Another blanketing thread full of questions.. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 12-11-2019, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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Another blanketing thread full of questions..

I don’t mean to hijack this post but it is uncanny that I was preparing to ask opinions about a very similar situation I’m dealing with. A bit long winded, but here goes..... Details: 2 horses boarded at small barn with one other boarder and property owners. My 18 year old QH mare is a retired show horse(wp) who I would assume had been blanketed all of her life. The other, a 16 year old QH, seems more suited to less pampering. This is my first winter at this barn and I am unable to come out daily as I have been for years, so I told myself I would not blanket my two this year. I have set up an arrangement where I have the owners stall them if it’s rainy and cold out. The stalls are enclosed but open up to the pasture and are bar’d all the way across on top half ( stall door also which slides open). So basically when the wind is strong it is blowing on anyone being stalled at that time, but sheltering them from rain. I live in the Deep South, most winters average around freezing temps at night but there have been times when it will dip to low 20’s.... and of course there is always the possibility of a strong windchill.

So here is what I’m dealing with- since my situation is different this year I liked the idea of them getting a coat and not being dependent on their blankets( I have liteweight and mid weight for each horse from previous years). As of now we have had a couple nights where it’s been around freezing and the windchill put it in the upper 20’s. If it’s raining and cold they go inside the stall but still are open to any wind that blows in that direction since the stalls are more or less letting all air come through the bars on the outside wall. Neither of my horses has a teddy bear type of coat right now, we haven’t gotten into a lot of consistent bad cold stuff....yet.

I’m not sure my mare is capable of growing a thick coat, maybe she is, it’s still early. All I know is a couple weeks ago when it was raining but not freezing my gelding was the one shivering and they both were promptly put inside.

Ok so now to the dilemma. The one boarder is totally on board for no blanketing ever, having had her horses up north and convincing me that horses will grow their coats and stand under trees(or not) if left outside. She never stalls her horses. I’ve been really on the fence about the whole blanketing thing (one of my previous posts) because I’ve always done it and this is my first time not relying on having them covered. the other day I happened to tell the property owner who feeds for me and puts them in when the weather is bad that they can have their blankets on if it’s particularly raw or raining for more than an overnight stalling. She said “ I’ll do whatever you say but so and so says a blanket won’t let the hair fluff up which keeps them warm so it’s almost better not to”
I can deal with not making a popular decision if my horses can benefit from blankets in certain instances, I just don’t know when or if I should even suggest it. Will they be ok on the cold cold nights unblanketed? What about in the stalls if it’s wet and damp out, or if they’re wet...... since they get the cold air in the stalls? Am I wrong to interfere with my idea of letting them go au natural, I mean is it all or nothing when it comes to throwing a rug on a horse with a fuzzy, but not furry coat? My whole intention was to have these horses as prepared(?) as possible since I’m unable to visit them everyday like in years past. I have a way to have someone cover them, and I know why they say what they say, but I’d like to hear what others think about horses that could benefit from occasional blanketing and when or why. My horses are not yet 20, in good condition and eat off a netted round bale but as someone mentioned they do have to get wet if it’s raining and they’re hungry. Again, my apologies for taking this thread off on a tangent, but I am also getting the obvious comments that you either blanket or you don’t and any other way of thinking is counter productive.
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post #2 of 13 Old 12-11-2019, 11:45 PM
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It's ultimately your decision, but I'll make some points to see if it makes it easier for you to derive your own answer.

If your horses have been previously blanketed for many past years, they might not ever quite grow out their coat the same way other horses do. Horses don't just grow a whole winter coat in a few days, so if you see them shivering now, they won't necessarily "get used to it" by next week. If your horse is shivering, yes, they are cold, and probably should get some form of element protection! My half-Arabian mare does not get blanketed and will gladly stand outside in the middle of a 3-day New England blizzard, but I have also never once seen her shiver. I have also seen an Arabian with three blankets on, still shivering under them all on a sunny (but cold) winter day. They are all individuals, just like people.

