Winter Blanketing 101

By Christian Ackman

As horse owners and care takers, we always want to do what is best for our horses. This is especially true in the winter. We are cold, so surely the horses are too, right? While it makes sense to us, that is not always the case. We have put together some blanketing tips for you and your horse for the upcoming cold months.

When asking yourself “do I have to blanket my horse?” the short answer is no. However, there are some cases where blanketing is necessary and helpful to your horse. When deciding whether or not your horse fits into the “sometimes” category of blanketing necessity, some things to consider are:

  • Is my horse healthy and fit? Is he young and growing? Is he getting older & unable to regulate his temperature?
  • Will my horse have a thick winter coat? Will I clip him or keep his coat slick for competitions or continued conditioning through the winter?
  • Is my horse used to the winter conditions he will face this year? Or is this his first winter in this climate?
  • Does my horse have access to adequate shelter on frigid or rainy nights?
  • Does my horse seem comfortable in the cold temperatures? Or is he shivering outside?

If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions with confidence, your horse may not require a blanket this winter. While it might seem cruel to leave a horse out in the cold, they are well equipped to keep themselves warm. Horses grow in long thick winter hair coats that are intended to keep them warm even on the coldest days. They self-insulate, and can naturally protect themselves from the extreme cold.

If you think your horse might benefit from a blanket, there are some things to consider. How cold is cold enough for a blanket? What kind of blanket do I need? How much insulation will my horse need? Should I get multiple blankets of varying insulation? Most of your local tack shops should be able to lead you down the right path when purchasing a blanket. There are also some phone apps and online resources that can help you stay informed through the winter.

Blanketing a horse in the winter is a consuming and never-ending task. While you might think it is necessary, if your horse is fit, comfortable and healthy, you could be off the hook! If you are unsure, consulting with your Veterinarian or barn staff can help you make an informed decision about what is best for your horse. Stay warm, and enjoy the warm horse snuggles this winter!