The Art of Blanketing
Winter months come with blanketing. And blanketing often comes with confusion. It’s a simple concept that becomes a bit of an art mastered by skilled horsemen and women. However, we are here to answer all your blanketing questions so you and your horse are ready to stay warm this winter season.
Does my horse need to be blanketed or not?
Well, it depends. Horses are very resilient animals that adapt quickly to their environment. They are often well-equipped to keep themselves plenty warm throughout the winter, but some horses may need help from their caretakers. As the days begin to shorten in late summer, a horse’s coat will begin to grow longer and more coarse. When they get cold, their coat will raise to trap the heat. In addition to their coat, their gut works hard to ferment roughage to maintain a healthy core body temperature. This is why quality hay is vital throughout the winter months and why many caretakers increase the roughage portion of their horse’s diet. Senior horses in particular have lower body scores due to their loss of muscle and fat stores, so they often need more blanketing considerations than the average horse. If you plan on riding your horse regularly throughout the winter and that warrants the need for body clipping, you will most likely need to help protect their shorter coat with a blanket.
Blanketing cheat sheet provided by The Horse
How do I know what blanket to purchase for my horse?
We recommend considering your horse’s climate first. What are the average high and low temperatures for your region in the winter? Will they be stalled fully, partially, or left outdoors? Do you intend to body clip your horses? What is your horse’s body condition score? Answering these questions will equip you with the knowledge to make the right choice between a lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight blanket based on manufacturer recommendations. Next, you’ll need to get the right size. This will ensure your horse and your blanket are protected. A properly fitted blanket will result in less body rubs on your horse and less damage to the blanket itself. To measure for your horse’s blanket size, it is best to get a helper and stand your horse squarely in a safe and quiet area. Using a tape measure, have your helper hold your horse and the start of the tape at the center of your horse’s chest, just below where the neck meets the body. While holding the end of the tape, run it across the widest part of your horse’s shoulders and to the point of the buttocks, about 10 inches below the dock. That number will be the blanket size your horse needs. This sizing is rather standard, but it is wise to read through manufacturer guidelines and customer reviews to ensure they fit as expected before purchasing.
How do I properly care for my horse’s blanket?
With winter approaching, now is an appropriate time to wash your horse’s blanket from last season. We recommend hosing the blanket down first in a wash rack and using a stiff brush to remove large clumps of debris like mud or hair. You can then send the blanket off to a laundry service or wash it yourself. There are detergents made specially for horse blankets that would be a great addition to your tack room. Pro tip: while you’re stocking up on this, add fabric softener and sensitive skin dryer sheets to the list. By adding fabric softener to your wash, it will help keep the static down while blanketing your horse. You can also wipe your horse’s coat down with those dryer sheets to make that experience more enjoyable – for both horse and caretaker (there’s nothing quite like the shock from a blanket in the winter!). Hang the blanket to air dry and it will be ready to keep your horse warm all season long.
What else is important for me to consider when blanketing my horse?
If your horse is not used to wearing a blanket, it is important to start small while introducing this new object into their routine. Start off with having them wear it within the confines of their stall for a short period of time, until they are comfortable with it. While your horse is wearing the blanket, we recommend doing daily inventory of the blanket to ensure it is free of debris – especially underneath the blanket where a small piece of mud can cause a lot of discomfort and even sores. Lastly, if you live in a very cold climate where the blanket will rarely come off your horse throughout the season, discipline yourself to do regular checks under the blanket to properly assess your horse’s body condition which is easy to miscalculate through a thick winter blanket.
We hope this blog has answered some of the big questions looming over you while preparing for the winter months ahead. With proper planning, blanketing can be a positive experience and something horses enjoy. Best of luck to you this season, stay warm out there!