Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource


Wasn’t it just yesterday we had fly sheets on our horses?  How quickly we approach the winter months and many of us have started looking for those heavy horse blankets and some of our horses already have them on!  Often, when we feel it’s nippy outside, we have a tendency to throw winter blankets on our horses.  During the Month of November, Tack and Talk will be discussing blanket topics and today’s topic is “Should I Blanket My Horse?”

To blanket or not to blanket...that's the question!

To blanket or not to blanket…that’s the question!

Rather than telling you when to blanket your horse and how heavy of a horse blanket you should use, we’ll be providing you with some guidelines to help you determine what’s best for your horse and your situation.  You may be surprised to find out, that in some cases, not blanketing your horse may be the best decision. 

Let’s first look at equine thermal energy.  Horses stay warmer much better than us humans.  They are very comfortable even when you and I may be reaching for that heavy jacket.  To be blunt, you can’t determine if your horse needs a blanket by how cold you are feeling! 

The primary way a horse stays warm during the winter months is by digesting hay.  Digestion is just a fermentation process and a by-product is heat.  So, when your horse is going to face a cold winter evening, the best consideration is to give him plenty of hay and water. 

In addition to the horse’s bulky frame that’s great in keeping him warm, his winter coat has the ability to fluff up creating a warm layer of air around the horse.  Those long, guard hairs create a great layer and are able to fend off light rain or snow.  However, not every horse has a wooly coat.  Some breeds, such as my Rio (Hanoverian) have thinner coats and may need to be blanketed. 

But this fuzzy coat isn’t the determining factor.  Is your horse underweight?  Is he eating enough hay?  Is he able to get out of the wind and stay dry?  Are there health concerns that may compromise his ability to stay warm?  

Have you every taken off your horse’s blanket to notice that they hay beneath is nice and flat and yet the hair on his neck is fluffy?  By blanketing your horse, you squash that natural insulating layer of air in his coat, so in some situations, it may be better for your horse to use his “natural” protection coat rather than that pretty one you bought in the store. 

If you have clipped your horse, you’ll need to blanket him.  You can layer blankets and for horses, clipped or not, keeping him dry is key to keeping him warm.  For those of you who don’t clip your horse, you’ll have the challenge of cooling him down after a workout without allowing him to get chilled.  You’ll have to put towels or a wool cooler u;under a light sheet and remove the cooler as it gets damp. 

With any blanketed horse, you’ll need to check to ensure that he isn’t hot or sweaty by reaching under the blanket and feeling your horse.  If you feel that blanketing is the option, try giving him a little unblanketed turnout time in the sunlight on a nice winter day.  

Some factors that may mean that you need to blanket your horse are: 

–          Your horse’s coat is very thin,

–          Your horse is older or thin,

–          Your horse has been ill or is stressed, such as moving him to a new home

–          Weather conditions are bad, such as extreme cold, wind or dampness,

–          Your horse has been clipped,

–          Your horse is young,

–          Your horse is shivering. 

Remember that your horse will still need to be kept clean and groomed and make sure that the blanket isn’t wet as a wet blanket will get a horse cold very quickly.  Read the labels very carefully.  Water resistant does not mean waterproof and if you wash your blankets often, you may need to re-weatherproof it after washing.  Even with proper fitting blankets, eventually the blanket will rub.  The skin will become tender so your horse may need an undergarment that will allow the blanket to slip along his shoulders more easily. 

When blanketing is the right choice, you’ll enjoy the feeling of knowing you have done your best for your buddy!


1 Comment»

  dpercy wrote @

That’s a really succinct and balanced review of what to consider and keeps it practical too. Thanks

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