Do you blanket your horse in the winter?

Horse blanketing
David Ramey, DVM posted Blanket and other Colorful Considerations on his blog today and included this cartoon. We all know a few horses who look like the horse on the right — wearing three or more blankets!

In the 15 years or so that I’ve kept my horses at a co-op barn, many of my opinions have changed. When I first arrived, fresh from years of boarding, I tucked my horse into his stall every night swathed in the appropriate blanket for the weather.

Now, I’m a firm believe in 24/7 turn out and have relaxed quite a bit on the blanketing front. Mostly, it’s because the horses have consistently told me that they are not cold. In fact, they like the cold weather much better than they like the heat (when they stand inside the barn trying to stay cool).

Dr. David Ramey posted an article today, Blanketing and other Colorful Considerations, which talks about the fact that horses have enough mass to stay warm, which is augmented by the heat generated by their digestive system. Under most circumstances, he believes that horses don’t need blanketing to stay warm.

Since I trace clip my horses, I generally do blanket. But unless the temps are down near zero or it’s very wet, I’ve found that mid-weight blankets are just fine; I throw them some extra hay and leave them out. Inevitably, they stay outside, eschewing the warmth of the barn. The horses don’t overheat and they don’t shiver. I have had a few horses that shivered in the cold (my mare, Dezzi, was one) and I’ve known some hard keepers who kept weight on better when they didn’t get cold.

It’s actually very nice to stop worrying about one aspect of horse care since horses are always doing something to keep us on our toes! (Freedom’s heel bulb is healing nicely after I had it cleaned out by the vet and started him on antibiotics.

What about you? Do you blanket your horses? Or leave them au natural?

12 thoughts on “Do you blanket your horse in the winter?

  1. Blanketing is also a big issue here at our boarding stable. Everyone feels differently! And, of course, I generally am the one doing all the blanketing and unblanketing of these horses. It’s great to hear your opinion on the matter, as well as I really enjoyed the article you provided a link to. Hope you don’t mind if I provide a link to the article as well at some point in the future?

    1. Please feel free to link. And keep reading Dr. Ramey’s blog. He injects a good amount of common sense into horse care.

      When I was at a full care barn they insisted that you use breathable turn out blankets so they could leave them on in the barn. If you wanted to use stable blankets there was a fee for changing them. It was a real eye opener to me when I started leaving my horses out with their stalls available. The cold really doesn’t bother them much!

  2. Winter definitely has hit… I had a bit of an eye opening experience when I took my certification for Equine Health & First Aid, as the people who run the organization are educated in equine science, and stand by the history of the horse. And they are right, the only thing that has changed in the horse body over the past 100 years is how we keep them. However, I am a modern girl, and like to view the situation as a whole; for instance, my own horses have been blanketed since they have moved to the location I am currently in, cold, cold Canada. I do agree, and teach that the horse body is equipped with oils, and hair layers that keep them warm in the winter. By enforcing this perspective that these animals are able to adapt, I have saved money on buying highest level heavy winter blankets. It is my way of compromising. Good luck and keep warm! I am going to leave my website address for you, and any others that may be interested in taking our 1 Day Equi-Health Canada & USA Equine Health & First Aid Course, that opened my eyes after 13 years of horse ownership.

  3. My horse is trace clipped as well so he gets blanketed. I usually blanket to the “real feel” of the weather not the actual temperature, as sometimes when it is damp it feels a lot colder than it actually is.

  4. I blanket and body clip them in the winter. Here in Texas it is never consistently cold, so I don’t like to let them get too fuzzy. Sometimes it will randomly be 80 degrees out. If I didn’t work my horses in the winter, I probably would just let them get fuzzy and not blanket but they are too uncomfortable when they have to work on warmer days.

  5. I blanket pretty religiously. Simon is either body clipped or trace clipped, so it’s in his best interest. He also drops weight in the winter, and blanketing helps a lot with that.

  6. i work at a farm where opinions vary widely and each horse is blanketed according to his owner’s wishes. it always makes me a little sad when i take off big heavy blankets and find that the horse has been sweating under it… my own opinions lean towards less blanketing: a sheet under 30 (under 40 if wet) and a heaver blanket under 20.

  7. All of our show and training horses are clipped, so blanketing is a necessity. However we have three fat retired horses out on the field full time and they get hairy and stay out unblanketed in all but the nastiest (think freezing rain and wind) of weather.

  8. I love my horse a lot and so I take care of him like my child. I agree that they enough mass to stay warm, which is augmented by the heat generated by their digestive system. But then too I blanket my horse in a proper way as I have observed that his weight drops in winter. The blanket that I bought from Hastbiten Ridsport( a few days back was really awesome and my horse feels very comfortable in it. Blanket is really important and must be compulsorily used in winter season for Horses.

  9. My first horse that I got as an adult was/is my OTTB. Before anyone gets all uppity about talking about horse racing, or what track horses are like, or what the horse went through when he was at the track. . .know this. . .I was this horses exercise rider at the track. I rode at the track because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to afford to have a horse of my own as an adult. I rode there for 10 years and then met my big lug. He broke an ankle bone in a race, was forced into early retirement, and was adopted by yours truly. That was 8 years ago. Boy let me tell you how people talked to me about blanketing him. One person (a former friend) more or less insisted that all racing TB’s are wrapped in bubble wrap and once they are off the track they will thrive just like any other horse. . .practically like mustangs! I had him at his first off track home for less than a year. The second farm he was in when the weather was too hot or too cold and he didn’t need a blanket. However, one time he got a slight chill and he’d never had a chill before and he panicked and colicked. That said it was a mild colic and the only thing that was needed for it to go away was for me to walk in the barn and say, “hey buddy? you ok?”
    At this second farm I acquired a second horse (how did a person who didn’t think she could afford one horse go to having two horses? good question. I eat a lot of beans and raw kale.) This horse’s daddy is a WB/TB and her momma a paint. She’d never worn a blanket.
    Then we had to move to a third barn because of the drama of boarding a horse. To afford the third place they were on field board. My TB needed a blanket. My WB/Paint, only needs one when there is a really wicked wind and below freezing temperatures (none of the “run-in” sheds had walls).
    Now I’m at a fourth place and it is field board/self care with a rather well appointed run-in shed (I’ve done a lot of extra work). I’ve done part time work at a tack shop for store credit for a super-duper fantastic blanket (one that my friend calls a “rich people blanket”. Also, I’ve accepted hand me down blankets for my horses. Most importantly, I’ve accepted that my OTTB needs blanketing more often than my WB/Paint who seldom does. And none of that reflects on their health or may care.
    That said, if it is raining, or damp, or cool, they will be blanketed. I’m not risking my boy colicking. He is my heart. He is my soul. He is my life.
    I kind of feel like our horses should not be stuck proving a point for someone with a mission. This isn’t politics, it’s our horse. That said, just because we’re cold, they are not.
    Last night was our first night at freezing and they were out in the pasture without a shed and without blankets. But when the weather turns ugly? je suis prĂȘt!

    1. No problem! People get pretty obsessive about blanketing! I’ve seen horses with four blankets layered on top of each other :).

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