If you’ve owned horses more than five minutes, you know that everyone has an opinion and will share their opinion with you regardless of whether you asked for it. Guilty as charged. Those type A horse owners among us can be unintentionally overbearing on every subject known to horse owners. So once your ears are done ringing, what do you do with the plethora of blanketing advise?
There is a great blanketing divide. There are consistent double blanketers on one side and the anti-blanketers with their wild and wooly steeds on the other side. But where do you fit?
The answer is far less polarizing than many horse communities make it. Simple... Listen to your conscience, your horse, and your intuition.
Wait... is that it? Yes... That’s it!
God created horses to be amazingly adaptable to the elements. That being said, we as humans haven’t done a ton to help the species. Horses have been bred for speed, their athleticiam, their power, and their beauty. They haven’t always been bred for excellent genetics. So, with this in mind, let’s dive in.
What do I do if my horse has never worn a blanket? If your horse has adequate shelter where they can get under a roof to get out of the weather, a thick winter coat (or at least isn’t shivering), and adequate hay in order to provide his metabolism with the energy needed to speed up in order to stay warm, then your horse should be fine to continue on without a blanket. Congratulations! You’re one of the fortunate few who won’t show up to the barn to find your horse’s blanket torn to shreds as if they were attacked by a wild animal. Do continue to monitor your horse each year as any new medical conditions, medications, moves to a new climate, and age can create the necessity to change your routine.
What do I do if my horse wears a blanket sometimes but I’d prefer that he didn’t? There are many of us who have blanketed our horses over the years because we’ve been taught that’s just what you do. The truth is, there are many horses that wear blankets who don’t need them and who don’t want to wear them. If your horse is wearing a blanket out of obligation and not out of need, first, make sure that your horse has a shelter, and proper nutrition to keep him naturally warm on the colder nights. Then gradually back your blanketing temperature down to see how he does. If you used to start blanketing at 50 degrees, try waiting until 45 degrees to blanket him. If he is fine and happy, you can continue this experiment. If he is uncomfortable and unhappy, be a nice person and put his blanket back on. Listen to your horse. Your horse isn’t the same as your friend’s horse so you can’t expect them to live exactly like your friend’s horse does.
What do I do if my horse wears a blanket and I think he needs it, but I’m feeling pressure from various forums to make him go without a blanket? Alright, here’s where it gets uncomfortable for the horse owners among us who are more passive and who like to conform to the expectations set forth by the horse mentors they’ve chosen. I liken this situation to “Mom Shaming”. Just because you’re feeling pressured by an anti-blanket opinion to change your horse’s lifestyle doesn’t mean that you should. You know your horse (if you don’t, please go spend some time observing him and his likes a dislikes). If he has a great winter coat but airs on the side of being cold all the time and likes his blanket, by all means, let him keep it! We should not in good conscience make our horses uncomfortable in order to fall on one side of the line or the other. I would recommend in this specific instance that you find a blanket that works with the way that he produces heat and is neither too heavy or too light for him. Do make sure that it is waterproof and rated for the outdoors. If you are unsure where you should fall with blanket weight, live on the side of caution and purchase a lighter rather than heavier blanket. Often times, a rain sheet will suffice because water proofing holds in an incredible amount of heat. Further insulation is not always necessary.
My horse hasn’t worn a blanket in the past, but I feel like he’s cold and I’d like to blanket him. If you feel like your horse is cold, pay attention to that feeling. You know you’re horse. If you feel like a blanket is required, by all means, go for it! If it turns out that your horse wasn’t cold, just stop blanketing him either at that temperature or all together. I’m not going to judge you for going all out. We all do that at times, and it comes from a place of love. If it turns out that you were right and your horse loves his blanket, put that one in the win category; you’re a rock star horse parent! The bottom line here is don’t be afraid to try. That’s how we learn what our horses need!
Can I blanket my already wet horse if he is cold? Ok, here is where the traditional horse community is going to start throwing rocks... The answer is yes. Why? Because a water proof blanket provides a bubble like environment around your horse that allows him to use his own body heat to dry not only himself, but the interior of the blanket that got wet touching his body. There are some limitations to this however. If possible, it is best to use a blanket that has very little extra insulation; a rain sheet would be best. This will allow the blanket to not retain as much of the horse’s moisture and will allow both to dry and warm up more quickly. How do I know? Well, God is omnipresent, but I’m not. There are time when a cold rain will hit our farm that wasn’t even on the weather forecast and I’m 30 minutes away showing houses to clients. If you’ve owned horses longer than 5 minutes, you know the rule. Plan As are great, but they rarely work. You should have a stellar plan B, and trust me, that’s where you will live your life in the horse world.
Is it okay to blanket my horse when he is in his stall? Does he need it? Then yes. This is absolutely acceptable. My recommendation would be to look into stable blankets as opposed to blankets rated for outside in this scenario. Bottom line is, if his outside blanket is not too warm for him to use inside, I’m not mad about you using it. None of us have unlimited funds, so sometimes you just have to improvise. Plus, we’d never have hooks or anything sticking out low enough in our stalls to catch your horse’s blanket straps. If you are at a barn who does, please take this in to consideration.
In closing, here are a couple of things to consider. Has your horse recently moved from a different area of the country or to a drastically different altitude? Have you drastically changed your feeding routine? Is your horse no longer able to eat adequate hay in its natural form? Are you having to supplement suddenly in order to maintain your horse’s weight? Has your horse been diagnosed with an acute illness or metabolic condition? Is your horse on long term medication? Is your horse no longer growing a proper coat? Should any of this apply to your horse, please watch him closely as his blanketing needs may be changing. Just like in people, internal changes have an effect on whether you are hot or cold; the same applies to your horse.
For the record, we do our best to run our barn based on the good common sense that God gave us. Do we fall short? Sure! We absolutely do, but we will not stop in our quest to learn and grow, and we’d love to have you join with us on our journey!