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February 14, 2021
To blanket or not to blanket?
Let’s start with When you won’t need to blanket:
If your horses already have a nice winter coat you typically won’t have to start blanketing.
One indicator of a well-insulated winter coat is if snow does not melt on their backs when it is snowing out.
If you did choose to blanket a horse with a good winter coat, the blanket will compress the hair, thus decreasing insulation when you remove the blanket. Additionally, try to avoid blanketing a horse that is already wet. Doing this will keep the horse wet, and therefore cold. Instead, bring the horse into a warm, dry area (if you have one available), and place a cooler on the horse until they are dry.
Next, do your horses have shelter? Shelter doesn’t necessarily have to be a stall inside; all it has to do is offer an area where the horse can get out of the wind and snow. Having a shelter can absolutely reduce the need to blanket a horse.
So, when will your horses need a blanket?
Are your horses acclimated to the cold weather? Perhaps, if your horse just moved from a warmer climate to the frozen tundra, they would likely appreciate a blanket.
Is there a chance they could get wet from freezing rain? Rain will penetrate a winter coat, unlike snow that will sit on top. As rain condenses their coat, insulation is lost. Often, a waterproof blanket or sheet will help prevent your horse from getting wet and cold in this situation.
Is your horses body condition score less than 3? Fat is used as insulation for horses, so if they have minimal fat it can be easier for them to lose body heat.
Is your horse very young or old? Most of the horses that fall in this category don’t have excess energy to spare for extensive heat production, without negative side effects.
All in all, if a horse has a good, fluffy winter coat, they won’t need a blanket. But if your horse needs to conserve more energy for growth or weight gain, blanketing can be beneficial.