To Blanket or Not to Blanket, That is the Question

Photo by Celia Whitcomb

Photo by Celia Whitcomb

It’s that time of the year again for all horse owners: time to put away the fly spray and dust off those quarter sheets. It is blanket season once again, where the temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and riders pile on the layers in order to go out for a 30-minute ride.

In the barns the cold weather brings a new dilemma: How to appropriately dress the horses for the winter.

There are many different theories on how to blanket a horse. These decisions are based on the weather, horse’s coat, and whether or not the horse has a stall at night or stays outside. The largest battle found, when researching the appropriate technique, focuses on whether or not one should blanket their horses at all. Those arguing not to blanket their horses cite the animals natural abilities to survive in extreme weather once their coat has grown accustomed to the climate. The horse’s natural coat is designed to insulate and protect the body from the rain or cold with layers in the coat and mechanisms designed to increase coat insulation as cited by Natalija Aleksandrova in her blog Holistic Horse & Hoof Care.

Those who argue for blanketing cite competing over the winter season, keep their athletes muscle warm and workable, horses unused to the weather, older horses unable to grow such thick coats, and possibilities of severe weather.

In general owners of horses who grow thick fluffy coats tend to be less likely to blanket versus owners of horses who are clipped or are used to warmer climates. For those of us in Pennsylvania our horses are often used to colder weather and tend to not be blanketed as heavily while those in Florida will blanket their horses as soon as the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

Renee Bouch ’17 says “My horse grows a pretty thick winter coat and I don’t clip so most of the time if it’s overcast or slightly windy I would throw a sheet on her.” She also says that if the weather is slightly colder with rain she will throw a medium blanket on her mare to help ward off the rain.

Nicole Trent ’16 says that at her barn the staff will blanket when the temperature is 34 or below. “Only select horses that have been clipped will get a light blanket or sheet if it is 42 or below.” She says that all 27 horses at the barn stay outside all winter with mostly no blankets.

Melanie Przybilski ’16 comments that her horse Wesley is often left un-blanketed. Now that he is body clipped, she now puts on a mid-weight if the temperature drops below 40. “Temperature is nothing, it’s everything else that effects the moisture and chill.”

Thankfully SmartPak, a company focused on the equestrian way of life, has created an app for that, called SmartBlanket. The owner enters in the information about whether or not the horse is clipped, if the horse is in the barn at night, body weight, age of the horse, and location and compiles it to give the user an idea of what blanket should be put on. It breaks up suggestions by day and night and gives the full week’s weather report and how it effects your horse.

There are plenty of different theories and opinions on how to blanket (or not blanket) your horse, but the most important thing is to do right by your partner. Make sure to check on them often to make sure they are appropriately blanketed!

Happy blanketing season!


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