With it being the winter season, I see most of my four-legged friends bundled up in SO many blankets! I can tell they definitely don’t have as much fun as me playing in the snow with all those layers on. Today I asked my friend “Hugme Christi” why she was wearing so many layers instead of growing out her fuzzy winter coat and she jokingly replied, “My mom is cold!”
Now is the prime time to discuss the blanketing controversy! In summary, if your horses have naturally thick coats and are adapted to the cold, there is no reason to blanket them! A horse’s winter coat is stimulated by decreased photoperiod (less hours of daylight) and cooler temperatures. If your horses are healthy and consume high quality diets, they should have no difficulty growing their fuzzy coats, and will be effectively insulated without additional layers. Studies have shown that livestock with a full dry winter coat can stay comfortable in temperatures as low as 18 degrees F. PS, it’s more fun to roll in the snow without a coat on!!
It is important to note that when horses are allowed to grow out their coats, they lose their ability to cool out after exercise. In this instance, some owners will blanket their horses. The purpose of blanketing is to prevent that thick winter coat from developing, while helping horses stay warm. Blankets tend to “flatten” a horse’s coat, which contributes to their inability to regulate insulation. If you choose to blanket your horse, you MUST continue throughout the duration of the season. Blanketing is a commitment!!
My gal-pal Randy staying nice and warm on this freezing cold day with her thick winter coat, and run-in shed in case the winds get too strong!
If blanketing isn’t enough and your horse is still extremely sweaty after exercise, it might be more efficient to clip their coats. Clipping will allow your horse to effectively cool down and be less susceptible to catching a chill. When you clip your horses’ hair, they lose their natural insulation, so it is your responsibility to properly manage them in a variety of weather conditions or when temperatures drop below 60 degrees. Depending on the exercise regime, there are a variety of clip jobs to satisfy the varying needs for cooling out. Another helpful tip is to use a cooler during workouts. Fleece and wool coolers allow your horse to stay warm while wicking away any extra moisture.
All horses and their daily routines vary, so choosing the right winter management protocol should be done on a case-by-case basis. If you have further questions, I highly suggest reading the fact sheet “To Blanket or Not To Blanket” written by my pals at the Equine Science Center. Remember friends, even despite frozen whiskers and snowballed hooves, if our coat is nice and dry we’re probably warm and doing just fine!
Until next time friends! It is time for me to go make some snow horses with this fresh powdered snow!