Horses and Blanketing

We live in an area that has some extreme temperatures.  We have gone up as high as over 100 degrees F to having a wind chill that makes it feel like it is 30 below zero!  Like many horse owners, I worry about whether they are staying warm.

This is our second winter home with the horses.   While we blanketed a lot last winter, I prefer not to blanket the horses.  We typically only blanket if:

  • The horse is not up to proper weight
  • The horse hasn’t grown a good winter coat
  • The horse has some physical issue
  • If the weather is going to be unusually cold (in the negatives) and/or cold and wet
  • If there is a show the next day and we just bathed them and we know they are going to roll and we won’t be able to clean them again prior to the show

Shivering

Stormy and No Brakes are both in their early to mid 20s.  While they are active and healthy, we do watch them.  If we were to ever see them shivering, we would deal with that and blanket them more often.  Shivering is the sign that your horse is too cold and something needs to be done.

Natural Horses

We believe in keeping our horses as natural as possible.  Horses can deal with cold weather due to their ability to insulate themselves by growing winter coats and their hair stands up when they are cold causing an insulating effect.  The only concern is whether or not they are wet and cold.  When the hair is wet, they cannot keep as warm.  Most horses can be perfectly fine in cold in the negative numbers as long as they are dry (and they do need a shelter to be able to go into to hide from wind, if they are cold.)  It is important also to make sure they have plenty of free choice hay as the act of eating helps keep them warm.

What we have done:  Last year, we babied the horses more than we did this year.  Stormy and No Brakes, as seniors, were still a little on the thinner side so we did blanket more than we probably needed to.  Pixie was 3 years old and a big fluffy teddybear.  No reason she had to be blanketed.

This was one of our big snowstorms last year.  We blanketed them yet they stayed in the snow the entire time!  They wouldn’t even go into the barn.  This is how you know that they did not need to be blanketed at all!

When we took their blankets off, they rolled and enjoyed the cold snow on their backs.

cold temperatures and horses

You can see that No Brakes grows a great winter coat!  He is an Icelandic horse and really does not need a blanket at all.

But I want my horses clean!

I know, I know.  Blanketing horses is what we all want to do deep down inside to keep them clean.  If you have dealt with a white horse that has rolled in mud especially in winter, you know the pain.

blue eyed horse snow

But there is a serious drawback to blanketing some horses.  Pixie is friesian cross.  She has a beautiful mane and tail.  When blankets are on, they will rub her mane and cause the hair to break.  This is not a good look.  Sure, you can use mane protection but have you ever seen someone pretty much cover their horse from head to toe in one of those slinkies?  That’s just not natural and that poor horse!  We played around with it too many years ago, but it really did nothing for our horses and was more of a hassle than anything else.

should you blanket your horse

Happy horses are dirty, so if you can deal with some dirt, don’t blanket in normal circumstances.  We now only blanket when the temperatures are going to be below 20 degrees F or when it’s going to be cold and raining.

This turned into more of a photoshoot for No Brakes so I could have another canvas printed…. 😉

So a note to the non-horse owners.  I’ve seen in some social media groups, even horse groups, people worrying about other peoples’ horses.  Sometimes it gets very aggravating reading some that are quick to judge…….. but keep in mind, you don’t see cows in blankets, do you, and no one seems to care about the cows out in the elements haha!  😉

If you are driving through the countryside and see horses standing in the cold weather.  Do not worry.  They are happy and comfortable if they are standing out in that as long as you can see they have access to shelter.  The only time to worry or report is if a horse is in distress in some way or has no food, water, or shelter.

snow horse

Which Blankets  — On a Budget?  Review of Tough-1 Blankets

It’s definitely really good to have blankets available for all of your horses regardless of whether you use them or not.  Blankets can be incredibly expensive, and there is nothing more frustrating then when you are boarding your horse and buy a new blanket and it gets bitten and torn in the same day!  At that point, I highly recommend purchasing a really good brand like Rambo.  These are much harder to destroy.  In fact, I have one that is 10 years old that is still perfectly good but it’s too big for our three horses we have currently, so I have it stored for an emergency.

Since we no longer board and only have three horses that all get along, it is much easier to stick with the more budget friendly Tough-1.  I like to use the 1200 Denier 300g fill.  It’s nice to be able to purchase these for around $100 each and get good use out of them (and they have great color choices for those who like to match everything!).  Ours are a few years old and are still holding up.  I really have no complaints about these blankets.  Maybe if we blanketed every day, we wouldn’t have the same use out of them, but I’d have to say our three are 5 years old.

champagne paint horse

snow and horses

icelandic horse