To Blanket or Not to Blanket

By Karine Burt

http://www.HorseShoeBox.com

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When you are trying to decide on whether you should blanket your horse, there are a few factors to take into consideration: their coat, their digestive health and age, their type of living situation, the condition of their body, and the lowest temperature at which they can stay warm by themselves.

Due to the number of factors involved in this decision, that is why the answer to whether you should blanket your horse or not is that it depends. Every horse is unique, and choosing whether to blanket them should be based on their needs. Just because you are cold does not mean that they are cold or need a blanket.

This is How Your Horse Stays Warm.

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Your horse’s coat is smarter than you know!

Since your horse was created to spend all of his time outside, he is naturally able keep himself warm as the temperatures drop. Let’s go over what your horse’s body does to keep warm, and when their body may not be able to do enough.

When the days get shorter and the sun is out for less time, your horse’s winter coat starts coming in. They start to grow their thicker, longer winter coat starting in as early as July, while shedding their thin summer coat by October. The winter coat comes with hairs that are coarser and longer than the summer coat, which keep them warm by fluffing up and trapping heat in. The coarse hairs stand up, trapping the heat and insulating their body.

Another way they keep themselves warm is by using calories. The hindgut ferments roughage, creating heat that helps keep the body’s core temperature. This is the reason why it is important to feed more hay in the winter months. Sometimes, however, a winter coat and calories may not be all that your horse needs to stay warm during the winter, depending on their lower critical temperature, or LCT. LCT is the lowest temperature that he can keep his core body temperature without having to use any extra energy.  When the outside temperature goes below this level, their coat and calories aren’t enough to keep them warm.

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A horse’s LCT depends on the outside temperatures that they are used to, their body insulation (comprised of how long their coat hair is and how much body fat they have), and if they stay inside or outside.  This is why horses who have a full winter coat may benefit from wearing a blanket.

Clipped horses and ones that have a sleek coat will definitely require a blanket in the winter months to stay warm.

Outdoor shelters can help horses stay warm when the weather is bad, so outside horses should have access to something, especially if they are not blanketed. If they do not have a way to escape the elements, they should be blanketed with a waterproof blanket to keep them dry and warm. Those that have stalls or another type of permanent shelter may be fine without a blanket.

As horses age, their bodies become less efficient in areas like digestion and immunity. They are not able to maintain their core temperatures as easily. You can help your older horses keep their body heat by blanketing them. Use the proper weight of blanket to ensure that your horse is warm but won’t get overheated.

Waterproof Horse Blankets & Sheets

Your horse is not like you when it comes to needing a waterproof blanket. You may be fine outside with a sweater when the day is clear, but your horse may need a waterproof blanket if they are going outside. The ground may look dry, but may be wet in the winter months, which can cause the moisture to soak into the blanket when they lay down if they are not wearing a waterproof one. When the wet blanket is exposed to the cold air, it can make your horse colder than he would be without a blanket at all!

Stable sheets and stable blankets are for indoor use, ie their name. Turnout blankets and sheets are meant for use while the horse is outside, as they are waterproof. They usually have a heavier lining, making them tougher than stable blankets and able to withstand the weather, ground, and horse running around.

Blankets come in all shapes and sizes, just like horses. Finding a blanket that matches your horse and his needs is important. There are a variety of features and weights out there, along with sizes, but there are plenty of knowledgeable people who are willing to help you choose the perfect one if you need it.

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Measuring for a Horse Blanket

Your horse has a size, and you will need to measure them to make sure the blanket you get fits them and stays on. The perfect fit is found by first measuring your horse’s size. When it fits well, it will hug your horse comfortably.

When you measure your horse to get their size for a blanket, get a cloth tape measure and begin at the center of your horse’s chest. Pull the measure around his side to his buttocks, where his cheek meets the tail. Make sure you include the widest part of his shoulder in your measurements, and keep it level. You will probably want someone to help you to be sure you get an accurate reading. The size will equal the number of inches, but be aware that some blankets run a little big or small, just like human clothes do.

If your horse does not need a blanket, it is still a good idea to have one just in case you need it, such as if an unusual winter storm comes in. Being prepared will give you confidence that you are ready for any type of weather and your horse will stay nice and warm.

Here’s to a Happy Healthy Winter and Stay Warm !

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