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Horse Blankets: Should you put them on your horses?

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My granddaughter is always trying to convince me that I should put blankets on our horses because they look so cool, and she has a friend who puts them on her horse every time it’s turned out. But what’s the point?

In general, if it’s below twenty degrees, you should put a blanket on your horse. However, what matters most is your horse’s health and coat thickness to know whether or not it needs extra warmth. If you clipped your horse, it needs a blanket in cold weather.

Many people overuse horse blankets with little thought given as to whether or not they may be too warm underneath them – which could lead their horses to sweat excessively.

I believe that horse cover-ups, blankets, PJs, or whatever else you like to call them belong in the “not a necessity but in the good to have” category.

Picture of a horse wearing a blanket.

Still wondering, ‘should horses wear blankets?’ Then this guide is for you.

Here are the topics I cover:

  • What are horse blankets and their types?
  • When should you put a blanket on a horse?
  • At what temperature do horses need blankets?
  • How do I know if my horse is cold?
  • How do you keep a horse warm without a blanket?
  • Do horses need blankets in the rain?
  • When should I take my horse off the blanket?

What are blankets for horses?

The term blanket applies to cover-ups for horses designed to keep them warm. There are many different kinds of horse blankets made of various materials.

It’s important to know about the material used to make horse blankets. For example, synthetic blankets are durable and lightweight. However, they may be too warm for some horses.

Synthetic horse blankets are typically filled with an insulating filler between the inner and outer shells- enabling them to keep their insulating quality while being light enough for your horse to wear comfortably.

The point is that just because a blanket is lightweight doesn’t mean it’s not warm and actually could be too warm for your horse. Check the blankets’ rating to ensure you use the right one for your situation.

Horse blankets also vary in style – some fit all over their body midway to the horse’s legs, over its back, and up to the horse’s tail.

Most horse blankets come with straps designed to go around the animal’s girth and hind legs to keep the blanket in place. Visit any horse stable in winter, and you will see a wide range of colorful horse blankets.

Some come quilted, some are thin, and some are water-resistant. Whatever your horse’s unique need for a cover-up may be, there is a blanket for it!

Picture of a Throughbred wearing a cooling sheet.

Types of horse blankets

Stable blanket

As the name indicates, a stable blanket is designed to be used in a stable. It is thick, heavy, and warm, although you also get some lightweight varieties. These days, there is a wide variety of stable blankets to suit horse owners’ different needs and tastes.

Turn-out blankets

Turn-out blankets keep horses warm during their time out in the pastures. Such blankets are warm, water-resistant, and lightweight. They come with straps to secure them firmly and prevents them from coming off or shifting when the horse moves or rolls on the ground.

Coolers

Coolers or cool-down sheets are used after your horse is worked and sweaty; they aren’t exactly blankets but rather a summertime cover-up. They help your horse cool down gradually without catching a chill.

Cool-down blankets fit over the horse’s ears and cover almost everything except the lower legs. Coolers should only be used under supervision, and a horse-wearing one shouldn’t be left unattended. These are often used on racehorses after they run.

How to Select a Horse Blanket?

When selecting a blanket, ask for its denier. Denier refers to the thread count of the material; the higher the number, the more durable the blanket. A turnout blanket would have a higher denier than a stable blanket.

Please supervise your horse when it first wears a blanket. Let it get used to the feel of the blanket. Within a short while, your horse will accept and even appreciate it!

Now that you know the different kinds of horse blankets, let us study if your horse needs one.

When Should You Put a Blanket on a Horse?

One of the best ways to keep your horse looking its finest without having excessive hair during cold months is by using blankets, and this also decreases the time you spend clipping its coat for it to look nice between shows or competitions.

Blankets also can keep your outside horses clean, dry, and ready to ride in icy or snowy weather. For those living in frigid climates, blankets also provide extra warmth.

Horses may or may not need blankets based on the following factors:

  • Climate
  • Available shelter
  • Breed
  • Age
  • Thickness of natural coat
  • Whether or not it is clipped
  • Showing

In the wild, horses are never blanketed, and they manage to survive just fine. Only if your horse is old, thin, sick, has a thin winter coat, or has had its body clipped will it need a blanket. But for your other horses who are healthy and strong, don’t bother wasting money on blankets.

In short: Not every horse needs a blanket in the winter. For example, An old thoroughbred living outdoors in Montana will definitely need a blanket in the winter, but a fat furry Shetland living in southern Louisiana might not.

You see, Mother Nature has done an excellent job of providing horses with the warmth they need. The exception, of course, is young, old, and unwell horses – these do need all the help they can get to keep warm.

Many horse owners struggle to keep their horses at the right temperature when using a blanket. If there are big swings in temperatures, your horse may sweat profusely during the day then become extremely cold when the temperature drops and they haven’t dried yet.

This leads to sicknesses for many horses, which is why taking blankets off as soon as you can every day to allow their coats to dry out is necessary (especially on warm days).

Picture of a horse wearing a blanket in the snow

At What Temperature do Horses Need Blankets?

