Thursday, November 5, 2009

Should I Blanket My Horse For The Winter?

Here is a question one of my readers asked me some time ago that I haven't gotten to yet ~ there are just so many and I'm trying to read through them all, give thought to them all and queue them in a manner that I can answer all requests. Patience, I promise I will get to you all! :)

This one relates to blanketing and here's my rule of thumb. All of them, actually. The answer to the above question should depend on several factors.

Generally, I won’t blanket unless the horse is a show horse I need to keep short haired and sleek for Fall and Winter events, is an older horse who needs extra protection from the elements or the temperatures fall below my threshold. Also, If the horse is exposed to rain, wind or snow during a storm I’ll blanket them until the storm passes, then resume my usual regimen of no blankets other than outlined above.

One thing to remember about blanketing your horses is that it is a commitment and you must always be punctual about unblanketing when the day warms up and blanketing when the sun goes down, or your horse will not be adequately protected. Horses rely on their owners and caretakers to sensibly make sure they neither get overheated or chilled, so take that responsibility very seriously.

Here is how I decide for my horses who do wear blankets ~ if the temperature is below 40 degrees, the blanket stays on. Above 40 degrees, it comes off. With body clipped horses, I raise that temperature threshold by ten degrees.

Personally, I prefer blankets with a single belly strap and leg straps, I like form fitted blankets as opposed to the “rugs” which lay over the horse and don’t fit well and I also do not like to use the open front blankets, I look for the closed front variety. True, you must teach your horse to accept the blanket pulled on over their heads, and this can be tough with horses sensitive about their ears, but it makes blanket chores so much more simple. Belly bands and tail covers in my opinion are poor additions to a blanket, they become too easily soiled and make maintaining and cleaning blankets that much more difficult.

Sometimes with the older horses I like to keep a sheet on underneath the blanket for added warmth and protection, as well as during storms. Body clipped horses will also get the added benefit of a lycra neck/shoulder combo hood and quilted Winter hood for insulation.

But again, it is a commitment that you need to be prepared to take on. In many climates, blankets are really unnecessary...particularly in the Southwest, aside from the higher elevations. Here for instance, we are at about 4500' and we do get snow. Yeah, I know, snow in the Desert? Really!! It's not unusual to have nighttime temperatures dipping into the teens and you can bet during those cold spells all of my horses will be wrapped up in their jammies. :)

Simply use common sense, like all things associated with horses. Then both you and your horses will get through Wintertime just fine!



  1. This is a very good outline for blanketing. My horse is boarded outside with a shed and he only gets his blanket if it is below freezing, especially with snow. He also gets a hood if it is in the single digits.

  2. Thanks Heather and welcome to the blog!

    We actually had to blanket again last night, after a number of days where the temps stayed well into the 50's overnight.

    Ah, the joys of impending Wintertime! :)

  3. I personally do not own a horse blanket. I have fat, furry Fjords. The temp today was close to 60 and the poor things were sweating. Damp. Not happy. That said, I did have a dinky little Arab that shivered when the temps went below freezing and the wind chill lower. She had mor hay than the others and seemed to do well with that. All come in at night, the barn is by no means air tight, but they stay warm and happy. This is posted from the black hole of central Indiana.

  4. It's definitely very individual. Here in the PNW (average temp year round generally 30-80 with lots of rain) my older appy would want her blanket in 40 dg. weather, and my half-arab sweats under any blanket (and gets rainrot.) After fighting his rainrot every winter, I finally got a clue and now I NEVER blanket him, just let him get fuzzy and turn him out naked all winter. The extra grooming and longer cool-out times are better than fighting rainrot!
    Last winter we had a few weeks of 10-20 degree weather, and whem the temp first dropped I was SO worried about my boy turned out without his blanket! I rushed out after work to blanket him, and what I found was a very happy, comfortable, naked horse, with his furry coat standing on end and so glossy that no moisture could get within an inch of his skin. He gave me a big hug to keep ME warm!

  5. Wow, can't imagine a constant battle with rainrot. :( I guess we're lucky living in the dry desert climate, because things like rainrot, scratches and other skin conditions are generally either not encountered or kept at bay.

  6. I wouldn't trade it (now that I'm more successful at managing it) for brittle hooves and sand colic that you desert environment horsepeople have to keep watch for!

  7. True, we all have our own individual challenges based on where we live, don't we? I have to stock up on Hooflex and religiously feed psyllium, but when you can get an inch of rain in an hour, or 6-10 inches of snow and have no mud left behind in the arena within a couple of hours, it is Heaven to me!! :) :) After having been where my arena was left a muddy mess and dealing with recurring scratches in a couple of horses because of that nasty mud I will take my dry desert any time! :o)


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