It is Winter and horse owners and barn managers have pulled out the horse blankets. Blanketing is one way to help regulate horses’ body temperature and it provides necessary protection against winter elements for some horses.
There are certain dos and don’ts that need to be observed while blanketing your horse to make sure that it's welfare is not compromised. Here are top things to consider when it comes to blanketing your horse.
DO: Invest in high-quality horse blankets. When it comes to horse blankets, you get what you pay for. Investing in high-quality blankets made from durable materials will save you money in the long run, especially if your horse lives outside the majority of the time. Not only will your horse be more comfortable, but good quality blankets will also last for many seasons and will save you the trouble of replacing them every year.
DON’T over blanket your horse. More blankets don’t necessarily mean more warmth. Over blanketing can cause your horse to sweat, which can lead to cold and dampness. This can be quite detrimental to their health and can increase the chances of your horse becoming ill. Ensure that your horse does not sweat while wearing a blanket by using the best-fitting blanket that is suitable for the prevailing weather conditions.
DO: Monitor your horse’s body condition. Horses need to meet their energy requirements even in cold weather to maintain their body condition. Regularly checking your horse’s body condition will help ensure that their nutritional needs are met. Thinner horses may require more insulation during winter than horses that are well-nourished. By monitoring your horse’s weight, so you know when to add or remove blankets, but also by adjusting their feed as extreme weather takes place.
DO: Take off the blanket when necessary. There will be times when your horse will need to be without a blanket. For example, when the temperatures increase and weather conditions are mild, or when your horse is stalled. Leaving a blanket on a horse for extended periods can lead to skin irritations and soreness. Ensure you are checking your horse regularly, and if needed, take the blanket off to allow for natural movement. Mid-southerners are accustomed to 20 to 30 degree increases from overnight lows to daytime highs, so make sure you remove horse blankets if the daytime temperature exceeds 45- 48 degrees and it is sunny.
Not every horse owner blankets their horses during the winter and that is perfectly fine, especially if your horse has proper shelter away from cold rain, sleet, ice and snow. If you do blanket then it is important to manage when blankets are needed and when they are not. Keeping these dos and don’ts in mind, along with monitoring the temperature, and taking off the blanket when necessary will help keep your horse healthy, happy, and comfortable all season long.