Most outdoor horses are better off without a blanket, even in winters, because they have a protective winter coat. However, you can use a blanket when there is a severe winter storm or your horse is clipped.  Also, a sick horse or a horse with a thin coat and trouble keeping itself warm in peak winters will need a blanket.

In general, the following table with temperature ranges can help you decide whether to blanket a horse or not:

The temperature range in Degrees F and Degrees CIf your horse is clippedIf your horse is unclipped
Between 40 and 50 F (or 4 and 10 C)Lightweight blanketNo blanket needed
   
Between 30 and 40 F (-1 to 4 deg C)Medium to a heavy blanketNo or Lightweight blanket
   
Between 20 and 30 F (-6 to -1 deg C)Heavy blanketNo or light to mid-weight
   
Between 10-20 F or (-17 to -6 deg C)Heavyweight plus a sheetMid to heavy-weight blanket

Horses are comfortable in temperatures between 18 F and 59 F depending on their age, breed, health, and body coat.

How to Know if your Horse is Cold?

Here are some signs that a horse is cold:

  • Shivering– The most obvious sign that your horse is cold is that it will shiver.
  • Movement – Your horse will try to warm itself by running or moving its muscles. This is an obvious sign that it is cold.
  • Cold ears – You can check whether your horse is cold by touching its ears. Make sure your hands are not too cold and remove gloves before touching them. Keep your hands on your horse’s ears for a few minutes. If the ears are cold, then your horse is cold.
  • Its armpits will be cool to the touch – Another sign that your horse is cold is its armpit temperature. Remove your gloves before checking the temperature in the armpit. If the horse is cool to touch, then it may be cold.

How To Keep a Horse Warm Without a Blanket?

Here are some ways to warm your horse without a blanket:

  • Make it walk around – Walking or any movement can warm up your horse quickly.
  • Feed it high-quality hay – Chewing and digesting the hay can quickly warm your horse up. Horses will need more hay than usual in freezing temperatures to account for the energy lost in warming up.
  • Shelter – Provide shelter for your outdoor horses to protect them from rain, wind, and snow.
  • Warm its water – Drinking warm water can also keep your horse from feeling cold. Invest in a heating device. You must also ensure that the water kept in the stable for drinking does not freeze over.

Do horses need blankets in the rain?

I live in south Louisiana, and it rains a lot here, and we don’t put a blanket on our horses unless the temperatures drop significantly. However, there are times that horses need protection from the rain.

Horses need to be kept warm on cold, rainy days, especially if they have no shelter. You can use a special waterproof rain blanket for your horse if the weather is wet and chilly since this type of climate can make horses sick and uncomfortable.

Rain blankets come in light, medium, and heavyweight categories and can keep your horse warm and dry. One thing you must do when you use rain blankets is ensuring the horse remains dry underneath.

Sometimes, rain blankets tend to lose their waterproofing qualities with time and might end up leaking. When a horse gets wet under a blanket, it’s susceptible to develop rain rot and other fungal skin issues.

When should you take the blanket off your horse?

One of the most common questions concerning horse blankets is, “When should you take them off your horse?” This is a question that many people ask because it’s difficult to know for sure how long is appropriate.

In general, you should remove your horses’ blanket when the temperature rises above 35 degrees or if they start sweating. But it also depends on their needs – some horses need a blanket even in warmer temperatures, so be mindful of this!

Have you ever found yourself dressing inappropriately for the weather? I have, and it’s miserable. The same can be said of our horses–they’re just as sensitive to temperature changes!

So, if the temperature outside is getting to be too much for you, it undoubtedly feels just as bad on your horse. And if it warms up enough and you take off that coat of yours, don’t forget about their blanket!

So when blanketing your horse during cold days, make sure that he’s not suffocating by using common sense and good judgment. As stated before, keep checking under the blanket to ensure it is staying dry; wetness indicates a lack of waterproofing, and you should replace the blanket.

Ensure no loose tassels, flaps, or ropes on the blanket could get caught in fences when you turn out your horse. Some of the nylon straps are strong, and if they get hung up, it could injure your horse.

Key Takeaways

Most horses adapt to winters by growing extra thick and long coats. They can also handle temperature changes as long as they are sheltered from the wind and rain.

Some horses definitely need blankets in the winter – especially sick, old, and clipped horses.

Horse blankets are available in various colors, patterns, materials, and styles. You can choose from rain blankets, turnout blankets, and saddle blankets. Check the horse blanket’s denier or thread count before buying.

FAQs

When should you blanket your senior horses?

When the temperature dips below 40 degrees, most senior horses need a blanket to stay warm because they don’t generate as much internal heat as young ones.

How can you waterproof a horse blanket?

There are special sprays like Scotchgard that you can spray on horse blankets to keep them waterproof.

Is it OK to blanket a wet horse?

Sometimes it’s ok to blanket a wet horse, and it can even help the moisture evaporate. However, it could also increase your horse’s susceptibility to rain rot.

References