2016 Miniature Horse WORLD Issues Fall/ November 2016 E-Magazine - Page 6
To Blanket or Not to Blanket?
By Luke Bass, DVM, MS
he chilly months from late fall to early spring are generally a
time of slowed activity for horse and handler, but attentiveness
to horse health and management is just as crucial during the
cold season. As an equine veterinarian, I’m often asked about blanketing during the cold months.
Primary considerations in horse blanketing are hair coat and environmental temperature. Here is some information that will assist you in
making the right blanketing decision for your horse.
First, it’s useful to know that horses have an innate ability to withstand
cold and wind, with the important caveat that they need shelter or a
windbreak, as well as proper cold-season feed and nutrition.
Blankets tend to compress a coat’s layers, which compromises their insulating properties. Horses that do not live in extremely cold environments—extremely cold meaning routinely colder than 10°F (about
-12°C)—will do well without a blanket, provided they are either
stalled during the coldest temperatures or have access to a protective
Here are a few blanketing tips to follow:
n Only apply blankets to clean, dry horses.
n Use the appropriate blanket for the appropriate use. A turnout
blanket is for use during turnout and is designed to be waterproof.
Horses that live in the elements wearing blankets should wear waterproof and breathable blankets. A blanket that is not waterproof will
quickly become saturated, making your horse cold—the opposite of
the desired effect with blanket use.
n If you have decided to blanket, use the blanket weight that is most
appropriate for your horse’s needs and the weather conditions. If it’s
40°F (about 4.4°C), your horse probably only needs a lightweight
blanket. If it’s -10°F (about -23°C), he might prefer a heavyweight
n Sweating in a blanket on a hot day can be just as problematic as
wearing a non-waterproof blanket in wet weather.
n Remove your horse’s blanket and groom him on a regular basis.
n Properly cleaning blankets is recommended for longevity of the
product, but remember that most are designed to be line-dried,
so either purchase a quick-drying blanket or have a backup. When
cleaning or rinsing your blanket, check all the fasteners and attachments to make sure they are secured tightly to the blanket. A blanket
that slips can cause your horse to spook, and could lead to injury.
Feed and nutrition are also factors tied to blanketing, because a horse
generates body heat through digestive activity. To help your horse live
comfortably in cold weather, make sure calories are adequate. Most
important, provide sufficient forage (typically in the form of hay). As
the horse digests forage, gut activity warms the body. This function,
along with the natural insulating abilities of the winter coat, allows
your horse to live comfortably in an environment that is not excessively cold, assuming shelter is available.
The decision to blanket your horse comes with pros and cons. A positive aspect of blanketing is that it helps maintain a short-haired show
coat, thus decreasing your body clipping time if you are showing during the colder months. Performance horses might need clipping and
blanketing to control winter hair growth, so they can exercise without
getting too sweaty and so that sweat dries easily. Consider a partial
rather than a full clip for the benefits of easily cleaned sweaty areas and
heavy hair coat in other areas.
Blankets also are used in icy and snowy weather to keep your outside horse clean and dry. For horses living in very cold places—again,
places where the temperature is often colder than 10°F—blankets can
provide the added warmth needed, especially when protective shelter
is not available. Additionally, when a horse is moved from a warm
climate to a much cooler climate, a blanket can help the horse become
acclimated to the new environment.
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Unless you are showing your horse, blanketing is a personal decision.
The blanket will give your horse added warmth, but in return will
decrease your horse’s natural winter hair growth.
Consult your equine veterinarian for more information about horse
care through the winter months, and for the latest information on
nutrition, dental care, and preventative medicine.
Courtesy of theHorse.com