I'm really struggling with this question this year, so I thought I would do a straight-up pros and cons list. I'm going to present Tristan as an anonymous case study, and ask you all to weigh in on what you think. Ok?
Background: horse is a 19yo mustang gelding in work 3-5 days per week for 20-45 minutes each, primarily dressage and trail riding. Never been clipped before. Not a huge sweater (rarely more than a slightly damp/tacky coat in the girth and chest area once the weather cools), but typically does get warm enough to require extended cooling off time 1-2x per week over the winter.
- horse exhibited signs of cold weather-related colic when temperatures began dropping this season, and will now be fully blanketed through the winter for the first time ever
- though the plan is to stay at 3-5 rides per week, there will no doubt be periods of time during the winter when 1-2 rides per week at the walk of short duration are the most work he'll get due to extreme cold or snow
- horse was diagnosed with Cushing's in August, is maintained on 1mg/day of pergolide, and is essentially asymptomatic on medication, with a totally normal winter coat and no signs of the classic long/wavy Cushing's coat
- horse is heading into the winter at a body condition of about 5.5/6 after dipping down to a 4.5 or so this fall
- horse lost weight last winter, though not dramatically; say down from a 5 to a
- horse will have access to (essentially) free choice hay through the winter
- horse will have between 4-10 hours per day of turnout, depending on weather
- horse did not add muscle/wind well before starting medication for Cushing's, and work will be harder for him as he regains fitness now that his body is capable of building it again; he has been running hotter than normal for the last 3-4 weeks
Possibly extraneous factors:
- owner is neurotic and terrified that clipping will result in constant vigilance to prevent cold-related colic symptoms
- owner also does not want to pile coolers and walk out for an hour after each ride
So: in my situation, what would you do?