Contributed by: Valerie Mellema
We’ve had a relatively mild winter so far, albeit a wet one. However, we’ll eventually have much colder temperatures and you may find yourself wondering whether or not your horses need to be blanketed. The bottom line – it’s up to you and what you do with your horse whether or not they need a blanket.
The everyday riding horse that spends his time out in the pasture and the saddle is thrown on every so often is not going to “need” a blanket. As long as the horse grows a winter coat and is fed enough hay throughout the winter, his body will regulate his temperature. His winter coat will fluff up and insulate his body. Even if it snows, the snow will even turn into an insulating layer to keep the horse warm. Rain and strong wind, on the other hand, is another story, which is why it’s important to also provide some sort of shelter for your horse.
When should you blanket? There are a few scenarios in which you should consider blanketing.
- Relocating from warm climate to cold climate – Horses that are moving to areas that are the opposite of what they are used climate wise – Florida to Montana for instance, will likely need a blanket their first winter as they acclimate. Most won’t grow a very thick winter coat.
- Showing – Those who show their horses can use blankets to keep the winter coat at bay. While the horse will still grow a winter coat, the warmth of the blanket keeps the hair that is grown shorter. Be sure to cover the neck as well if you want your horse to look uniform.
- High performance activities – Horses that are worked into a lather and therefore often clipped to help keep them from getting soaked in sweat will need to be blanketed. Anytime you cut off their winter coat, you’ll need to blanket. It is also wise to first use a fleece cooler before blanketing to ensure the horse is dry before covering with a heavy blanket. You don’t want to blanket a wet horse.
The most important factor in blanketing is ensuring that your horse isn’t going to overheat.
This is particularly the case here in East Texas where we might have colder nights that are 50 and below, but our days are still in the 60s and 70s in December.
A good rule of thumb for our area is to blanket at night and pull blankets in the mornings if you’re not going to be home throughout the day to monitor your horse’s comfort. This will ensure your horse is comfortable overnight and not overheating during the day.