Winter blanketing? - The Horse Forum
 
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-03-2011, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Winter blanketing?

Hi there,
This is my first post on this forum. Looking forward to learning lots from you people:)

I'm trying to decide whether or not to blanket my horse this winter. What is everyone's opinions on blanketing?

He is my first horse and I have had him since August. He is a healthy 15 yo qh. We live in Southern Ontario where it can get very cold (down to -20C or so). His former owner blanketed him during the day and kept him in a warm barn during the night. He is now on pasture board so he will be outside all winter with only a small shelter so block the wind. I will be doing light riding in an unheated arena and possibly some trail riding.

So far, what I've read seems to suggest the blanketing is not a good idea unless your horse is sick, young, old, used to a warm climate, or clipped. I also read that over blanketing can be a problem because it creates sweating.

Thanks:)
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post #2 of 6 Old 10-03-2011, 12:38 AM
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I blanket my mare. However, she is 26 and she's of the opinion she "will" die if she's not babied (aka, if she's not blanketed, she mopes about and becomes a whole lot less active).

Since it does get pretty cold in your area, I'd probably get a blanket of the appropriate weight -which is most likely a heavy one, or a heavier midweight, in your case- just to have on hand or I'd find someone with an extra in the correct size that I could have dibs on if my horse needs it, then not blanket the horse unless he shows signs of being uncomfortable with the cold.

For my mare, I started out with just a midweight blanket that she wore all the time since the coolest it generally gets here is about 15F (or about -9C) and that's only for a day or two here and there. I've since added to my collection and she now has a heavy weight blanket for those really cold days, a midweight blanket (and an extra to switch to if the first one gets wet through from rain or something) for average days and a sheet for warmer days with rain.

If your horse is sweating from being blanketed, that means that the blanket is too heavy. So, for instance, if your horse is sweating in a heavy weight blanket, depending on the amount of sweat, it means that he would be better off in a midweight blanket, a light weight blanket, or no blanket at all (depending on the temperature around him).
I've found that overblanketing is hard to do, for me at least. For instance, in my case, layering of blankets, at any time, would probably be overblanketing and cause my horse to sweat. So I don't layer blankets. But for people in colder climates, layering blankets is necessary and great.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you don't get carried away by the idea of making your horse snuggly warm and if you use a blanketing chart (they're all over if you google it), you shouldn't be at risk for overblanketing.
Another thing I do is whenever I go check on my mare (at least once daily), and she's wearing a blanket, before I have her move around at all, I stick my hand under her blanket at the withers area to check the temperature under there. If it's warm but not hot, I'm happy. Even a little cool is ok - just not cold because then that means that your horse is cold since the blanket is holding down all the hair he'd otherwise be using to warm himself. Hot means that you probably need to go down a weight (or take the blanket off completely, depending on the outside temperature) because your horse could be getting too hot.
Basically, when you stick your arm under the blanket, what you feel is what your horse is feeling. So, how I like to think about is "would I like to be the temperature I'm feeling currently, in the weather we're having?" If the answer is "yes" and she's not sweating, I leave the blanket alone. If the answer is "no", you get the drill. It's not super precise, but it's worked for my mare and I for a good three years so I'm sticking with it. :)

Good luck! And sorry for the novel. I apparently had lots of thoughts on this matter. Haha

Also, WELCOME!!!!

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Last edited by Wallaby; 10-03-2011 at 12:42 AM.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-21-2011, 08:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply. It was helpful:)

I ended up getting a rain sheet with an attachable winter blanket to layer underneath. It also came with a neck piece for really cold weather.

My plan was to put the rain sheet on starting at the end of October and then use the second layer for the really cold months. My plan changed, however, when I found him shivering like crazy after a couple days of rain and wind. He's got both pieces on now and seems to be happy and not sweating. Unfortunately, he was exposed to the awful weather too long and now has rain rot. Off to the health forum...

Edit...oh wait. This is in the health forum...lol.
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post #4 of 6 Old 10-21-2011, 09:04 PM
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as with most questions the answer is it depends :)

If he has adequate shelter,plenty of forage (hay keeps them warm) good winter coat,and good body condition. He should be fine. The only time I worry is if it is RAINING and windy and they are getting soaked to the skin (the rain will lay the hair flat which stops in from insulating since it "fluffs up" when they need warmth to trap air and heat it with their body temp.

If you do decide to blanket. You have to make sure your making up for the loft of the hair you take away. Since blanketing will flaten the hair jut like rain will therefore taking away it insulating properties. So say if it is 20 degrees you won't want to put a rain sheet on you will want to add a blanket with the same "loft " his natural winter coat would have. Usually a waterproof ( make sure it is WATERPROOF not water RESISTANT) mediumweight does fine with most conditions.

I would also rather my horse be a little chilly than too hot under a blanket (too hot and you run the risk of them sweating then the sweat cooling down and making them cold) so if I think a rain sheet would be a little cool but a mediumweight is too hot. I would either leave him blanketless (without rain) or put the sheet on (with rain)

A horse is too hot under htheir blanket if: he starts sweating or feeling clammy, acting listess, sleepy or tries to remove the blanket themself. Also if it feels "toasty" under the blanket...it is usually too hot for the horse. (it shouldn't really feel at all hot or toasty/warm under there)

A horse's ideal temp is 15-60 (wintercoat-summer coat).

You can tell your horse is cold if he is: shivering or standing in the shelter more often than not. Also some people say if the BASE of the ears are cold ( the tips are usually a bit cold in winter normally)

Most of the time with adequate forage,shelter, haircoat and body weight they're fine.

:)

*Member of the Quality Free-Choice Hay/Pasture Feeders Society* *In Favor of Turning horses out as long as Possible*

Last edited by Royal Pine Buck; 10-21-2011 at 09:07 PM.
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post #5 of 6 Old 10-21-2011, 09:48 PM
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Sounds like you've already gone with blanketing for this year. Next season, see how thick a winter coat he grows in first and go from there. If he grows a nice thick peach fuzz, he'll be fine in cold as long as he has shelter to get out of the rain and wind.

The rain part of the equation really puts a monkey wrench in things as you've already found out. If you leave them unblanketed, that thick peach fuzz is a perfect opportunity for rain rot. If you blanket with even a thin sheet, it still compresses the peach fuzz and takes away it's insulating quality. That's probably why you found your guy shivering. If it's a wet fall, you almost have to go with blankets IMO.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-21-2011, 10:02 PM
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My horses don't ever get anywhere near as cold as Ontario (sssshhh don't tell them they think they're abused because I pasture them on cold days......30 F) but we do have lots of wind and normally we get quite a bit of rain here. I've learned that dry and windy is usually ok, they can still keep warm. But wet and windy, wet and cold or wet, windy and cold and they just have to have some kind of protection. Depending on how often you go out to see your horse, you might want to only blanket if the weather demands it and then just let him grow his winter coat in for the rest. Once I blanket, then if the weather allows me to take off the blanket, then I have to stand a 'fluff' their coat because sheets and blankets do flatten out the fur making them lose the insulation.

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