Does your horse need a blanket this winter?

As the fall nights turn cool and we awaken to mornings with a hint of frost on the
ground, many horse owners wonder if blanketing should become a part of their
winter horse care. We hope this article provides information that helps you
decide what is best for your horse.

The Unclipped Horse

A number of factors should be considered before blanketing this horse. What is
your horse’s body condition score? A horse who has trouble keeping weight on
should not be burning calories trying to stay warm. Whether your horse is a
“hard-keeper,” or has some age on him, blanketing during cold or wet weather
will help him utilize his calories more efficiently and keep him warm and happy.
The “easy-keepers” with a healthy, fluffy coat probably will not require
blanketing. You will need to provide your horse shelter from the wind and wet, as
even the coat Mother Nature provides will not thoroughly protect him. All horses
should have access to forage, as in addition to providing nutrition, the digestion
process creates heat for the horse.

The Clipped Horse

If you have body clipped or even trace clipped your horse, the decision is already
made for you! The clipped horse will most certainly require blanketing, as you
have removed the coat Mother Nature provides the horse for protection against
As the fall nights turn cool and we awaken to mornings with a hint of frost on the
ground, many horse owners wonder if blanketing should become a part of their
winter horse care. We hope this article provides information that helps you
decide what is best for your horse.

Waterproof sheet: This blanket will perhaps be used the most. In the fall,
when we have warmer days, you can think of this as your horse’s “sweater.”
Consider your own choice of clothing; not quite warm enough for short sleeves,
but not cold enough for a jacket.

Medium-weight waterproof blanket: Think of this as your winter jacket. When it is chilly enough that you need a jacket, your horse also needs more protection.

Heavy-weight waterproof blanket: Here in Central Virginia, whether or not you need this blanket is a personal choice. Most of the heavy weight blankets are needed in the more northern and colder climates. If we are visited by the dreaded arctic air, layering your sheet and medium-weight offers added protection, or liners can also be purchased.

Stable blanket: Think of this as your pajamas. If your clipped horse is stabled at night, they will need something for warmth, but the turn-out blankets may be too warm.

A very important consideration when blanketing your horse is to not over do it!
You want to avoid your horse being too warm, causing them to sweat. A sweating
horse will quickly become chilled, and not only is this unpleasant for your horse,
it can also lead to health issues.

The most important consideration when blanketing horses is insuring you have
the proper size. This fact cannot be emphasized enough! A poorly fitted blanket
can become a safety issue as well as a comfort issue for your horse.

How to Measure for a Blanket

The preferred method of measuring your horse is to get a standard cloth measuring tape and have you horse stand square. You will find this is easier to do with a helper. Put the end of the tape in the very center of your horse’s chest. Draw the tape around the shoulders, being sure to go over the point of the shoulder (not above or below it). Continue in a straight line towards the horse’s rear. End in the center between the horse’s legs (think of where the tail is, but lined up with the point of the shoulder). This measurement will give you a good starting point. It may require some adjustment, depending on your horse’s confirmation, the style you choose, and the manufacturer of the blankets. Follow the link below to see a diagram on how to measure for a properly fitted blanket:
Blanket Fitting

How to Assess the Fit

If your new blanket restricts your horse’s shoulders, it is probably too small. Too
small of a blanket will create “blanket rubs” which can become sores if not addressed and also restrict the horse’s movement. If the blanket hangs down across the shoulders, it is too big. This will not only restrict the horse’s movement, but will also allow precipitation to get under the blanket, which creates the ideal scenario for your horse to become chilled.

If your horse’s rump is not covered by the blanket, it is too small. Most blankets have “tail flaps” to go over the rump. They do not weigh as much as the blanket so it is easier for the horse to “get his tail out of the way” when passing manure. If your blanket hangs over the tail, it is too big & will not allow the tail to raise up, resulting in a nasty mess, both on your horse and the blanket!

If new to blanketing or having trouble finding the right fit, consult a blanket savy
friend or the blanket manufacturers for guidance and as always, we are here to help!

Blanket Tid-Bits

Our favorite styles for all blankets are the higher cut neck styles. They seem to be
a little more generous in the fit across the shoulders and also are excellent in not
allowing moisture to seep under the blanket, even when the head is down while grazing. If using blankets that have rear leg straps, be sure they are not too tight, causing discomfort or rubs, or too loose, which could allow your horse to get caught in them.

Final Thoughts

If you have decided blanketing your horse is the right choice, here are some
points to remember:

  • Remove the blanket daily to monitor the weight of your horse and to check for rubs or other dings that might hide under the blanket.
  • Always check under the blanket for moisture. If the horse is sweating, or rain has seeped underneath, you need to remove the blanket and dry the horse.
  • Watch out for tears/rips in the blanket. Some pasture mates might view your horses blanket as an awesome new toy! Or, your horse may try creative maneuvers to remove the blanket.
  • Once you start using a blanket on an unclipped horse, you have flattened the fluffy, insulating mechanism Mother Nature provided, so you will need to keep up with blanking to be certain your horse stays warm.

We hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions, please give us a call.

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