You don't have to blanket both horses if only one is shivering. Likewise, you don't have to blanket every day, or when the weather is nice, or when they're not shivering. If it's the rain that is chilling them, you can always get rain sheets and ask to have it put on during the rainy days, instead of having true winter blankets. Especially since if they want to eat, they'll be standing out in it.

So the solution might be to have some blankets on hand that only get put on when they need it. See if you can keep track of what conditions make them shiver: freezing plus rain? Freezing without rain? And create a little weather protocol blanketing chart for your BO. For example, "If temps are below 50 and there is rain, blanket both horses; if temps are below 30, blanket gelding regardless of weather" etc.

Observe, and let your horses tell you what they need. I understand you can't be there every day, so maybe communicate to the BO to do the same.
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post #3 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 01:26 AM Thread Starter
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Excellent reply Aprilswissmiss..... that’s how I would be most comfortable..... I think it’s just the feeling like you’re going against the majority opinion(as if) who are nice but still just adamant about their way being the best way. I totally agree..... my mare is a diva, she likes a stall and while my gelding can’t wait to get out of his if he’s been in she’s in no rush. A friend I was talking to had similiar advice, she said “ you know that horse has probably always worn a blanket, I wouldn’t expect her to just adapt to sudden drops in temp.” I never really thought that after all the years she might never get a thick coat.
I think the idea of a blanket preventing hair from fluffing up might be true in situations where horses are used to harsh weather like in the wild or don’t mind the elements as much as a horse that’s used to blankets on/blankets off..... where I came from my two had a run in shed and the macho gelding was the first to
hi tail it to the shelter at even a drop of rain and here they don’t even have that option unless they are let in.
I guess there will always be those who feel strongly about not blanketing just because it’s natures way but I do agree every horse is an individual. I had an old school trainer that would scoff at blankets on horses saying how it was silly and not necessary,
but that’s just how he always did things; he had a big spread with broodmares, a couple of studs and herds of cattle and blanketing wasn’t even in his thought process. I’m a softie but I mainly want to do what’s best for my horses..... and that does require me to be open minded depending on the weather situation. I guess it’s just like anything else where people think they have to educate someone even though I’m twice as old as they are and have had horses going way back. The last thing I want to do is see my guys drop weight because I thought they could manage. I don’t think that way but it seems that for some people there’s no room for variables when it comes to what’s best for each particular animal ..... and making sure you know that’s just how it is
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post #4 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 05:41 AM
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I had the opposite problem. At the stables I learned at growing up, everyone blanketed every horse for the slightest change in temperature. I quickly realized how absolutely ridiculous it was to blanket a horse in 60 degree weather. They were shivering under their blankets. Not because it was cold out, but because they had sweat a whole pond's worth under their layers and then chilled themselves with the trapped water! Completely counterintuitive. The people with high-end dressage horses cared enough to cover them with blankets but didn't care enough to take them off when it warmed up during the day. The BO and staff saw it as too much effort to manually change the blankets on 40+ horses.

But if a horse is shivering in freezing rain without a blanket or shelter, it's usually time to add one.
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post #5 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 06:04 AM
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My saddlebred mare would grow a coat but she would shiver at 50 if she got wet, so I would blanket her. Mostly just to keep her dry. Out of the three that I have now one mare gets cold easier than the other two and will shiver, once again, when she gets wet. I will blanket if the temps are in the 40's and it's going to rain. My horses are not stalled. They are light weight blankets as I live in Northern Florida. It doesn't really get cold enough here to consider blanketing unless it's going to be a cold, rainy day or night. To be honest, I think horses are in heaven when the weather cools off.

My big dilemma is when it's raining and 40 degrees at night and then the next day is going to be 65 and sunny and now too hot for a blanket and I'm at work. Unless I go to take the blankets off, they stay on. Sometimes I think it would be easier to be in a climate that snows rather than just being warm enough to not snow and the horses get soaked if they are not covered in some way.

