Is a Winter Blanket Necessary for Your Horse?

Horses eating hay

You're wondering if you should put a thick winter blanket or "turn-out rug" on your horse because the weather is dropping. You may feel compelled to wear a sweater or jacket, but does your horse require an additional layer? If the weather is "wintery," but neither windy or wet, your horse is unlikely to require a blanket. As long as your horse has access to excellent quality food and fresh water, the heat produced by its digestive system, as well as the natural protection provided by its thick winter hair coat, will likely keep it warm in conditions that would send you scurrying for a heavy jacket.

Several studies suggest that horses can survive without a blanket. When given the option of being outside, in a heated shelter, or in an unheated shelter, they choose to be outside. So it appears that horses are less disturbed by the cold than humans.

When Blanketing Might Be Wise

Although some people believe that blanketing a horse is never a smart idea, there are times when it is. In order to stay warm, older horses or horses who have difficulties keeping weight on in warm weather will burn a lot of calories. Extra feed and the added protection of a wind and waterproof horse blanket will assist these animals. If there is a windbreak or run-in shelter available, all horses will benefit from being able to escape the direct brunt of the wind, rain, or snow.

If the weather is really wet, the natural loft of your horse's hair coat will be lost, and it will not keep the cold out, exactly like a wet goose down jacket. Body heat is blasted away by strong winds. In very calm, cold weather down to -4F (-20C), horses can be left un-blanked and be fine. When you add wind chill or rain to the equation, you've got a shivering horse.

Blanket Hazards

There are hazards to blanketing that horse owners need to be wary of.

Blanket Biting

Within a herd of horses, a game called "destroy the blanket" is frequently played. That's aggravating, especially if you've just saved up to buy that extra-special blanket for your horse and it already has large teeth marks on it after the first day. A shredded blanket also makes it simpler for a horse to become tangled in.

Getting Tangled

Hanging belly or leg restraints can also catch horses. Outdoor turn-out is not ideal for coolers, linens, or stable blankets. The straps and fasteners that keep outdoor blankets from moving are frequently missing. As a result, straps must be in good working order and appropriately adjusted.

Some Fabrics Cause Chafing and Poor Breathability

A horse's skin can be badly chafed or injured by poorly fitted winter blankets. If the horse's winter blankets aren't constructed of breathable materials, the horse will sweat and become uncomfortable. When the weather becomes moderate, horses left covered will be uncomfortable. Some blankets include layers that may be used independently. These are useful, but they may cause problems if the layers alter.

Keep Horse Blankets Dry at All Times

Two blankets may be useful if you frequently deal with damp weather. You'll have an additional blanket for your horse if one becomes drenched while the other dries. Wearing a damp blanket is just as horrible as not wearing one at all.

When determining whether or not to cover your horse for the winter, use your best judgment. It's likely that your horse is chilled. The chilly weather will affect each horse differently. Young horses, senior horses, or horses with thin coats would most likely feel the cold more than thickly covered horses, ponies, and mature healthy horses. Keep an eye on your horses. It may be time for a blanket if they are shivering or standing hunched and uncomfortable. If they struggle to stay warm in the winter, a blanket, in addition to extra food, may be beneficial.