the horse may step on the blanket when getting up, or the ill-fitting blanket will pull back and put additional pressure on the shoulders.

 

Dazzle’s blanket fits him well, however, I have noticed it has not enticed him out of the stall and into the weather. He still stands inside watching the flakes come down, but I have peace of mind. (And yes, that is my son with Dazzle in the photo.  Unlike Castilian donkeys, he is born and raised in Vermont and does like the snow.)

 

 

 

Note: for more information about blanket fit, click here and for blanket features, click here.

 

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Bioline Image Annie Penfield owns Strafford Saddlery. She lives in Strafford, VT with her husband, three children, seven horses, and one donkey. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she is not in the shop, she can be found with her family on horses on the trails. www.straffordsaddlery.com


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