Winter Blanketing - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Winter Blanketing

Hi there -- I just purchased a new horse (actually my first horse) and I have some questions about blanketing in a very cold climate (Ottawa, Canada where it was -20 F for several nights last week).

The horse I am purchasing is a hardy Cheval Canadien with a big winter coat as she has been living outside. I will also be boarding her outside with pole barn shelter. The owner is recommending, because I will be working her in an arena and winter trail riding, that I clip her and blanket her.

This sounds like a sound plan to me, but I wanted to make sure that I have a heavy enough blanket for her.

I will like to hear other opinions on the clipping idea and also recommendations re: the type/weight of winter blanket to get get.

Also, in general, what other types of blankets/sheets do I need to get. I've looked over the catalogues and have pretty much lost my brain. I was thinking that a quarter sheet might be handy for winter trail riding???

I would love to hear from others who live in cold climates.

Thanks so much.

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post #2 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 08:25 PM
Green Broke
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I really like the Rider's International Layering Set from Dover. It has a fleace sheet, stable blanket, and rain sheet. You can layer them and the horse stays pretty warm and for turn out you can put the rain sheet over the stable blanket. As for clipping, I wouldn't. The horse will get sweaty, but you can use a fleace sheet to help wick away. Have fun with your new horse!

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post #3 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 08:26 PM
Green Broke
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Hi there! I live in northern Ohio, and it was in the negatives this week here as well (just got back up to the 20's today and it was like a heat wave lol!)

I don't clip my horse, and I do ride her. Then I put a medium weight blanket on her -- although truth be told she probably doesn't need it most of the time, her own coat is good enough...but she's also stalled indoors. Where she came from, she was outside 24/7 though and they only blanketed her when it got into the teens/below zero.

If you don't need to clip your horse, you may want to leave her natural coat as it is, but it can be a pain if you ever really work her. My horse can get sweaty and then I have to stick around for hours drying her off! (I cheat and use a hair dryer which she LOVES)!

Most websites will give you the temps the blanket can endure...Sandie's blanket had this description:

Saxon 1200 Denier Medium Wt Turnout Blanket <P><B> " Exclusive Colors!" -
"This 250 gram polyfill blanket is recommended for horses that are not clipped in temperatures down to 20 degrees or clipped horses down to 30 degrees."

Sandie is not clipped and she wore it when temps were in the negatives and she was fine (although again, she was inside where the wind chill doesn't factor in). Does your horse normally sweat a lot when you're trail riding/do you definitely need to clip her?

"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you..."
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post #4 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 08:28 PM
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Congrats on getting your first horse!
I don't know what a Cheval Candien is (I live on the other side of the world :P )
but ill just comment on what I would suggest on any horse.

If you wll be riding hard enough to work up a sweat during winter it will be a good idea to clip, I'm a die hard fan of the full clip, because it takes all the hair off and means that you have complete controll over how hot or cold the horse is, if you leave parts of the coat on its not as easy to rug up heavy as the horse cant use its hair to maintain its body heat.
The way to tell if you have enough rugs on your horse or not is when you first take the coat off if the hair is sticking up underneith it then the horse is too cold.

In new zealand we dont get that cold in winter but I like my horse to be warm. Last winter my OTTB had a cotton sheet then 2 300gram doonas then a 190 or 230 gram over rug with cross surcingles to keep his belly warm and then a bi canvas with woolen lining over the top.

Its up to you as to how many rugs you put on your horse and how heavy they are, but as long as hes wwarm thats all that matters.

A waterproof excersice blanket may be a good idea for trail riding :)

Good luck with the new horse
ShowJumpLife is offline  
post #5 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 08:42 PM
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Be careful--if it gets cold, a medium or light blanket can make your horse colder then without it! When you go outside on a cold day and the horses look all 'fluffy', this is why--they trap heat within their coat and skin. If you press the hair down flat (which a blanket does) you are taking away their ability to keep themselves warm. That means the only thing warming them is the blanket! Most of the time, owners blanket because it makes the OWNER feel better. ;)

Light blankets are for clipped horses in the spring.
Medium blankets are for when the temperature goes below 50 in the fall, not for providing 'a little bit of extra warmth'.
Heavy blankets are for the winter. Layers are for the girls and boys who have been clipped, in the winter!

With that being said, it doesn't sound like you need to clip your horse. I ride and train mine through the winter, and as long as you're not too demanding, they don't sweat, and I don't need to blanket them. If they do sweat a little, a cooler and a five minute walk does the trick. It doesn't sound like you're going to be doing any heavy schooling, but I could be wrong.

Hope this helps!

Dressage in Jeans - My blog with dressage tips for happy, relaxed horses, specifically for those who ride dressage in western saddles, no saddles, cowboy boots, or jeans. ;) Also now with cute pygmy goat pictures! :P
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post #6 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 10:32 PM
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here is an article that i have shared with a few ...

