7 Factors to Consider When Blanketing a Horse

Welcome to my detailed when to blanket your horse temperature guide.

Most people blanket horses based on beliefs or myths, but do horses need blankets? And Should I blanket my horse?

In this blanketing horse temperature guide, I will also discuss some of the different types of horse blankets.

Check: The Best Light Weight Horse Blankets

Why Do Horses Wear Blankets?

Below are some reasons you need to blanket your horse.

Cold Weather

Blankets help protect horses from inclement weather. If you bought a horse from a region with a warmer climate and temperatures in your area tend to get really low, you may need the blankets.

Aging horses or ill horses may also be more affected by cold temperatures since their bodies can’t generate body heat as required.

Ward Off Flies

In warmer climates, you can also use blankets to keep flies off the horse’s skin. This type of horse blanket is often lightweight and not suitable for cold temperatures.

They also help prevent the horse’s hair coat from fading.

Slow Down Hair Growth

Blankets also inhibit excess hair growth. While hair will keep your horse warm during winter, it also sticks to oil and sweat that the horse releases, making it difficult to brush the horse’s coat.

Horses that may need to participate in these shows during winter may also need to be clipped.

Doing this exposes their bodies to the biting cold, and they’ll need the blankets to keep them warm as it prevents more hair from growing.

7 Factors to Consider When Blanketing a Horse

Should you blanket your horse? Not necessarily. An average horse that’s healthy and can grow a winter hair coat will be fine if temperatures are ideal.

Horse Class highlights the following factors to determine when you need to blanket your horse.

A horse in ground with blanket on it

#1 Hair Growth

As Michael Foss, DVM, states, horses regulate their core body temperature through hair, which traps heat generated by the body and acts as an insulator.

That’s why horses grow a longer hair coat, which appears fluffy during the winter months.

However, some horses grow hair faster than others, and as mentioned earlier, long hair is not always the best sight when grooming your horse.

If your goal is to keep the hair short and you know your horse can grow hair pretty fast, then it would be a good idea to blanket them. Besides, horse blanket washing is easier compared to cleaning a thick hair coat.

#2 Work

You should also consider what you will be using your horse for. If you will be riding often, especially in winter, and have clipped your horse, then you’ll need to blanket them.

Clipping helps minimize sweating, helps the horses dry faster after riding, and enhance the horse’s appearance for competition horses, but at the cost of proper temperature regulation.

But if they are just pasture horses and you’re not worried about them growing hair, you may not need the blanket.

#3 Where the Horse is From

As mentioned earlier, if you imported a horse from warm climates, and they’ve not adapted to your cold or wet weather, get them some blankets.

#4 Where Does the Horse Live?

If your horse lives outdoors, it will need a blanket.

That’s because if ta horse gets wet, its natural coat will not function as required in regulating its body heat, making your horse cold, to the point of developing hypothermia or other cold-related issues.

#5 Age

Your horse’s age can also help determine whether to blanket them or not. Horses that are too young have not fully developed the temperature-regulating mechanisms.

On the other hand, senior horses or geriatric horses have reduced muscle mass and fat layers. Most of their normal body functions are also deteriorating, making it difficult to regulate their temperature.

#6 Body Weight

If your horse has trouble maintaining the ideal weight, you must blanket them to prevent weight loss. Horses use a lot of nutrients to grow the winter coat.

So, an underweight horse in warmer seasons will lose even more weight during winter if they are not blanketed.

#7 Horse Health

A healthy horse with all of the components functioning properly may not always need a blanket. One way to gauge their health is through the body condition score.

Injuries, illnesses, and age affect this score. On a scale of 1 to 9, a healthy horse with a score of less than 3 is unhealthy and requires a blanket.

Check the video below for more info:

How to Blanket a Horse Temperature Guide

Horses are different from us. You might walk into the barn and feel very cold that you want to put on a heavy jacket and a blanket on your horse too.

But in most cases, the horse will not be feeling as cold as you are. The best thing to do is observe your horse.

If they are shivering or hurdled up, they are feeling cold and may need a blanket.

A Horse With Blanket On it, horse blanket temperature guide

According to State Line Tack, you should start considering a blanket when the temperatures go below 50 Degrees F.

Below is a table, horse blanket temperature chart, they designed for the appropriate blanket type (more on this later) based on the temperatures.

Temperature RangeUnclipped HorsesClipped Horses
Above 50 DegreesNo BlanketMaybe a sheet, but no blanket
40 – 50 Degrees F(optional) Lightweight blanket (100 g)Light/Medium blanket (150 – 250 g)
30 to 40 Degrees FLight/Medium blanket (150 – 250 g)Medium/Heavy blanket (200 – 300g)
20 to 30 Degrees FMedium/Heavy blanket (200 – 300g)Heavy turnout blanket (300 to 400 g)
Below 20 Degrees FHeavy blanket (300 to 400 g)Heavy blanket (300 to 400 g) with a blanket liner

4 Types Of Horse Blankets

Below are the various types of blankets for horses and their best application scenarios.

#1 Turnout Blankets

As the name suggests, turnout blankets are designed for use during turnout periods or as the horse moves around in an open field.

They are designed to be flexible enough to allow a horse’s movement, sturdy enough, and waterproof to protect the horses from outdoor conditions.

Horse With Turnout Blanket- When To Blanket a Horse Temperature Guide

Turnout blankets and turnout sheets come in different weights – from the lightweight horse blankets that have no fill to heavier waterproof blankets with more filling.

The stuffing is often made of foam or any other appropriate materials.

#2 Stable Blankets

These are blankets designed for use within the stable. Most horse stable sheets and blankets aren’t waterproof, but finding a waterproof one is an added advantage.

