I have never blanketed my horses in the past, but I am now at a new stable where they are out all day long and there is no run in for them (the owners are busy building these but, at present, not all of the pastures have them).  They do have hay and water available to them at all times.  There is a building along one side of the pasture that affords some windbreak protection.  They both have nice thick winter coats, but with the temperatures at -15 degrees C and windy, I think they need them?  My older horse is 28 years old and not as plump as she once was.  Anyway, could anyone give me any guidelines around this topic? 

 

Thanks,

 

Cathy

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Hi Cathy! My horses are all under 20, but I do know plenty of horses that go out unblanketed in the Wisconsin winter and are around 30. I guess it depends on your individual horse, it's body condition and coat.
I'd just like to provide some input of a different kind: In my equine bodywork practice I have encountered horses that were made unsound by ill fitting blankets. Blankets that sit too tight in front of the withers cut off the blood supply and affect the nuchal ligament and surrounding soft tissue. This can result in what I call the 'blanket dip', an indentation in front of the withers, that often feels cold to the touch (lack of circulation).
If you do decide to blanket, be very selective and be sure that the blanket fits properly. At first glance, it does not seem that a blanket could do that much damage. But as Rachel Argo, a Master Saddle Fitter and equine rehab specialist in Nova Scotia, explained in detail during a seminar: A horse can be damaged by an ill-fitting blanket to the extent that it needs a year of rehab. Just something to keep in mind. All the best!
Stefanie
Cathy I have a draft cross, my trainer puts a blanket on my boy even when it is in the mid twenties, she takes it off when it hit around 35 only because he has a thick coat.
I would use something waterproof if it's wet out, horses have a much harder time with chilly wet, than freezing dry cold. Observation can tell you lots, do they appear chilled and shivering, or do they seem relaxed and content. I wouldn't blanket them unless they appear to need it. If they work and sweat up, they can get chilled, and winter coats dry very slowly, need some help to do so. If they are being worked and sweating up alot, then clipping and blanketing might be considered, but if they don't work, and don't run around till they sweat up, then that's not an issue.

Blanketing can help with horses that have a hard time keeping weight on, less of their groceries go to keeping up core temperatures. If you do decide to blanket, take the blankets off during the day, give them some roll time, horses can get so itchy under blankets. It drives me crazy when I see people throw heavy blankets on their horses, and the poor horses wear them during cold nights and warm days when they may actually be sweating under them.
To go along with this~~~there was just a discussion at my barn last night about whether or not it's good to add a sheet to a well coated pony when it becomes near 0/zero. The pony has not had a blanket on yet this winter but last night he just seemed really cold. So the owner said she was going to just add a sheet to give the pony a little help with wind block. I've been told by several people that this is not a good idea because the sheet actually pushes down the natural insulation factor that a horse has when it's coat fluffs up. I don't know if the insulation is something the skin layers do or if it's actually the hair coat or a combination. I do know I had a rain blanket with no liner on my horse one day when the temp dropped mildly and he felt very cold under the rain-sheet. So what facts and opinions and experiences do any of you have on this subject to go along with Cathy's question?
This is something I found on the Web, and I would try it if I still had a horse. It is called the Cool Heat Blanket. It is a waterproof turn-out rug that has "fingers", little ridges of rubber (?) running down the blanket from front to back. When it is cold the horses hair can fluff out, keeping warm. When it gets warmer, the hair slicks down and air circulates between the "fingers". I found it at macsequine.com. The company is in Australia. Those Aussies are coming up with REALLY good new horse stuff.
I have a senior (26yr) that I blanket throughout the winter, he doesn't work much and is our school master. I started blanketing when I notice he wasn't staying warm no matter how much I fed him and kept losing condition, it was like he could eat enough to stay warm. I measured him with a tape measure from between his buttocks to the center of his chest and bought Weaver 600 Turnout. This blanket has been awesome! I keep my horse out all year long in a 20 acre pasture and they wander all over, there are plenty of trees to hide under from the weather if they chose. At first I worried about the blanket getting torn or chewed but if it has there is very little evidence in 2 years of owning it. Except for a hole where just the right stick caught and made a hole 1" diameter, I figured thats not bad. Recently I traded blankets so I could fix the hole, trading is very important when blanketing in wet cold weather and also removing when too warm like others have said. Anyway, I found that there is an insulating layer of polyester quilting about 1/4" thick, with nylon close to the horse and an outer coat something like gortex, very light. All in all the blanket is not heavy and while on the horse gets a little puffy looking especially in the cold, obviously keeping in the warmth. On warmer days in shrinks down and stays close to the horse. My guy loves his blanket, but being one who always stayed out when he was younger, gets a little tired of it, that's where taking it off or trading really helps. I leave it on him most of the winter which is 6 months long with occasional removal depending on weather. Note when it is above 0 at this time I still keep it on him, because I don't want him to get a chill when the temperature suddenly drops to -5 and freezing rain with a wind, which can happen a lot around here. I am considering purchasing Weaver Turnout blankets for all my horse once they turn 25 yr. should I live that long :) ) lol
Oh yes......no wear or rub spots on his body. :)
hi cathy: definitely i think your older horse would be more comfortable with a rug and it would help her conserve energy. i now live in new zealand where most horses are rugged 24/7 year round. we have wardrobes for thebabies! different weights etc. many years ago i had visited nz and had to buy a nz rug for my horse in canada. i bought a jute lined canvass rug. it was good for canadian winters. she still got fuzzy but it cut the chill. all rugs need to be reproofed after a couple of years, then more frequently as they age. the synthetic ones are lighter in weight but watch that they are breathable, as on a warm sunny day the horse will sweat if not. hope this is of some help. cheers
Thanks so much everyone for offering all the wonderful advice re. blanketing; having read everything, I think I will keep a blanket on my senior girl in the wet, cold, and windy weather, but only blanket my younger mare in very extreme weather; I will make sure that the blankets fit well and don't slide back or press anywhere, as that seems to be a very serious concern; I also now realize that wet and cold is the worst possible condition, so the blankets I have purchased are lined waterproof sheets that are supposed to be good for temperatures as low as -10 C.

Cathy
Good job Cathy! Athough I am concerned that the lined sheets are just that with a rubberized lining inside the sheet. I have one of these and I don't use it without a cotton, terry or fleece liner because it does cause the horses to sweat in any weather. Turnouts rather then a rain sheet is the way to go.

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