It’s a hot topic this time of year anyway, as there are ongoing debates anywhere horse people gather on the internet about the pros and cons of blanketing.
Senior horses are one of the demographics that are more likely to need to be blanketed in bad weather and cold temperatures.
If your senior horse is underweight, you’ll want to consider a blanket for sure. By helping them stay warm, you’ll let them use the calories they consume for weight gain, or maintaining their condition, instead of keeping warm.
If your senior horse has any arthritis or other aches and pains, keeping them warm can help them stay more comfortable.
And some senior horses who have no other heath issues, just don’t seem to handle the cold as well as they did when they were younger, and do better with a winter blanket.
When you do choose to blanket your senior horse, it then becomes your responsibility to regulate their comfort. In my area, that means taking the blankets off after the chinook hits and raises the temperature to above freezing for a few days, and then getting them back on before the next cold snap. In some places, it might mean blanketing at night and taking it off during the day. In others, only blanketing during the worst winter storms, or using rain sheets in wet climates.
And it’s important, even in situations where they’ll pretty much wear the blanket all winter long, that you do check under the blanket regularly to monitor their body condition and health. Elderly horses with Cushings are prone to skin infections, which could be exacerbated underneath a blanket, and I’ve heard sad stories of old horses who got very thin underneath winter blankets and their well meaning owners didn’t realize in time.
Not every senior horse needs to be blanketed, but the odds are much higher than in the Miniature Horse population in general, and it’s one more way you can help your horse continue to thrive in his old age.