How Horses Cope With Cold
by Heather Smith Thomas

Horses readily adapt to winter weather. Cold temperature in itself is
not a problem for a horse if he's had a chance to prepare gradually
by growing a winter coat as fall temperatures drop. Wind and wet
weather are the factors that can chill a horse. In windy regions,
horses need some type of shelter to protect against the wind chill
that can whip away body heat.

Horses handle cold weather better than humans do; equines evolved in
the cold climates of northern Europe and Asia. Their natural "comfort
zone" (energy-neutral temperature zone, in which they don't need to
expend extra energy to maintain normal body temperature if weather is
not wet or windy) is from about 15 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The
horse's body is better at creating and conserving heat in cold
weather than dissipating it in hot weather.

As fall changes to winter, the horse's body undergoes a series of
physiological changes, some of which actually begin long before the
first frosts. As soon as the days start to shorten in midsummer, the
horse begins to grow a new hair coat, more dense than his summer
hair. As you brush and groom him in late summer you'll notice he's
shedding some of his short summer hair. His metabolism begins to
change also, enabling him to store more fat for insulation and for
energy reserves. A layer of fat under the skin makes it more
difficult for heat to escape from the body, and protects against cold
weather. The layer of fat needs little energy to maintain, and has
few blood vessels. The surface vessels that radiate heat in summer
draw back deeper in winter.

As soon as nights start getting cold, his body begins to change, even
if the days are still quite warm. If you are working a horse hard,
you will notice that he does not dissipate heat as well as he did
earlier in the summer; he may sweat more, and his sweat may start to
have some smell to it, more like the sweat of an unconditioned horse.

He grows thicker hair as part of his protection against winter cold,
but if he is blanketed to prevent this extra hair growth, or clipped,
he won't do well outside during winter storms. Clipping makes it
easier to cool out and groom a horse that is being ridden or worked
in winter, but it's not wise to clip a horse that will have to spend
time outdoors. If he does have a good winter coat, don't blanket him
or bring him into the barn just because of foul weather. Horses
prefer being outdoors even in the coldest weather and do fine if they
have some kind of windbreak, or a run-in shed to get out of driving
snow or rain. A horse in good condition with a good hair coat is
usually better off outdoors. Make sure horses go into winter with
adequate body condition. A thin horse won't winter as well as a fat
one. Horses should never be too fat, but they need enough for a good
insulating layer under the skin.

Long winter hair traps a layer of warm body heat between the skin and
the cold air. When it's cold, tiny muscles in the skin make the hair
stand up fluffy, increasing the insulating effect, and blood vessels
near the skin constrict, conserving body heat by keeping the blood
closer to the warm interior of the body, not allowing heat to escape
from blood vessels near the skin surface.

A normal winter hair coat is much more insulating than most horse
blankets. Adding a heavy blanket or piling on several light blankets
can actually make a horse colder because it flattens out his hair and
destroys the insulating effect. Blanketing may be necessary, however,
for a clipped horse, or for one moved north during winter without a
chance to grow a heavy coat, or a horse forced to stand outside in a
winter storm without a windbreak. If a horse becomes so wet and cold
he has to shiver to maintain body temperature, he'll burn more
calories and need extra feed, or he'll start losing weight. Under
those conditions, he'd be better off indoors or blanketed.

Horses have a normal body temperature of about 100 degrees Farenheit
(38 degrees Celcius). They maintain this temperature in cold weather
with the help of several mechanisms which include shivering, changes
in hormone levels, increased body metabolism, increased digestion of
fiber (adding more fiber or more protein to the diet can help a horse
keep warm, since digestion of these nutrients produce heat), growing
longer and thicker hair which can stand up on the skin to make a
layer of insulating air pockets, increased feed consumption, and
increased activity. Cold horses on a frosty morning often run and
buck to warm up.

A well fed horse can manage at temperatures down to 30 or even 40
below zero Farenheit if there's no wind and he's not wet. Wind
ruffles the hair and destroys its insulating quality. The downward
direction in which the hair grows (along with the oil glands that
waterproof the hair) help keep a horse dry in rain and snow. The
density of the hair coat and the directions in which the hair grows
make such a good overcoat that snow can form ice on the outer surface
of this coat without the skin becoming chilled.

It takes a lot of moisture on the hair coat before the dampness soaks
through to the skin, since most of the water runs off. Once a horse
gets wet, however, he may chill. A wet horse loses body heat up to 20
times faster than a dry horse, because the moisture flattens out the
hair and eliminates the air spaces between the hairs, greatly
reducing the insulating effect. Even a warm winter storm (rain
instead of snow, or snow that immediately melts) can be hard on a
horse, if he gets soaked and then gets chilled by dropping
temperatures before he has a chance to dry off.

His best defense against cold are a long coat and a layer of fat just
beneath the skin; both of these help reduce loss of body heat. Most
wild animals go into winter fatter than they are at other times of
year; this is nature's way to protect them against cold and give them
some reserves for energy and body heat. Long winter hair is the first
line of defense, but its insulating quality is lost if the horse is
wet or covered with mud.

