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How to handle blanketing in SoCal

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  • How to handle blanketing in SoCal

    I have a 50 horse boarding stable in Southern California. It's pretty nice and I keep it that way: good footing, good help, clean, and toilet paper in the potty. Box stalls are $475 a month which is slightly below average in our area ($400-600 is the range in our neighborhood.)

    OUr helpers used to blanket during the winter for $30 a month. Now they want double that, primarily because some of the boarders have gotten carried away with their requests for blankets on/off at various times and temperatures. THe helpers do not live on site and have to drive 30 minutes round trip to blanket each evening.... so now they want $60 for the job. The helpers get paid directly by the boarders and sometimes don't pay then holler if their horse isn't blanketed... really.

    I am asking a local groomer if she wants to come do the lot of them, but whoever does it must be insured. My guys took blankets off in the morning as they cleaned which was actually on my labor time, then came back in the evening.

    The drama with boarders making demands on the helpers because they are here (I work a real job offsite to support the barn, of course) has made my helpers not want the extra work. There were expectations of blankets on and off at various temperatures and times for different horses- and different trainers wanted different blanket protocols.

    In the past I insisted that if an owner wanted blankets, they had to pay for the service... no owner is going to religiously drive through SoCal traffic to do this work... they always say they will and they never do.

    There are several trainers here, and they do not include blanketing in their full training, they just had each owner pay our barn helpers.

    I think a buck to blanket or unblanket a horse is reasonable, but it's twice what our folks have been paying and I expect a hue and cry about it.

    If someone else wants to do blanketing, that's fine with me... but they have to have insurance. Our employees do have Worker's Comp (really) and it's a huge but necessary expense for me.

    For those of you in a boarding (not training) situation, what do you expect to pay for blanketing and what control over times and temps do you have?

    Thanks in advance,

    Hot and Bothered
    Last edited by Miss Motivation; Sep. 29, 2012, 03:40 AM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    As a resident of NH I am somewhat baffled at a need for so much blanketing in Southern California.

    I think doubling the price of anything is a little steep.

    Increasing it to $1.25/blanket/day would be a small increase per horse (7.50) but over $300/month for the blanketer.

    That might go over a litte better.

    Also, you can set some guidelines for the blanket changes - over 65, no blankets, 35-65, light sheet, 15-35 medium, less than 15, heavy - you will obviously adjust for your local temperatures, but that's how I blanket my horse.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Miss Motivation View Post
      I have a 50 horse boarding stable in Southern California. It's pretty nice and I keep it that way: good footing, good help, clean, and toilet paper in the potty. Box stalls are $475 a month which is slightly below average in our area ($400-600 is the range in our neighborhood.)
      I am always amazed at how the cost of full board has not changed in twenty plus years.... we were paying $450 a month in Kentucky in 1990.... box stalls, groom had six to eight head to care for, excellant feed, hay grown on the farm.... and we would cash tip the groom for the great care of our mare.


      • #4
        Up to the boarders, only

        OP, I am so sorry, but I also am ROFL at the idea of so much blanketing woe in Southern California (where I grew up). I don't recall it ever getting below 40, ever. I acknowledge that it can be 40 and raining, or 40 and foggy, but still. If I had a horse in So. Cal. my horse would own maybe one rainsheet that sat in a corner for the vast majority of the year. If I had a sensitive or fragile horse, in "winter" he or she would actually wear the rainsheet outside, or _might_ wear a light fleece inside if she or he were clipped.

        However, to answer your question, because your situation is what it is, and you are a conscientious person: I would tell all your boarders that effective in 30 days, you are unable to make blanketing a barn policy due to the vast differences in personal preferences and your interest in keeping board down rather than hiring more staff, but that if boarders would like to contract out private blanketing services with the barn staff, completely separately from the barn boarding policies, here were the names and email addresses of the staff who were available to contract for blanket changes, and here was the price for one blanket change per day. Then I would smile sweetly and wash my hands of the issue.


