Wondering When to Blanket Your Horse? It Depends

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Depending on who you ask, you will likely get very different answers. From “if you’re cold, they’re cold” to “animals don’t need blankets”, it’s hard to get an answer backed by science. Fortunately, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville has several equine publications available, including one on deciding when to blanket a horse.

Like many other animal-related questions, the easiest answer is that it depends. If a horse has a long or winter hair coat, it likely won’t need blanketing. Providing shelter and feeding at least 2% of the horse’s body weight in high quality forage is the best way to help your horse keep warm. Body heat is generated during fiber digestion, and maintaining body temperature during cold weather requires more calories.

Factors that may make blanketing necessary include:

  • Horses with short hair or no winter coat
  • Precipitation
  • Extreme temperature fluctuations (including moving a horse from a warm climate to a cold one, i.e. Florida to Western NC)
  • Age. Young and senior horses, much like humans, cannot maintain their body temperature as well as healthy adults
  • Low Body Condition Score horses ( 3 or less)
  • No access to shelter, protective covering, or windbreak

If the animal does need to be blanketed, consider the following when choosing a blanket:

  • Always use a breathable, waterproof blanket
  • Choose an appropriate blanket weight and size (Turn-out blanket vs Rain Sheet)
  • Check the horse to be sure it isn’t sweating or being rubbed by the blanket
  • Dirty, wet horses should never be blanketed
  • Choose the correct fit and size for the horse (measure from center of chest to rump)