It's important that a horse have shelter during wet weather. A horse
will rarely take shelter from cold, but he will try to get away from
rain or driving snow. Horses prefer the warmth of winter sun to a
shady shed. If an outdoor horse's coat gets muddy, groom him to keep
it from being matted down.

Humans tend to get frostbitten toes and noses in severely cold
weather, but horses rarely suffer frostbite. The horse's blunt muzzle
is so richly supplied with blood that it can withstand extreme cold
without freezing. His long nasal passages with their bone spirals and
air pouch (which he also uses for snorting and whistling when he
blows air through it) help warm the cold air before it reaches his

A horse's feet and legs are constructed in such a way that they can
withstand extreme cold without discomfort or damage, even when
standing in deep snow. His slender legs are just bone and tendons
below the knees and hocks, requiring much less circulation than
muscles, and are thus less susceptible to frostbite. This allows them
to handle extended exposure to cold and snow with no ill effects. The
cells in bones and tendons need less blood for maintenance and they
also lose less heat. The horse is able to shunt most of the blood
away from his feet and still have a very functional foot. When the
feet start to get cold, the shunts open up so that the blood flows
from the smallest arteries directly into the veins without having to
pass through the smaller capillaries.

If the horse gets cold, the blood vessels in his skin constrict to
minimize heat loss, and the hair shafts stand on end for better
insulating. If he continues to be cold, he starts to shiver, with his
muscles rapidly contracting and relaxing--which quickly raises his
metabolism rate and amount of fuel burned in the muscles. With his
large blocks of muscle, the horse can shiver much more readily and
more comfortably than a human. Since most of this muscle action is
being converted to heat, this is a very effective way to warm
himself. It takes a great deal of energy, however, to shiver for a
prolonged period; this can use up his energy stores.

The horse has several other unique features that enable him to cope
with winter. He is less vulnerable to snowblindness than a human,
since his horizontal pupils can close more tightly than our round
ones, filtering out more of the damaging ultraviolet light. His thick
eyelashes protect his eyes from winter wind and extremely cold
temperatures. If the wind blows, he instinctively turns his back to
it. This protects his thin-skinned face and neck, which have more
surface blood vessels. His rump and back have thicker skin and hair,
and less surface blood vessels, and can withstand the wind better. He
uses his tail to protect his more delicate underparts. His mane and
forelock give waterproof protection for head and neck. Horses in
groups stand close together to block the wind, and thus benefit from
each others' body warmth. With a chance to prepare himself for cold
weather, the horse can be quite comfortable and happy outdoors in

:: Karley ::
Tucker WB/TB- 11 yr
Speedy QH/TB- 22 yr
kchfuller is offline  
post #7 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by mayfieldk View Post
Most of the time, owners blanket because it makes the OWNER feel better. ;)
So true! (I am guilty of this myself). I agree with the others that your horse probably does not need to be clipped. I've never been a fan of clipping. Horses grow wonderful winter coats that keep them naturally warm and even dry. (I find it amazing how they adapt in the rain for example -- the raindrops slide right to the end of their hairs). I only blanket my horse when it is really really cold. She's a TB but she still grows a nice, thick coat. I also ride her as well. I guess it depends really on how much riding you do. Since you have an arena, you'll probably ride more often, so your horse will be more sweaty. But as long as you cool her off and use a fleece cooler afterwards, she'll be fine. This is what I suggest, but people have different opinions on clipping.

Welcome to the forum, by the way and enjoy your new horse!

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Jubilee Rose is offline  
post #8 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 11:28 PM
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Welcome, Cheval! I've never heard of a Cheval Canadien...would love to see pics! I just got my first horse, as well. :)

Kchfuller, thanks so much for posting that article. I've been thinking in terms of what feels cold to me instead of what feels comfortable to my horse, so that article really helped me put it in perspective.

Cheval, I often feel more confused by all the info that's out there, as well. ;)This forum has been really helpful to me, though. Maybe consider using fleece and a blow-dryer like the members suggested? I can't really give good input here, as it doesn't get very cold in the winters where I live.

Enjoy your new horse!
Lori1983 is offline  
post #9 of 12 Old 01-18-2009, 11:49 PM Thread Starter
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Winter Blanketing -- Thank you

Thanks all for your information about blanketing and clipping. I am not going to be working her that hard, so I think the general recommendation not to clip or blanket makes alot of sense. She has a huge coat and it seems better not to 'mess with mother nature'. I will use a cooler and hair dryer if necessary and just hang out with her until she dries if she gets sweaty.

Several folks mentioned not being familiar with the Cheval Canadien. It is actually the national horse of Canada and classified as a rare breed. Here is a link to the breed association's website.

Société des Éleveurs de Chevaux Canadiens • Canadian Horse Breeders Association

Thanks again, Lisa
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post #10 of 12 Old 01-19-2009, 12:00 AM
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What a gorgeous, sturdy breed! I especially liked the section about the strict rules of naming. :) May I ask what yours' name is?
Lori1983 is offline  

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