To Blanket or Not to Blanket?

This time of year, there seems to be one million dollar question… or argument, depending on who you are speaking with. Should I blanket my horse? Should I not blanket my horse? The purpose of this post is not to answer this question for you but instead to gather resources that empower you to feel confident in your decision to blanket or to not blanket. Both answers are correct, it just depends on you and your horse’s individual and unique situation. 

Common Conversations 

One of the common conversations is “wild horses do not need or have access to blankets and they thrive in their environments.” Yes, that is true, however; most of us do not have wild bred mustangs (if you do, that is awesome). To me this is kind of like saying, “wolves do not eat kibble and they thrive in their environments”. Yes, my dog could have instincts to hunt, but you can bet I will continue to feed her kibble despite that ancestral drive. Connecting wild and domesticated is helpful to a point, but it is important to remember that they are different, hence the terms “wild” and “domesticated”.

Another conversation revolves around clipping your horses. Some people believe that clipping is the only humane answer to working horses in the winter, others believe it is absolutely horrendous to subject their horses to such horror. Again it depends on the horse and it depends on the clip. If you are working your horse hard all winter long in a heated arena, chances are they would appreciate the clip. If your horse is a pasture ornament in a field with no shelter, no blanket and not working at all, that is a whole other story.

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Horses are more likely to have health complications from being too hot than from being too cold. 
  2. Horses keep themselves warm by eating forage and moving around. Their digestive tract is like an internal space heater.
  3. Shivering is not bad. Shivering is a way to keep warm. Shivering is bad when it is constant and is causing the horse to lose weight.
  4. Horses need shelter from wind and the elements, but that shelter can take different forms (i.e- a blanket, a well built run in shed, or the woods)
  5. Blankets compromise the body’s natural insulation by compressing the layers of the coat.
  6. Wet blankets make horses colder.
  7. Your horse will grow their winter coat until December 22 (the winter solstice), so blanketing before then will impact its growth.
  8. Ill fitting and ripped blankets can be dangerous. Horses can get tangled and/or get caught on things in their environment.
  9. Some horses really like their blankets.
  10. Some horses really hate their blankets.

The Most Important Thing

You know your horse. Pay attention to what they like and what they do not like. Make the decision based on the knowledge available to you and your horse’s preferences. If you need an opinion ask one person that you trust; maybe your vet, trainer or a more experienced friend. Chances are if you ask more people, you get more answers, so choose wisely 🙂 If your horse is sweating or steaming hot; take the blanket off. If they are constantly shivering to the point of dropping weight; put the blanket on. Whatever you do, do it confidently and do not doubt your decision if you know the reasons that went into making it!



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