Tips on when to blanket a horse
As winter approaches, the great blanket debate heats up among horse owners.
The horse’s hair coat insulates by trapping and warming air; however, wet or muddy hair can reduce its insulating value and increase heat loss. As little as 0.1 inch of rain can cause cold stress by matting the hair and reducing its insulating value. A horse will continue to develop a natural winter coat until Dec. 22 (winter solstice), as the days become shorter. Horses begin to lose their winter coat (and start forming their summer coat) as the days become longer starting Dec. 23. Therefore, blanketing before Dec. 22 will decrease a horse’s natural winter coat.
Although blanketing tends to be a personal decision, blanketing a horse is necessary to reduce the effects of cold or inclement weather when:
- No shelter is available during turnout periods and the temperatures or wind chill drop below 5° F.
- There is a chance the horse will become wet from rain, ice, and/or freezing rain. Becoming wet is usually not a problem with snow.
- The horse has had its winter coat clipped.
- The horse is very young or very old.
- The horse isn’t acclimated to the cold.
- The horse has a body condition score of three or less.
If blanketing a horse, make sure the blanket fits properly. Poorly fitted blankets can cause sores and rub marks along the straps. Remove the blanket daily, inspect it for damage, and reposition it. Make sure the blanket stays dry and never put a blanket on a wet horse.
More information on winter horse care can be found on the UMN Extension Horse website at https://bit.ly/2G8k9TP.