Your horse needs a little extra care to keep warm through the winter. Even though horses are often able to keep themselves warm in cold temperatures, some need a blanket depending on their age, health, and living environment.
Finding the right horse blanket can be difficult, especially if you have never needed one before or you’ve recently gotten a new horse. There are also some components to wearing the blanket that you need to know about before placing it on your horse.
How can you tell if your horse needs a blanket? And, how do you choose the right one? That’s what we’ll discuss, coming up.
How Horses Stay Warm
In order for you to decide whether or not your horse needs a blanket, it’s useful to learn about how they keep warm and why they might need an extra layer on top of their coat when temperatures drop.
When horses live in the wild, they are accustomed to cold temperatures and surviving harsh climates. They adapt by growing a thick winter coat when the days get shorter. Their winter coat is longer and coarser than their summer coat to aid in preserving heat and keeping the wet out.
This keeps them warm when it gets cold outside, even in harsh climates.
In addition to their winter coat, they also use calories as a means of warming their bodies. This is the reason that they tend to eat more food in the winter.
However, every horse is different, and their natural protection might not be enough to keep them warm when the weather gets extremely cold.
In these cases, a horse might need a blanket for extra protection for part or all of the day.
When Your Horse Needs a Blanket
As mentioned before, every horse is unique and requires different care. There are three factors involved when deciding if you should give your horse a blanket or not:
- Living Environment
- Health Condition
If your horse has shelter then they might be able to survive winter without a blanket. This is especially true if your horse is used to living outside all year round, as they are able to adapt to changing weather conditions as the seasons change.
If your horse doesn’t have enclosed shelter, or if it has been kept inside a barn for all or part of the year, then it will most likely need a blanket. Ideally, this should be padded and waterproof to protect in all winter weather conditions.
Some people choose to shave their horses in the winter to remove their heavy winter coat. This makes them less likely to overheat or become sweaty while working. But it also exposes them more to the elements.
If you shave your horse, even if they’re kept in a barn, they’ll need blanketing.
Secondly, the health of your horse is another important factor when making your decision. Is your horse healthy? Do they have any health complications? And, do they have a lot of fat?
If they have a thick fat layer, then they should be able to keep themselves warm. In contrast, if your horse is thin, it will need an added layer to keep warm.
A horse that is sick or that has an injury or skin condition is also usually better off with a blanket.
Lastly, age will also determine the need for a blanket or not. As horses get older their immune systems and bodily functions deteriorate and it becomes harder for them to maintain their core temperature. For older horses, blankets provide them with protection and prevent other health problems.
The most important thing is to make sure that senior horses don’t freeze or overheat. Also, it is always a great idea to have horse blankets in storage just in case you need them. This will save you time making a last-minute trip to the store if there’s a snowstorm or icy conditions.
Different Types of Horse Blankets
When it comes to picking the right blanket, there are several different types to consider: sheets, stable blankets, and turnout blankets. Depending on the factors mentioned above, in addition to the weather, you will need a different style. But, how do you know which you need?
To help you decide here is some more information about the different types:
This is the ideal choice if you are looking for a lightweight blanket that will provide some warmth, but not too much. For example, this is better for horses that live in mild climates.
Waterproof ones provide protection from the rain, as well.
Horse sheets are also great for preventing sun fading or protecting your horse from dust. The downside of these blankets is that they tend to tear easily and are sustainable in harsh weather conditions.
If your horse has shelter then you might consider choosing a stable blanket. This blanket is normally not waterproof, but it is good for horses that are protected inside as it provides a moderate amount of heat.
As long as your horse isn’t directly affected by cold weather conditions like snow or ice, then this will work perfectly for your horse.
Horses who are outside in cold climates will need a turnout blanket. This is the thickest and most durable style of blanket. They are waterproof and designed to be able to endure harsh weather and horseplay.
This is the best option for people worried about their horses being outside all winter and is guaranteed to keep them warm when the temperatures drop.
All blankets come in different weights. Weight refers to the amount of fill used in the blanket. Sheets generally have from zero to 150 grams of insulation, medium blankets have 150-205g and heavy blankets have 250-450g.
Using Horse Blankets
Horse blankets are typically made with three layers: the lining, the fill, and the shell. The lining is normally made from cotton, poly-cotton, nylon, or mesh. The fill provides protection and the shell is the outer coat that shields your horse from weather conditions.
Now, for the technical parts of fitting your horse with the blanket:
- Surcingles: these parts go across the belly and secure the blanket in place
- Shoulder gussets: allow more space near the shoulders which makes it more comfortable
- Tail flap: covers the top part of the tail
- Leg straps: also keep the blanket secure and prevent it from falling out of place
- Hoods and neck covers: keeps the neck and head warm
- Tail strap: Loops under the tail to hold the blanket in place
- Front Fastener: these are made of different types of fasteners, such as velcro, hooks, or surcingles
Once you have chosen the blanket you would like, you will also have to measure your horse so you get the right size.
To buy the right size of blanket, you will need to take your horse’s measurements. Place the end of a tape measure in the center of the chest and pull it around their shoulders and down to the center of their tail, going front to back. Ensure that the tape measurer is level at all times to get an accurate measurement.
After you’ve done this, you can also double-check that the blanket is the correct size by looking out for shoulder placement, extra space, and making sure it is not too long. If the blanket is too small or large then it can rub or risk your horse getting tangled.
To avoid this, make sure your blanket is in line with the shoulders of the horse, test that your hand can fit in between the blanket and coat, and that the blanket falls right below the elbow.
Putting the Blanket On
It’s important to put the blanket on correctly. First, check the inside the blanket to look for burrs or anything that could rub your horse. Also, look at their back to make sure that there aren’t any burrs. You might want to give them a quick brushing, as well.
Then, toss the blanket over their back and adjust it so that it is sitting correctly. Fasten the front first. This makes it so that if your horse moves, they are less likely to become tangled or caught up. Next, fasten the belly straps. Some blankets are made so that the belly straps cross one another. Others go straight across.
Finally, fasten the leg straps and tail strap, if the blanket has one.
Cleaning and Storage for Horse Blankets
Of course, after making an investment in a horse blanket you will want to store and clean them properly so they can be used for a long time. The best way to store them is in a tack box, hanging on a rack, or on a blanket bar.
Avoid placing them on the ground because they could become damaged or pick up debris that can irritate the skin of your horse.
When it comes to cleaning the blanket, you can either wash them yourself or use a professional laundry service. If you decide to wash them yourself, you should use the appropriate laundry detergent.
This is also important for maintaining the quality of the blanket and making sure it will still provide protection the next time you use it. After you wash it you should hang it in a dry, spacious area preferably away from the sun.
You might need to re-waterproof the blanket now and then. Although you do not need to do this, it is a good idea as you want to be sure that the blanket is effective in the future. Again, you can do this yourself by visiting your local camping store or heading online and buying some waterproofing spray.