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Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM: To Blanket or Not to Blanket
To Blanket or Not to Blanket ...
Winter is here! The days are short, and the nights are long and cold in much of the country. As we manage our horses in the colder weather, the question arises of whether or not to blanket your horse. The short answer is "no," but let's look at why that is, and under what circumstances blanketing may be preferred or necessary.
How a horse stays warm:
How much winter hair will my horse get?
What role does nutrition play?
How much cold can a horse tolerate?
When don't I need to blanket my horse?
- When he has a natural winter coat
- When he is healthy and in good body weight
- When it is not too windy or raining
- If the temperature says above 5°F
When do I need to blanket my horse?
- When he has been clipped for winter
- When he is sick or injured
- When he is underweight (or any "hard keeper")
- When he is older, with weight issues, or difficulty moving around
- When he has been recently moved to a colder climate (Expect it to take 10-21 days for a horse to acclimate to a new climate)
- When it is Windy or Rainy or both
- When there is no available shelter
Here are some general guidelines:
- Body Clipped Horses: Start blanketing when the temperature gets below 60°F, or anytime it is rainy or windy
- Moderate Hair Coat Horses: Start blanketing when the temperature goes below 40°F
- Heavy Hair Coat Horses: Start blanketing when the temperatures go below 30°F
How to blanket properly:Proper fit is essential to keep your horse warm and safe. Make sure that the blanket is not putting pressure on your horse's withers, chest, or shoulders. You may have to try several styles of blanket to find the one that fits your horse correctly. Many horses, especially those that are clipped, will develop rub marks on the shoulders. Slick undergarments are available to help with this. Spraying the inside of the blanket with a silicone grooming spray can also help.
Remove your horse's blanket often to make sure that any rubs have not turned into sores or that he hasn't developed rain rot under his blanket.
Make sure to use turnout blankets when horses are turned out! These blankets are designed to stay in place when your horse runs and rolls; they are waterproof; and they are generally of studier materials to withstand herd turnout. Stable blankets are not waterproof, plus your horse can get tangled up in a blanket that is not intended for turnout.
A blanket that is too small can cause pressure sores and not provide enough warmth. Likewise, a blanket is too large can be dangerous from being too loose, as well as allow too much cold air to flow underneath it.
Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional. In particular, all horse owners should seek advice from a veterinarian for their horses medical needs.
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