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post #6 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 08:02 AM
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I'm of the opinion that a blanket is better than stalling any day. I would opt to blanket a shivering horse rather than keep them in.

The first year we got our Arab, we thought the same as you - he'll grow a coat, he'll be fine. Well, he grew a coat, but he also got heaves. It was a learning experience. After struggling with coughing for two winters, I learned that he does much better blanketed. My other two are naked. We live in eastern Canada and they have access to their stalls 24/7 (which also means they live outside if they choose). Again, my other two horses are perfectly content to get soaked, snowed on, etc. I have blankets for them, but have only put them on when we hit -30C (we can get temps as low as -40C, but it's not frequent).

I know what you're saying about the hair getting flattened, and there's some truth to it. I solve that by adding a fleece cooler under my rainsheet on wet and cold days. Winter blanket goes on when it hits -20C. You are not dealing with the same severity of weather, however, there is NOTHING worse than a soaking wet horse. I feel that a dry horse with flattened hair will cope much better than a soaking wet horse. The coat cannot very well fluff up if it is soaking wet.

Ultimately, it comes down to getting to know your horses. Do they have shelter when they are turned out? If so, you know they can get away from the weather if needed. Either way, I'd ask the BO to blanket if they seem cold, but not systematically. In other words, I wouldn't ask for a blanket every night, for example. On the other hand, if you know the temperature is dropping and it will be raining overnight in near-freezing temps, I'd absolutely be proactive, especially when you know they may go a long period without being checked on.

Editing to add: I am at my barn (which is in my yard) 5-6 times a day. My decision to blanket or not to blanket in various kinds of weather comes from my observations of these horses over the last few years. But I am able to modify layers as often as I like, which is a huge advantage. Still, a cold, shivering horse is not something you want as it weakens their immune system. I found out a few years after we bought him that my Arab had had pneumonia as an 8 year old so the coughing likely came from old scar tissue.
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post #7 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Aprilswissmiss View Post
I had the opposite problem. At the stables I learned at growing up, everyone blanketed every horse for the slightest change in temperature. I quickly realized how absolutely ridiculous it was to blanket a horse in 60 degree weather.
OMG my old barn did this, it was sooo annoying. One girl had like 6 blankets, & a chart - for each temperature. I was like, really?????? Zero need to blanket at 60 degrees...heck, even 50! LOL. Some people are just crazy 'blanketeers', that's what I call them haha. Overkill!

Just too much. My horse has 1 blanket, it's waterproof, & heavy enough to keep her warm in below freezing temps. I have a lightweight sheet as well, but it ripped so I don't really use it anymore.

I only blanket my horse if the temps go below freezing. Otherwise...she stays naked.

She has a run-in in her pasture, but she will actually PREFER to stand outside in the rain or snow, rather than go in there. Her choice!

If your horse is in fact shivering, however...I'd blanket them, I would not stall. I never stall my horse, she's outside 24/7 (with the run-in shelter of course). I think blanketing is better than stalling, most horses can sustain harsh temps/weather. BUT, if your horse is shivering, blanket them for sure. Your horse will definitely let you know.

Ride more, worry less.

Last edited by PoptartShop; 12-12-2019 at 09:21 AM.
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post #8 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 09:57 AM
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If your horse is shivering, then they are cold and something needs to be done. If your stalls are open and can't block the wind, then putting a wet horse in is only going to marginally help. They are still going to get chilled. Your really need to cut the wind and blankets are great for that if you can't otherwise.

As much as us northerners like to on-up on how cold it gets, a brisk -40 is very different than a raining and windy 0/32. Cold but dry, still air is way more tolerable than wet and windy. The only times I've ever seen my horse actually shiver has been when it's been cold and wet. I've had him in his medium weight blanket (the one he usually wears when it' ~ -20*c/-4*f) when it was +5*c and he was still shivering because it was 2-3 days of cold, wet, rain/snow and wind. He's even shivered in the summer during a cooler thunderstorm when I couldn't get out to put his sheet on. (Meanwhile, my QH was happy as a clam in both instances)

Yes, blankets will flatten their coats, but that's why blankets have fill. To replace the air gap that the coat would normally provide. If they are too cold with just a shell, then put a liner underneath or a turnout with fill on. I'm not a fan of using coolers underneath as coolers will usually stretch and pull if left on for a while. Some do have reinforced shoulders, though.

