When to Blanket A Horse?

When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby eda70 » February 2nd, 2015, 2:11 pm

I am personally NOT a fan of blanketing. To me, it looks difficult to move in and makes the horse uncomfortable. They can't roll like they'd want to, they can't grow their winter coats properly, etc. But I live in Canada where even in the southern parts of this country, it can get to as low as -20C (-4F). So I was wondering what you consider to be the point at which you should start blanketing your horse, if ever. I'd prefer to keep my horses out in pasture (I don't own yet) because I don't like the idea of stalls either, if possible. Are there any other alternative options to blanketing, and when is it cold enough/windy enough, in your opinion, to blanket a horse?
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby riagan85 » February 2nd, 2015, 2:12 pm

Shivering is the only actual symptom of a horse needing a blanket. They will happily turn their tails to the wind and their hair will stand on end, and be just outside a perfectly fine 3-sided, roofed shelter. Snow is not a reason to blanket either. 30-40*F is actually the temperature at which horses have to expend the least energy to maintain a healthy body temperature. If you put a blanket on at that temp, you're causing your horse to work harder to COOL himself to a comfortable body temp. Sure, get a mid-weight blanket, but don't put it on the horse because YOU are cold! A horse's idea of comfortable is not the same as a human's. Congratulations for figuring that out before you even have a horse. As you can see, some people have owned horses for ages and still don't realize that they are a different species with different needs. Give the horse room to move around to keep his body temp up, give her an open shelter from wind and rain, and give him plenty of hay to eat around the clock. The process of digesting hay is the same process as composting manure - bacterial action breaks down the plant fibers and creates heat in the process. The considerable mass of a horse's body, intestines and muscles keeps that heat in. IF the horse is wet, sick, a hard keeper, or elderly AND actually shivering and showing discomfort, then yes, by all means help him/her out with a good blanket or two. Shivering costs a lot of calories, so watch for it and if you see it happening, offer a blanket. I know of a number of horses that will tell you if they want their blankets on or not. The owner shows it to the horse, and the horse either walks up and stands to get dressed, or turns away. I'm sure many more horses would tell their humans their preference, but the horse learned long ago that humans are not interested in his/her opinions, so they just tolerate whatever is done to them. It's called learned helplessness and being shut-down. If you do choose to put blankets on, keep in mind that you're disabling the horse's own ability to regulate its temp. The natural hair coat will fluff up and lay flat as needed, but a blanket just flattens it and will not self-adjust as the sun comes up or the horse moves around more. With extended blanketing, the pili arrector muscles that make the hairs stand up and create a layer of insulating air will atrophy and the horse will lose that ability temporarily, until those tiny muscles have had a chance to re-develop to do their job. You are thinking along the right lines. Let your horse keep its own coat and let it regulate its own body temperature as much as possible.
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby denison » February 2nd, 2015, 2:19 pm

Of course, it's different for each horse. At my grandparents farm, none of the horses are blanketed and they're perfectly fine. But my three horses (Oldenburg, Hanoverian, and Dutch WB) all need blankets. My Oldenburg actually wears three when it gets really cold. My Dutch needs two for most of winter, and my Hanoverian is fine with just one. My horses are also all in stalls overnight and in the pasture from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon during the day and it never gets as cold here as it does in Canada. However, my horses are all pretty strict show horses, and they're just not used to the cold and pasture life like some horses are. So if I were you, I would absolutely blanket my horse and keep it in a stall if possible. Of course, I don't know your horse and it might be fine without a blanket, so it's really up to you. The way I look at it though, better safe than sorry. A blanket isn't going to do any harm and if your horse doesn't need it, you can always take it off. I think it would be wise to invest in one though just in case :)
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby dorrell » February 2nd, 2015, 2:24 pm

My horses are out to pasture 24/7 and they are not clipped. I do not have a 3-sided shelter or barn they can run in, just open air shelters (roof only). So, I use blankets since they don't have a wind break. I also use blankets to help keep my feed bill down. I feed free-choice hay. When I don't blanket, they eat a LOT to keep warm. When I do blanket, they eat only a bit more than they do during the summer. I don't have to increase feed and my hay bill stays reasonable. So for me, I have a few rules on when I blanket. At night: * Temps below freezing * Temps below 40 F with windy conditions * Raining and temps below 50 F * Any freezing rain, sleet, or snow at night During the Day: * Temps below 40 AND windy (more than 10 mph) * Temps below 50 and raining * Any freezing rain, sleet, or snow I remove blankets at any temperature if it's sunny and the wind is calm, even if it's only 20 degrees out. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is a Southern state. Our weather goes from 70 degrees one day to snow or freezing rain 2-3 days later. So, I have to constantly watch the weather and know when to blanket and when not to. I have two mares that never grow much of a winter coat, so they need theirs more often. My daughter's Haflinger gelding almost never needs his blanket, except during precipitation. He never goes under the shelter, lol. I use medium weight blankets, 180-220 g of fill, so the horses don't sweat when I do forget to take them off ;-).
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby shattuck » February 2nd, 2015, 2:32 pm

Older horses should be blanketed in the winter months and when it is very cold. It helps keep their weight and them warm. Other horses do not need to be blanketed unless it is below 5f I would say. That is just a personal opinion. It also matters with the horse. If they are used to being blanketed they will most likely feel colder in the winter times and if it does not have winter fuzzies you should blanket them. When they have their winter fuzzies and are used to pasture life you wont need to blanket them as much. Younger foals should also be blanketed to keep their temperature. Hope this helped. Good Luck!
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby jarrett14 » February 2nd, 2015, 2:39 pm

I would never leave a horse unblanketed in snow. Here's my blanket routine: If it is gonna be below 30 (in Fahrenheit) I blanket. If its going to rain, I blanket. If its super windy, I blanket. My horse has a winter coat, but doesn't look like a mammoth. Plus if I don't have time to blanket him one day he wont freeze. Some horses are very sensitive to cold and shiver. If I saw my horse shiver I would blanket.
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When to Blanket A Horse?

Postby gaukroger » February 2nd, 2015, 2:46 pm

A couple of well fitted blankets can make all the difference to a horse in the cold weather - and they do not stop the horse from rolling and frollicking if they are fitted well. There are many different designs to fit different shape and size of pony. They do still grow a winter coat and they are far more comfortable blanketed than if they are left to go naked! A blanket keeps them warm and dry. The time to start blanketing a horse is when it starts looking cold and miserable. Stand to one side and observe the body language. head down, ears back, tail tucked in between his cheeks, sometimes back hunched, and shivering and coat standing on end. Go to the horse and gently cup the bottom of his ears with your hands. If they feel cold at the base, then the horse is cold. Cold can cause a lot of harm in the long run, including being prone to infection and also loss of condition (weight and muscle) due to the body using all its energy to try to stay above the minimum to stay alive. If someone saw your horses in this condition you would be reported to the animal welfare campaigns of your country. The reason why I say a couple of blankets is that you can put a dry one on when the other gets too damp or frozen, and then dry that one out and swap them over.
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