I know, I know, this is a very heated debate. There are those that are passionate about having their horses wear a blanket in the winter, just as there are those who are passionate about letting horses be horses, and never have their horses wear a blanket.
Then there are those, like me that run somewhere between the two. Those who have their horses wear blankets, depending on the weather, and when the weather is good, no blankets are often necessary.
But, that being said, there are some benefits to having your horse wear a blanket in colder weather. And if you are dead set against blanketing your horse, that’s ok. You might want to stop reading now. However, if you are curious about some benefits to having your horse wear a blanket this winter, please, read on.
5 Benefits of Blanketing Your Horse This Winter
Disclaimer: If you are considering blanketing your horse this winter, please do your research! Come up with a plan that you can stick to, and works best for your horse.
1. It Keeps Him Warm
Yes, this is fairly obvious. But a blanket does help to keep your horse warm. However, if you put a really heavy blanket on him, meaning a blanket with 300 grams of fill, he can overheat too. So its kind of a balancing act to know how heavy of a blanket your horse will need.
Let’s take Frisby for example. Frisby is getting older. And I noticed last winter that he had a really hard time keeping his weight on. So I started blanketing him when the temperature would get below freezing, especially at night. And because he was wearing a blanket during the colder periods of winter, he was able to keep his weight on during the winter.
But keeping him comfortable is one of my challenges. For most of the time, He wears a light blanket with around 80 grams of fill. This offers him a little warmth, without getting him overheated. But when the weather takes a turn for the worse, or its snowing, or windy, or both, he gets the heavy 300 gram fill heavy duty blanket.
Another one of my challenges is that Frisby is a blanket terminator. He destroys blankets. I have never owned a horse who is so destructive when it comes to wearing a blanket.
I remember one blanket I bought, he wore it 1 time, yes 1 time, and he destroyed it. $100.00 down the drain. Now I opt for better quality blankets. And I especially like blankets that have a warranty. My latest investment is a lightweight (80 gram fill) blanket from Schneider Saddlery. It wasn’t cheap at $149.00, but it was on sale. And it has a 5 year warranty, which is a good thing.
The most important thing is to have the right blanket on your horse at the right time so that he stays warm, and doesn’t have to use all of his calories to keep warm in the coldest weather.
2. It Keeps Him Dry
Honestly, this is even more important that the warmth factor. If your horse is wet, he will get cold. So if you can keep him dry, he will stay warmer.
Most horse people that I know do choose to put some sort of blanket on their horse when its forecasted to be really wet and cold. This is mainly to keep them dry. If the horse can stay dry, in most instances he can stay warm. But if he gets wet, and doesn’t have a protective layer of sebum, to insulate him, he will get cold.
This is where the waterproof factor fits in to horse blankets. If the blanket is waterproof, your horse will stay dry. If there is no waterproofing to the blanket, it will get heavy as it gets saturated with water. So make sure you choose a quality waterproof blanket for your horse.
If you can keep your horse dry, this is more than half the battle of keeping him warm during cold snaps.
3. It Keeps Him Clean
Ok, this is one of the biggest reasons I blanket my horse, he stays clean! And this may not be a big deal to you, but it is to me. Especially because Frisby is a furry monster in the wintertime.
I don’t bathe Frisby during the winter, because well, it’s cold! And since he doesn’t get a bath, he tends to get dirty from rolling, and laying down. And the dust too! When it’s dry here during the winter, it is dry. So Frisby gets dusty.
By keeping a blanket on him, it makes it a lot easier for me to come home from work and make fast work of grooming him so I can ride.
But I always make sure to keep the appropriate blanket on him. And if it gets too warm, like over 50 degrees, the blanket comes off.
4. A Clipped Horse Needs A Blanket
If you work your horse to the point that he breaks a sweat frequently, you may need to clip him when he grows a long fuzzy winter coat. And if your horse is clipped, he probably should be wearing a blanket.
I debate clipping Frisby. On the one hand, when he sweats his long hair takes a long time to dry out. On the other hand, he has a difficult time during the winter to stay warm.
But since I have been riding him more, I am tempted to clip him. Well at least where he sweats, like where the girth goes, and on the front part of his belly where his leg meets his body.
And if I do decide to clip him, he will have to have a blanket on in order to be able to help him to stay warm. This is why I am torn. On one hand, it would be soooo much easier to cool him out after riding. But on the other hand, it will be more challenging for him to regulate his own warmth, but with the longer hair and more riding, he could get cold too.
I haven’t committed to clipping him yet, but I am thinking about it. Time will tell, and if I do decide to clip him I promise to share that with you here.
5. Blanketing Can Decrease Feed Consumption
I know, this sounds like an odd benefit, but hear me out. My horse is considered a senior horse, because he is 23 years old. Being older, he has a challenging time over the winter keeping his weight on. And I remedy this with increasing his forage (hay) intake. I try to make sure he has hay in front of him at all times.
He does get a pelleted senior feed that I use in place of a grain. He doesn’t get a lot, maybe a quart in the morning and evening. I don’t give him a large amount of the concentrated feed, because this can cause problems too.
So by having your horse blanketed at the appropriate times, you can decrease the amount of calories (mainly concentrated feed) that he consumes. The same goes for the forage. If his body temperature is already at an optimum temperature, he won’t need as much.
I know this may sound silly, but it can be a benefit of having your horse wear a blanket when it’s cold. And our horses digestive systems are very complex, yet fragile at the same time. Which is why I do everything I can to be careful, and considerate of my horse’s digestive system. I don’t want to upset that delicate balance!
To Blanket or Not to Blanket that is the Question
Ultimately it is up to you to decide whether or not you blanket your horse over the winter. And most horses are fine with, or without a blanket. But whatever you decide, make sure you are doing what is best for your horse. Don’t feel pressured to blanket, or not to blanket. Arm yourself with research, and have a plan. There are benefits to blanketing, you just have to decide if it is the right thing to do for your horse.
And if you want to find an affordable blanket, check out this post!