Blanketing Horses

We all know that one of the best ways to start a fight on the internet with other horse people is to bring up the topic of blanketing.

There are so many strong opinions on it, and everyone is convinced that their choice is the only right one – you absolutely MUST blanket your horse, or, you absolutely must NOT blanket your horse, and anyone who makes the other choice is doing it wrong.

But the truth is, as with so many things, somewhere in the middle.

We’ve had a stretch of extreme cold weather this week, and when I knew it was looming, I starting planning who I would put blankets on.

I started with Quix Draw and Pride – at 30 and 29 years of age, both with a history of feeling the cold, they were definite no brainers, and they agreed wholeheartedly, standing like rocks without a halter on while I bundled them up in their heavyweight blankets. Once the cold really got here, Pride was cold again, and needed a thick liner added to his blanket, and then he’s been completely happy and back to his normal busy self.

In contrast, Knight Rider (32) and Spook (27) HATE blankets. They both had to wear them last year, Knight Rider because he was clipped very late in the year to treat a skin condition, and Spook because he was recently diagnosed with Cushings and we were still working on getting his weight back up. But this winter, they’re both nice and wooly and chubby, and so I decided not to automatically blanket them, thinking I could always add blankets if they needed. They didn’t – they’ve done just fine through the cold snap, so even extreme age (Knight Rider is our oldest at 32 this year) isn’t necessarily an automatic blanketing requirement.

Sweetheart (19) had a health scare a few months ago and is still regaining weight, plus it’s his first Alberta winter in quite a while, and we want to avoid any stress for him that we can, as well as keep him from wasting calories keeping warm. So he definitely was blanketed. And Calypso (19), also a recent arrival from BC, has been telling me he’s cold since winter started, even though it hasn’t been at all. With real cold on the way, I bundled him up too.

And the final one I blanketed before the cold hit was Little Duke – he’s fat and young (well, around here 15 is young lol) but with a damaged shoulder joint I didn’t want the cold to make him even more sore. I know all my sore spots get more sore in this weather (I am hobbling after a week of this!) so I wanted to keep that shoulder as warm as I could to try to help him out.

Once the cold really hit, I did have two more who told me they were feeling the cold, both of which had been on my radar but I decided to wait and see: 24 year old Dusty, who was shivery, and 28 year old Aztra, who wasn’t shivering but just looked miserable, and brightened up considerably once she was blanketed.

I am also super cautious about putting a heavy enough blanket on – if I’m going to blanket a horse and flatten their winter coat, then I believe they need to have a heavyweight blanket to compensate. When I ran out of heavyweight blankets, that meant that Dusty wore two midweight winter blankets and a rainsheet overtop, to get the same effect.

That might sound like I blanketed a lot of horses, but that was 7 horses out of 48. We have had temperatures down to -39, windchills down to -49 (at least, there was one day I’m sure it was colder!) and the vast majority of the herd was just fine with plenty of hay (I fed three times as much as usual on the coldest nights, to make sure they never would run out) and shelter from the wind. You’d think they didn’t even notice that it was cold, as they were quite confused that I didn’t want to stay and play with them like I usually do. 😉

But you can see why someone who had a horse like Pride, who without a doubt needed his double layer of warm blankets to be comfortable, might think that horses should always be blanketed.

And you can see why people with a horse like Knight Rider, who was just fine at 40 below with no blanket even though he’s 32 years old, might take the opposite opinion.

But we all need to realize that horses are individuals, and their opinions are the only ones that matter.

Stay warm friends!


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