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!