        • #5
          At the barns where I have boarded in So Cal (just moved the horses to my yard), you get the blanket on at night, off in the morning, and that's it. No other options, take it or leave it, $30 per month.

          If the owner wants a different blanket used based on the temperature, it's up to that person to go to the barn and switch them out before it's time to put them on in the evening.


          • #6
            One of my pet peeves is all the extreme over blanketing that goes on here. If the horse is fully body clipped, absolutely, but otherwise only if the weather gets below 40, which is rare, and if they are going to get wet and it is very windy simultaneously. Go with what SheilaA suggested and perhaps find one of those articles that explain exactly at what temperature a horse "needs" a blanket. How overheating can increase cortisol levels = bad, where too cold mainly just burns calories. My equine chiropractor also thinks many blanket designs are too tight around the shoulders and withers hence causing problems. The fully clipped horses are usually those in training so the trainers should take responsibility for blanket changes needed during the day. For cushings types that need to be clipped because it is too warm for those coats generally I would suggest trace clips. I understand with some super cold foggy mornings where later it gets to 80 can present an issue for body clipped ones. Good luck!


            • #7
              Blanketing in certain climates can be a real pita.

              Technically in SoCal there shouldn't be an actual need for blankets. But it's all in what one gets acclimated to. I'm in CT and start blanketing when temps get under 20 degrees. And even then I blanket more to save on hay than for actual need. (2 young healthy QHs) And while the horses and I are actually happiest when temps are 20s, teens, single digits...we'd all drop dead in a southern summer. We're definitely not acclimated to that!

              Boarding can be a royal pita...blanketing can be the worst part of it. Have your helpers lay down their own rules. Maybe instead of raising the rates as much, raise them less but have rules on blanketing. Only so many blanket changes per week, etc. To avoid this:
              "If the temps are between 60-65, this blanket unless it's sunny, then this blanket for 30 minutes until horse reaches ____ interior temp and then switch to blue blanket. But if Mercury is aligned with Mars and the horse's poop balls looks slightly oval...use orange blanket until poop balls turns green and Mars turns red."

              Sad part is...that's only kind of a joke. Some blanketing peeps are nucking futs.

              So maybe helpers charge a flat rate of $____ per month or week or whatever and that includes up to ____ blanket changes. And then a different price PER CHANGE over that. For inconvenience, travel time, etc for the helpers. This is normal business sense, despite the fact that sometimes some boarders don't have any sense. Betcha if they charge a simple rate for a given amount of changes...and a surcharge for extra changes...many boarders will suddenly decide they don't need 20 changes per day!
              You jump in the saddle,
              Hold onto the bridle!
              Jump in the line!


              • #8
                As far as not paying, I would suggest a monthly pay-in-advance deposit. And state the reason why: "Due to abuses of the system by some boarders who are not paying their bills on time or at all, payment will now be required in advance. Any unused portion of the monthly fee will be refunded at the end of the month." And I would let the workers set the rate. By the way, I board my horses.

                From a business point of view, I think it is interesting that you are making your money on boarding but not on services. At least, it sounds like you are passing on all of the responsibility and profit to those doing the labor. I just wonder about that, because when I ran numbers in a dreamy mood of someday owning a boarding stable, I couldn't get any profit without charging for services.
                "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                • #9
                  As an East Coast transplant to SoCal, I at the blanketing shenanigans people perform around here. I haven't blanketed my horse for the 5 years I've lived here and she barely grows a winter coat.

                  SharonA has the right idea. Divest yourself from all that crazy and let it become a private negotiation between the boarder and the service provider.
                  ~Living the life I imagined~


                  • #10
                    I too am baffled by all this blanketing going on in SoCal. I grew up there, I don't remember many days where the temp stayed under 40 F and very few nights that got that cold. I live in Georgia now and temperature wise it's fairly close. I only blanket one horse below 40 F and that's only because he's a weenie. Blankets off every morning. I suggest that you make a set price for one blanket change per day, on in PM off in AM and if any more changes are requested then charge accordingly. Paid in advance and make it clear No payee no blankee.
                    "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                    • #11
                      A lot of time we blanket here in SoCal because we do full body clips, and temps DO drop in to the low 40's and down to the low 30's in the winter. During the day, it will still be in the 70's, and a horse with a full winter coat is miserable.

