Does My Horse Need a Blanket
Posted on November 12 2017
It is a tough decision that many equestrians face; whether due to a move to a different climate, a new horse, or simply questioning what they have done for years. After researching this topic we’ve found that there are different factors that you can evaluate to answer if your horse needs a blanket.
Access to Shelter: Is your horse stabled or have access to a permanent shelter? If this is the case your horse may be fine with just their winter coat. On the other hand, if your horse does not have adequate access to shelter and is unable to escape from the elements they should have a waterproof sheet or blanket to keep them warm and dry.
Body Condition: In a previous post we outlined determining your horses body condition based on the Henneke Body Score Scale. This can impact how well a horse is able to regulate his body temperature. The easy keeper horse (your 6 and above on the scale) are more likely to stay comfortable without a blanket. The hard keeper (your 5 and lower on the scale) tend to burn extra calories just to stay warm. These horses would be kept more comfortable with a blanket.
Coat: Clipped horses, or if you’ve recently purchased a horse and moved him from a warm climate to a cold climate, will need a blanket to keep him warm in inclement weather. On the other hand horses that grow a full winter coat are likely to be comfortable without a blanket.
Age & Digestive Health: Horses with a healthy GI tract will ferment forage that in turn creates heat that helps them maintain a comfortable core temperature. A young or healthy horse is likely to be comfortable with simply some extra hay on extra cold days. While an older horse, or one with a compromised digestive system would be more comfortable with a blanket to offset this deficiency.
Climate: The climate or temperature a horse is used to can affect his LCT. The LCT is the lowest temperature a horse is able to maintain his core temperature without needing a source of additional energy. If the outside temperature falls below the horse’s LCT, his shelter, body condition, coat and normal calorie intake are not enough to keep him comfortable.
I personally own a hard keeper. Calvin is an OTTB, and in addition to being a hot blooded Thoroughbred, as a former race horse he spent his summers on the northern race circuit and his winters in Florida. I’ve found the perfect formula for getting him through our Midwest winters, while still allowing him to be pastured 24/7, which is what he prefers. I allow him to first grow his coat by leaving him “naked” until he sufficiently grows his winter coat, yet before it gets consistently below freezing. This allows the blanket to truly be an additional component in keeping him warm throughout the frigid winter. I’ve found this to keep him body condition up considerably throughout the season and thus his comfort level.
How about you? What has your experience been in the blanket vs. no blanket dilemma? We would love to hear!