Should horses wear blankets in the winter? How about in inclement weather?
Horse blanketing is an individual choice, depending upon stabling circumstances, equine breeds, equestrian preferences and other factors. Horses tolerate cold weather much better than their human counterparts do. In fact, most breeds of horses actually prefer somewhat colder temperatures. In regions where temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees (F), horses may need no blanketing at all. In many climates, horses begin to shed their summer coats in late August. Their coats begin to grow thicker and denser, in preparation for colder days. Horses living outdoors usually grow thick winter coats, acclimating to winter temperatures. Many equestrians begin blanketing their horses in the early fall to prevent the growth of such heavy winter coats.
Active equestrians may use lightweight coverings on their mounts to streamline equine grooming. A blanketed horse is likely to stay cleaner and to retain his show-ready shine longer than a bare horse. This is especially true during wet, sloppy, muddy weather.
Horses that remain in active training and rigorous exercise throughout the winter generally must be clipped regularly to prevent overheating, if they are allowed to grow heavy coats. Certainly, if a horse has been body-clipped, then he may need more cold-weather protection.
A very old or very young horse may benefit from blanketing, as might one who is recovering from illness or injury. And an equine that has recently moved from a warm climate to a colder one may need some extra weather protection, at least for the first winter in the new region.
Plenty of caring horse owners choose not to blanket their horses regularly in cold weather, but do add such protection during the worst winter storms and wind chill advisory days. In severe climates, equestrians may even choose to layer blankets on their horses. For example, a horse might wear a sheet or fitted cooler under a winter rug.
Seasoned horse owners tend to agree on the importance of removing a horse’s blanket often to examine the horse’s body condition and inspect for any rubs or raw areas.
The key to determining whether a horse needs cold-weather blanketing is to know and observe that particular equine closely, as the temperature begins to drop seasonally. Does the horse show signs of increasing discomfort and shivering? Maybe a blanket is merited. Also, if the equine fails to grow a sturdy winter coat, then an added covering might prove beneficial. On the other hand, if a horse seems to be sweating or panting, then the equine blanket may be too much.