With the weather turning colder, are you wondering if your horse needs a blanket to keep warm? Below we have tried to help guide you on making the decision if blanketing is right for you and your horse and which type of blanket you should choose.
If you have chosen to clip your horse or are trying to modify their coat for the winter (blankets to keep down the winter fluff!) then your horse will need continued blanketing over the winter. But what about those winter warriors who spend their days in the pasture and are in light work or even get the winter off– do they need blankets? The answer may be no. This time of year, horses have started to grow out their coats to protect from the winter elements. If your horse has a good body condition and has grown their winter coat, they most likely don’t need to wear a blanket unless there is a large and sudden drop in temperature. However, if your horse has had trouble maintaining weight, doesn’t have a good coat, or doesn’t have the ability to escape wind/rain then maybe they would benefit. Adding a blanket during the cold months can help a “hard keeper” maintain their body composition by decreasing the amount of calories spent keeping themselves warm.
Another important part of staying warm is being able to stay dry. The insulting effect of horses’ winter coats is lost when they become wet and is no match for high winds. Be sure to have shelter for them to escape any sleet/rain and some sort of wind break for them to use. Regardless of whether horses are blanketed in the winter, plummeting temperatures can be disruptive to even the wooliest of ponies so sometimes it is important to increase feed. While grain is a tasty treat, it is hay that is most helpful to horses for keeping warm in the winter. The process of digesting the hay actually helps them maintain their core body temperature. So if you see a particularly cold streak on the weather forecast be prepared to increase the quantity of hay you feed.
If you have decided that blanketing is the right choice for you and your horse be sure to regularly take the blanket off. Blankets can cause rubs and sores that will be hidden when the blanket is on. This can be helped by making sure to measure your horse before purchasing a blanket to ensure that it is the right size. Taking off blankets also gives you a chance to assess your horse’s body condition because changes in their weight cannot be assessed well when a blanket is on. It is also important to check on your horse at different times of day and in different temperatures to ensure they are staying comfortable. Blanketing too heavily can be detrimental as horses may sweat during the midday sun and then get chilled as the sweat dries and the sun sets.
Now that you have an idea if your horse may require a sheet or blanket, how do you choose? First, you need to decide where your horse will wear their blanket. If they will be outside, you’ll want to ensure she has a turnout sheet or blanket. Turnout blankets are waterproof to further aid in staying warm against the snow and rain. They typically also offer tail flaps and occasionally neck covers to help block the wind and the material is typically stronger to prevent tearing or ripping on trees, posts, or rough pasture mates. Horses that stay inside or will only be blanketed inside can opt for a stable sheet or blanket. Stable covers are not waterproof and the material is typically made of a less resilient material and therefore, less likely to withstand the outdoor elements. Stable sheets/blankets are comparable to your pajamas—often soft,warm, and cozy, but not for going outside in!
While shopping, you might notice different weights available for blankets. The weight of a blanket will tell you how warm it will keep your horse. You may need to keep multiple blankets at varying weights to ensure your horses comfort at different temperature ranges. Light-weight blankets are made to protect from wind/rain but do not have any filler in them and are often listed as 0g (because there are 0 grams of fill). Medium-weight blankets are rated from 150-225g of fill, heavyweight blankets have 250-370g of fill, and ultra-heavy blankets weigh in at over 400g of fill.
If you or your horse is new to blanketing, there may be a period of trial and error to find the right cover to keep your horse comfortable at different temperatures and weather conditions. There is no golden chart to indicate what weight blanket is right for what temperature and the reason for that is that every horse and situation is different. There are some general guidelines for temperatures at which different blankets are recommended, but it is more important to focus on your horses’ needs. It also depends on what your horse is used to, if you do not usually blanket in the winter but notice a cold snap coming up then they will not need as heavy of a blanket as a horse who has been blanketed since the start of cold weather.
Your horse is a unique individual and may need a different level of warmth compared to their stable mate with similar attributes. And keep in mind that just because you are cold, doesn’t mean that they are cold! We hope that this article has helped you decide if blanketing might be right for you and your horse and where to start on your blanket search. If you have any questions please feel free to contact our office.