To Blanket Or Not To Blanket

It’s pumpkin season….pie, cookies, cakes, coffee, donuts and so on, and that means it is also time for equestrians to start pulling out blankets and sheets from trunks, haylofts, cabinets and in some cases, to remove them from the front of the stall door where they have been hanging since last spring, with good intentions of washing, folding and putting away never quite happening!

This also means we start to see the blanket memes circulation on social media and the great blanket debates of whether or not you should blanket your horse. 

I fall into the train of thought that yes, most horses need blankets. At some point. Even though I live in Florida. Heck, I have even started shopping for blankets for my goats, who last winter were tiny enough to wear dog sweaters and blankets and who, as bottle babies, definitely needed the extra warmth ( I have been chastised however on several goat forums for inquiring as to whether or not I should be blanketing them this year.)

For example, here in Florida, especially north-Central Florida where I reside, it is not uncommon to have winter days hovering in the low 80’s, but then have a 50 degree temperature drop into the 30’s. It is a constant yo-yo of weather temps. If you have a wooly mammoth and do nothing more than trail ride, you are probably fine to not blanket as long as there is a decent coat of hair. But if you go to horseshows, you are going to need to clip him. It’s not fair to the horse to ask him to compete with all that hair. It would be like you running a 5K in a fur coat. And since most of us in Florida probably end up clipping their horses, then yes, they absolutely need a blanket. Or if you own Thoroughbred’s like I do, chances are they don’t even grow a coat, are thin-skinned and in that case, definitely need a blanket.

My daughter had a thin-skinned, sensitive Thoroughbred mare, who coliced twice the first winter we had her, despite being blanketed. Both times occurred when we had extreme drops in temperatures. I learned very quickly to put her sheet on her at 59 degrees and then as the temps dropped, she got a heavier blanket for every 10 degrees and if we were in the low 30’s, she wore double blankets. I also learned to keep colics away by giving her a warm mash when there were big temperature drops. It is a practice I continue to this day with all my horses, and I have yet to have another weather related colic. And as a side note, be sure your horses have access to fresh water all winter, as that is also imperative to keeping them from colicing in the winter.

But let me add, that while Impulsive, our TB mare, was wearing a sheet at 59 and a light blanket in the 40’s, my draft cross, Tucker, who was a wooly Canadian mammoth, did not get a sheet on until the temperatures were in the 40’s. But as he got older, he lost that winter coat and his blanketing needs changed, so keep in mind that an older horse may have different blanket requirements than a younger one.

Your horses shelter should also factor in to your blanketing decisions. Are they exposed to the elements with no option to get out of the wind and snow or are they tucked in a warm barn with no drafts? Even horses with access to shelter may still  need a blanket….again, this is a decision that only you can make.

You also need to factor in the age of your horse, his weight and condition as well as health, the severity of your winters, his diet and whether or not your horse is a wimp. Just like people, some horses can tolerate the cold better than others. A shivering horse is never a good sign and needs a blanket.

In the end, it is only you who can make an informed decision as to whether or not your horse needs a blanket. 

And here is a picture of Elmo in his pajamas, because we all need to see cute goat pictures like this!

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