Equine Blanketing Tips: When to Blanket Your Horse.

With winter in full swing you may be wondering what this means for your horse. Should you blanket or not? There are many opposing views on this topic, and it’s undeniable that horses have a natural ability to survive cold and inclement weather on their own. Their thicker, longer winter hair coats fluff up to hold in warm air and protect against the cold.  Their bodies are also designed to burn calories to generate heat.

Despite this, sometimes your horse will need your help to stay warm. Here are a few times you might want to consider blanketing your equine.

  • If your horse lacks a good winter coat. One of an equine’s primary tools for keeping himself warm enough is his winter coat. The longer, thicker coat he grows in winter fluffs up in the cold to trap body heat, much like a fluffy parka does for you. There are reasons why a horse’s coat might not be up to the task, however. If he’s recently came from a warmer climate or transitioned to living outdoors from an indoor stall, for example.  Or, if he’s already been blanketed a lot this winter, he may not have a thick enough winter coat to keep himself warm in cold winter weather. Likewise, if you clip him to help him cool when you ride, he will need to be blanketed more aggressively.
  • For extreme cold and wind chill. While horses are generally pretty good at generating their own heat and staying warm, this ability is only good up to a certain point. During extreme cold spells, they will have a harder time generating and retaining enough heat to keep them warm. Likewise, wind chill can cut through a horse’s natural defenses — literally — by interfering with his ability to trap warm air in his fluffed-up hair coat. This generally means blanketing for wind chill and temperatures in the single digits and lower.
  • For precipitation. Even if a horse has an adequate winter coat, rain or snow can essentially render it useless. If his coat gets wet, he loses his ability to fluff it up, trapping his body heat and keeping himself warm. A waterproof winter turnout blanket will help to keep him warm when it rains or snows.
  • When there’s a lack of shelter. It’s not a naturally occurring tool that horses use to stay warm, but shelter can make a huge difference by minimizing wind chill and preventing wet hair coats. If your equine doesn’t have access to shelter, on the other hand, you will want to be a little more proactive about blanketing.
  • If your horse is sick or underweight. Horses that are sick or underweight require the most aggressive blanketing, partly because their bodies don’t have the resources to generate and retain heat and partly because they will use resources they can’t afford to lose trying to keep themselves warm. A skinny horse will only get skinnier in cold weather and a sick horse will weaken itself even more trying to stay warm.

What’s Best for Your Horse

Whether to blanket your equine in winter is a personal decision that every horse owner must make for themselves. There are other ways to combat the cold as well, such as providing shelter, making sure your horse is at a healthy winter weight at the beginning of the season, and feeding extra roughage during cold spells to help your horse generate his own heat. For more information about how the proper feed can help your equine stay warm enough, both through adequate nutrition and additional calories, contact Sacate Pellet Mills at 602-237-3809.