Does your horse need a blanket?

I love this flow chart from Auburn Agriculture. Intellectually, I know that most of the time, my horses could live just fine without their blankets. After all, they have access to shelter, I haven’t clipped them yet this year, and we feed plenty of hay. On dry nights, without wind, they would probably be just find. There’s one old horse at our barn who never has a blanket. He’s about 29 and he’s survived just fine.

Blanket of not?
Freedom looks cozy in his mid-weight Kensington, but Dandy (behind him) is naked all winter. I suppose if I was braver, I’d let them all brave the elements.

Emotionally, I feel like blanketing keeps them cozy. I try not to over blanket — there’s no point in making them too warm — but when my fingers are going white from the cold, I like them to have a layer of warmth.

Of course, it may also be that because my fingers are numb, I don’t want to take the blankets on/off three horses while standing in the dark, ankle deep in mud. Yup, that’s probably the real reason. It’s just easier to leave them with a mid-weight blanket on!

What do you do? Blanket or no blanket? Are your horses hardy enough to brave the winters of Canada (Zelda’s former owner reminds me she grew up in Canada, blanketless, and managed to survive) or do your horses get sheets the first time it dips below 50 degrees?


5 thoughts on “Does your horse need a blanket?

  1. I have been reading up on this and as a first-time horse owner (pony owner) the information is pretty conflicting. I have a gypsy vanner mare with a eight-month old foal and they are outside during the day and in at night. At the moment I have been turning them out pretty much whatever the weather, blanketless. If the weather is really bad, I just bring them in a bit earlier.

    The foal is really woolly, but stays really wet for ages. I keep wondering whether I should get them blankets, but Mr Foal keeps jumping on his mum, so I am afraid he will get a hoof stuck and to be honest, this is an Irish breed and it rains a lot there, so they are probably ok.

    I still worry though! 😜

    1. Training a foal to wear a blanket can be quite a task! I have a friend going through that now. Since you are bringing them in to dry off, they should both be fine. Mine live out 24/7 so I worry about them getting cold and wet. However, as there’s one horse on the property that isn’t blanketed ever, I should stop fussing.

  2. I guess it’s our fate as horse owners to always wonder whether we’re doing the right thing 😂 I am still very new to all of this, so I am questioning my every decision!

  3. I’m always torn about blanketing. Raven gets wooly as a mammoth in the winter and while I would rather he be kept naked, Sue, his owner, wants him blanketed. I know why. She wants a warm, dry horse to ride as she gets to the barn EARLY…like 6 AM early, in order to get a ride in before she must be at work. Not having to dry him off makes it easier for her.
    Most importantly, though, in our very wet winters in the Pacific Northwest, rain rot can be an issue. I’d rather keep a horse blanketed than deal with rain rot.
    But…as your cartoon shows, I’ve seen many a horse unnecessarily blanketed because the owner is cold. People forget that Equus evolved here in north America in an Ice Age environment. They’re adapted to a cold, arid environment that can still be found in the Eurasian steppe. Whereas we evolved in the African savannah….

  4. This discussion is really interesting. I’d say that horses are too smart to adapt changes specifically in temperature. Horses are somewhat opposite to humans during cold weather and I admit that. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. I would love reading your next post.

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