Horse With Stable Blanket- Horse Blanketing Guide

Like the turnout blankets, stable blankets and stable sheets also come in varying weights, so check the table above to ensure you get your horse the appropriate weight.

They are not designed for outdoor use, but you can use them together with turnout blankets when it’s too cold.

Check our list of the best stable sheets for horses if you want to get one!

#3 Fly Sheets

These are lighter sheets that help protect horses from insects such as mosquitoes, flies, gnats, etc. As mentioned earlier, they also prevent the coat from fading and excess UV light.

Horse With Fly sheet on it- Horse Blanketing Guide

Others protect the horse from getting wet in light rains. They have no filling, though, so they are only applicable when it’s warm. Don’t replace your turnout blankets with fly sheets.

#4 Horse Coolers

Regular blankets may trap moisture within them, making the horse even colder. That’s why you may need to use horse coolers since they absorb moisture at a faster rate.

That’s why most of them are made from cotton or fleece and can be used as liners for horse stable blankets or turnout blankets.

Horse With Cooler On it- When TO Blanket A Horse

When Should You Remove the Horse Blanket?

As mentioned above, observe the temperature and monitor your horse. If the temperatures gradually become warm, switch to lighter blankets or sheets until your horse doesn’t need them anymore.

Also, observe for sweat or wetness under the blanket. As already mentioned, moisture makes it worse for the horse when it’s cold. So, either switch to drier coverings, lighter blankets, or eliminate them entirely.

Get the Right Blanket Size

Besides knowing when to blanket a horse, horse owners should also pay attention to the size of the blanket. A well-fitted blanket should ensure warmth, comfort, and the overall wellbeing of the horse.

When measuring a horse for a blanket, use soft tape and start from the center of the chest, through the widest section of the horse’s side, to the beginning of the tail hair.

If it’s an odd number, round off to the next even size.

An ill-fitting blanket could lead to rubbing, chaffing, pressure, discomfort, and sores. Below are more tips for using horse blankets effectively;

  • Frequently remove the blankets to prevent the rubs from turning into sores.
  • Always groom your horse clean before putting on the blanket.
  • Let the horse dry completely before putting on the blanket.
  • Don’t use a wet blanket on your horse.
  • You can spray some ShowSheen or Silicone grooming spray on the horse before putting the blanket to prevent rubbing.
  • To know it’s a good blanket fit, the leg straps, neck opening, and surcingle straps should all leave a 4″ space between the blanket and the horse. If it’s too loose, it will let more cold enter into the blanket.

Feed Them the Correct Diet

Even the best horse blankets will fail to protect your horse from cold weather without the proper diet.

When fed the correct diet during the summer and fall seasons, horses will start developing a layer of fat that will act as insulation during winter.

Also, providing them lots of hay during cold weather helps the horses generate more heat. It also gives them more energy to run around, which is still another way to generate heat.

Horses also need an adequate supply of water, especially during winter since winter feeds are often dry and can’t be counted on as a water source.

FAQs

What Temperature is Too Cold for Horses?

When it’s not too windy or rainy, horses can tolerate temperatures as low as 0 Degrees F and -40 Degrees F when they are in a shelter. The ideal temperatures for a horse should be between 18 and 59 Degree F.

How Do I Know if My Horse is Cold?

If your horse is shivering, hurdled up, or has tucked its tail, then it means they’re feeling cold. You can also touch them or use a thermometer to measure their temperature.

Do Horses Feel the Cold Like Humans?

Not really. Horses are more tolerant to frigid temperatures than humans. Horses can survive temperatures as low as 0 Degrees F, but it’s dangerous for humans to be outside when temperatures start going below 32 degrees F.

Why Do Horses Wear Blankets in the Summer?

Horse With Blanket At Ground- When To Blanket A Horse

In the summer, horses wear a light blanket to protect them from insect bites from parasites such as mosquitoes and gnats. Blankets also protect them from excess UV light.

Conclusion

And that’s the end of my when to blanket your horse temperature guide. If you’re still wondering, “when should I blanket my horse?” below is a quick summary of when you should;

  • A body-clipped horse in colder weather
  • When they just moved to a colder region
  • When they are too old or too young
  • When they are ill
  • When they don’t have a shelter, especially when there’s a cold wind and cold rain.
  • When they are underweight, and it’s too cold
  • When they lack a natural winter coat

References

  • “Body Condition Scoring of Horses.” 2016. Gov.on.ca. 2016. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/horses/facts/98-101.htm#:~:text=Body%20Condition%20Scoring%20(BCS)%20is,to%20age%20and%20breed%20types..
  • “Caring for Your Horse in the Winter.” 2021. Umn.edu. 2021. https://extension.umn.edu/horse-care-and-management/caring-your-horse-winter#:~:text=In%20the%20absence%20of%20wind,depending%20on%20their%20hair%20coat..
  • “HorseClass – Education to Enjoy the Ride, Connect with Your Horse…” 2021. HorseClass. May 10, 2021. https://www.horseclass.com/.
  • LifeLearn Admin. 2017. “Your Horse Blanketing Questions Answered – SRH Veterinary Services.” Srhveterinary.com. 2017. https://srhveterinary.com/2017/12/27/your-horse-blanketing-questions-answered/.
  • StateLineTack.com. 2017. “Understanding Horse Blankets.” Horse Tack, Horse & Equine Supplies. 2017. https://www.statelinetack.com/content/horse-blankets/understanding-horse-blankets/.
  • The Ultimate Horse Blanketing Guide – SmartPak Equine. 2020. “The Ultimate Horse Blanketing Guide – SmartPak Equine.” SmartPak Equine. 2020. https://www.smartpakequine.com/content/horse-blanket-guide.
A Horse In Ground With Blanket- When To Blanket A Horse Guide

Is there something missed to discuss about horse blanketing guidelines? Tell us in the comments

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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