If there is one lesson I have learned in horsey life, it is thus: What goes up must come down... and what goes on the horse, must also come off again.
And by that, I mean Bay Girl's blanket.
As I stood in her paddock yesterday watching her mill around by her haypile, I thought to myself, "I thought I was so clever for getting this blanket on her. But... how am I going to get it off?"
Maybe I should have thought of that BEFORE the fact.
The sun had come up, the misty rain had disappeared, and temperatures had reached the low 50's for the day. All of the other horses on the property had been stripped of their clothes, and were all gleefully grinding mud into their coats with gusto. From my early morning view out the window in the pool barn, I watched Bay Girl wiggle around under her blanket, fuss at her leg straps, mill around some more, throw in a few gigantic bucks, and roll in the mud. It wasn't the blanket that she minded, it was the leg straps that were annoying her. She let me put them on without fuss (so long as I did them both from her left side), but we'd have to see how she felt about them when they came off. I had already tried once to pull her too-large blanket forward when it was already on her... she had none of that nonsense and I left the blanket where it was, drooping excessively over her butt like a gaudy green wedding train. She looked a bit like some large and formless green boogie monster had fallen asleep on top of her back, and was unwilling to get up for any reason whatsoever. Form fitting it was not.
"Alright, sweetie," I told her as she ambled over to me, "let's see if we can get that off." She eyeballed me with interest. I think she had no idea what was coming.
The first problem I faced was that the blanket had slipped so far back that the strap encircling her belly was now tightly pressed against her. It was a very old school buckle strap, so I had to pull it a bit in order to release it. Bay Girl felt the squeeze, and reacted by jumping and skittering around. I managed to get it off without further fuss, but it was clear at that moment that getting the blanket off was going to be much more difficult than getting it on.
I moved back to her leg straps, talking quietly to her the whole time. "That's a good girl," I told her. "They're just leg straps, they're not going to hurt you.
One leg strap released. All quiet. Second leg strap released. All quiet.
Then she moved for a moment, and both straps swung and bumped her lower hind legs. And she lost it. Her eyes registered for a moment with KILLER ANKLE BITING MONSTERS! before she took off, and then she was gone. I suddenly found myself with a terrorized mare at the end of my lead rope, racing in circles around me. The only thing I could do was casually shuffle my feet and talk to her, acting like there clearly was nothing here to be worried about, all while she ripped around and around me like I was some sort of perverted may pole. The more she ran, the more the leg straps swung around her legs. My saving grace was that she understands the idea of pressure and release well, and never once pulled on my leadrope. She also never went sideways or backwards - she only went forward. I was never drug anywhere, pulled off my feet, or moved from the spot where I was standing. And because I just hung around and chatted casually to her while she was in her moment of panic, within a minute or two she stopped dead next to me, with a look in her eye of do something lady!
This is why you ALWAYS unbuckle your blankets BACK TO FRONT, leg straps to belly straps and lastly to chest straps. If I had unbuckled her chest strap first and she had taken off, she very well could have had a terrible wreck within the confines of her backsliding blanket and might have been unable to free herself. I was taught to unbuckle blankets in this manner many years ago, but this was the first time I've ever actually been glad that I did. It's the same idea as wearing a helmet.... sure, you might be able to go for years without falling off, but the one time that you DO fall off, you are going to be SO glad that you bothered to put it on.
"You are so silly," I told her after she had stopped moving, giving her a moment to calm down while I scratched on her neck. She snorted loudly a few times, stood like a rock, and let me finish unbuckling the blanket. Not wanting to risk another takeoff when I had the blanket fully unbuckled, I slowly folded it back upon itself, eventually able to slip it off her butt with only a minor butt tuck on her end. Once I unhooked her leadrope, she stayed with me until I left, the same happy and curious look in her eye the entire time.
Obviously, just because I got the blanket on her by fluke chance does not mean we've conquered blanketing yet. We have a long, long way to go before she is ever sacked out enough to this kind of thing that I can just toss a blanket on her without thinking twice about it. There is a lot of potential in there, and a thinking brain for sure. She stopped of her own accord when running scared from something... that is saying something.