                      Where I board blankets go on at night, off in the morning, or they stay on if it's raining.


                      • #12
                        I also thought ?blankets in So Cal?? Granted, I've never lived any where except the upper midwest.... I'd die if I'd moved south. The heat would kill me...

                        But.... it will often get into the 40's and even the upper 30's before my horses start thinking winter coat. I could see where a body clipped horse might want a sheet at night, but I'm also pretty sure they'd survive just fine. Winter coats are really good down to 20 below and colder, without a blankie...


                        • #13
                          Well, there are some goofy microclimates in So Cal, and then there are some horse facilities in higher elevations where it does genuinely get quite cold (Garner Valley comes to mind most quickly). Nonetheless, some folks do get a little carried away with the perceived need for blanket changes. The most I've ever wished I had for my mare is a nice sturdy rain sheet for the chilly, wet, and windy days that come during winter. She grows a good thick winter coat that takes care of drier and colder times just fine.


                          • #14
                            When I was in full training the trainer was responsible for blankets on and off. Normally blankets on in the evening and off in the morning. She did pay a lady to come put them on in the evenings as often she left before the weather cooled off.

                            Where I board now, I pay extra for blanketing/unblanketing but it is on at night and off in the morning. The blankets typically go on when the sun goes down and off after morning feedings.

                            Clipped horse usually have a sheet under the blanket which stays on during the day.


                            • #15
                              I'm in southern California and I pay $30/month for blanketing. That includes putting on a sheet and/or blanket at night and removing one or both in the morning depending on the weather. And my guy asks us to blanket our own Sunday nights as it's his only time off but if you need him to do it he will do it. If I had anything more complex or opted to use the other blanketing person at the barn then it would be $60-90. I believe there is another person who charges $45 but for the same perimeters as my guy but I'm not positive.

                              In your case I would tell the boarders that the barn workers will put on 1 sheet/blanket per horse at night and remove it in the morning for $30 dollars. Putting on 2 items will be $45 and anything more complex will be $60. Give them options of what they prefer rather than an across the board fee hike.


                              • #16
                                I was used to paying for blanketing in Southern California. I seem to recall paying $45 and it ended up being year round. In the chill months, blanketing; in the summer, that same fee was for fly masks and fly spray.

                                I will echo that most of these horses are body clipped and that we were in a climate where there would be ice in the puddles some mornings and yet the jumping lesson might be run at 90F a few days later. And that was no crazy extreme place like Garner Valley; it was inside the Los Angeles city limits. The horses are stalled and don't have the ability to move around or snuggle with a neighbor to stay warm. In some cases, the stalls are fairly or even completely open to the outside air and may be breezy in chilly weather. Blanketing these clipped horses is appropriate.

                                The micromanagement by all your owners is not included at $30 a month. It's just not.

                                I too have concerns about horses being overblanketed. Indeed, it is tough to buy blankets that are light enough. For my TB mare, I ended up being very happy with a turnout sheet, because it wasn't heavy enough to mash down her own coat, it protected her from breezes, and would be comfortable for her even if it turned out to be too warm.

                                I'd make rules that work for you, set one time that horses are blanketed and unblanketed with the provided blanket, and let owners make other arrangements if that doesn't suit them. If possible, I'd set it so that the horses weren't blanketed until at least 6pm, so that the chill of the night has started before any blankets go on, and I'd set a rule that works for you based on the predicted low as to whether the horses were blanketed at all that night.
                                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                                • Original Poster

                                  You guys are all great... Thought I'd check back and maybe get one reply, but fifteen? Wow!