It's not all or nothing, you can blanket some days but not others. Contrary to what some people will have you think, blankets do not damage their ability to regulate their temperature, their ability to fluff their coat, or the growth of their coat. Once you pull the blanket off, they will fluff up as needed after (humans still get goosebumps despite us wearing clothes all the time). Some might be little sissys about it and realize that they like being warm,

Originally Posted by LoriF View Post

Sometimes I think it would be easier to be in a climate that snows rather than just being warm enough to not snow and the horses get soaked if they are not covered in some way.
Honestly, it's really nice in that way. Once it gets below a certain temperature you can pretty much put any blanket on them and they will be fine. A too heavy blanket might make them a little warmer than ideal, but you won't sweat or overheat unless they get silly and start running.

Originally Posted by Acadianartist View Post
I'm of the opinion that a blanket is better than stalling any day. I would opt to blanket a shivering horse rather than keep them in.

When the horses were still out on pasture, we got some cold, wet days. Some of the horses would get blankets, some wouldn't. It was pretty common to see the horses with blankets would be out grazing while the ones without blankets were standing in the shelter.
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post #9 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 12:07 PM
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So the owner of the Icelandic I lease has two of them. They are quite shaggy right now. She told me she normally blankets them in the Winter--after they have grown a bit of a coat. She blankets them actually to PREVENT a thicker coat from growing. She told me that if they are being ridden a lot, and getting sweaty under the saddle, if their hair gets too thick, it could take two hours to cool them/dry them out and who has that kind of time after every ride? (They live outside with a shelter only). So this year, since she's not riding and I'm only coming out once per week and the other leasers are just using her a couple days week as a pony ride for their very little girls, she is not blanketing them yet. She assumes I won't be working D very hard to get her into a sweat. Well, i'm not sure about that. I'm certainly not getting her into a lather or anything, or "wet", but she is sometimes a little warm/moist under the saddle. She has a lot of energy and really likes to GO sometimes. Our form of "going" is tolting and some "flying pace" or a slower pacing. No cantering or galloping yet--except maybe if I lunge or round pen her before riding. So, how careful should I be about getting her into any kind of sweat if her hair is very shaggy? I've never heard anyone talk about this before with horses. Maybe the people I've been around didn't ride much in Winter? I guess I've only done a few Winter trail rides myself on the Arabian I rode for years. So, is a very thick, shaggy winter coat a deterrent to a good workout?
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post #10 of 13 Old 12-12-2019, 12:33 PM
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This is the first year Nick has been blanketed up. It came about that we were blanketing at the end of September for a week or so, and then off and on since. One cold night without a blanket and add to that a batch of moldy hay, Nick ended up pretty sick. Wearing a blanket seems to have a huge impact on his respiratory health and I've pretty much left him in his high neck midweight since it came out fo the box in the mail. He is fatter and hotter (behaviourally) than he was last year when he was completely unblanketed which would indicate that it is keeping him toasty since he's not shedding that fat to keep warm. Last year I was dumping half buckets full of grain and oil into him to keep his weight up, and this year he is getting half a handful for his supplements to go in and he's still quite round. I've been anti blanket and pro blanket and somewhere in between but for my horse right now and the health struggles he's getting babied and I want him to direct all caloric input into feeling better.

For an older horse who's used to being blanketed I'd totally sweater them up. If all it is is a rain sheet and fleece to keep the moisture off and the body a bit toasty then I think that at least would be a boon. I really do think the high necks even a little bit help a horse who is getting cold. Also they seem to prevent rubbing out the mane. That's my thought and experience.
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