                                  More details: I agree that the blanketing frenzy here is pretty much an owner comfort issue, not a horse needs issue. There are some horses that do get blanketed after being clipped and are chilled without them.

                                  The going rate around here for blanketing is either included in full training ($500-$600 a month or so) or the stable hands doing it for extra money, a buck a day.

                                  I did some figuring, and after they've already worked an 8 or 9 hour day, I don't blame my guys for not jumping at the chance to drive back to the barn and put on blankets, then drive home... putting in another 90 minutes a day away from their families, for about $10 or $12 an hour, plus gas.

                                  If all our boarders a) paid them without a hassle and b) were pleasant about it, they'd probably do it but they have been yelled at, told to come back to blanket because a horse was being ridden (I;m not kidding, the owner refused to blanket their own horse after a lesson) and then try to meet the demands of various owners and trainers that all have their own idea about blanketing... I think we might just sit this season out.

                                  I have allowed the blankets to be taken off in the morning as the staff clean, which is on my time... but it's something that the customers want. But then I get the complaints that the blankets were on too late (they can't take off 50 blankets simultaneously!) or too early, put on too late or too early, taken off but not put back on when it sprinkled rain... really, discussing this again reminds me that the trainers need to just take care of their clients themselves. Boarders can pay someone if they want, but my guys need to go home and recuperate to face another day and another mountain of manure!

                                  There is a local gal who offers grooming services: maybe she'll come deal with the issue.

                                  The vast majority of our owners are really easy to deal with and pretty sophisticated owners but there are a few that can get pushy. Funny how the guys will do anything for the people that speak politely to them, bring them coffee, and say "Please" and "Thank You."

                                  Great suggestions and feedback- I'll try to remember to post a follow-up.


                                  • #18
                                    Typically where I've been blanketing service is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and the horses are blanketed as the last thing before the staff leaves - which can be as early as 4pm. I'm not thrilled, personally, with any blanket being on my horse at 4pm on an ordinary day in Southern California, but I lived with it by choosing the deep waterproof turnout sheet that wouldn't overheat the horse as long as she wasn't subjected to the full force of the setting sun.

                                    I would also add that the blanketing service was managed by the trainers, and I'd recommend that to you.

                                    I agree that asking your guys to come back after a full day's work is unreasonable.

                                    And why it is that boarders can't find it in themselves to be nice to the workers who take care of their horses is something I'll never understand.
                                    If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Miss Motivation View Post

                                      The vast majority of our owners are really easy to deal with and pretty sophisticated owners but there are a few that can get pushy. Funny how the guys will do anything for the people that speak politely to them, bring them coffee, and say "Please" and "Thank You."
                                      Ditch the high maintenance boarders. They are likely annoying the others anyway. Also your staff certainly can refuse to do business, and it is business, with anyone.

                                      I'm in So Cal and have paid $30 a month for blanketing for probably 20 years. Before anyone cries foul citing inflation, remember that we aren't exactly talking about something that requires a graduate degree. If someone were to charge $60 to blanket, and I'm a put it on on the evening take it off in the morning kind of gal, they would not be getting my business. There's a tipping point for everything.

                                      Almost every evening when I was at one barn, I would blanket after I rode. Asking the barn man to come back out would have simply been rude.


                                      • #20
                                        For those of you wondering about why we blanket, remember what many areas of S. Cal have a desert climate. That means in the 30s (and sometimes 20s) at night, 80s during the day.

                                        Working horses are usually full body clipped but that extreme temp change can cause problems so horses are usually blanketed at night.

                                        Granted, horses used to midwest temps probably wouldn't need to be blanketed, but like people, our horses are used to hot temps and they do feel the cold in winter.

                                        When I get to the barn at 7:30, I usually have a down jacket and a hat on and there's ice on everything. By 10am it's 70-80 degrees. As soon as the sun goes down again, the temp drops very rapidly.

                                        Re. cost, we usually pay $50 per month for blankets on at night and off again in the morning.