To Blanket or Not To Blanket

Want to start a fight on the internet, anywhere that horse people hang out?

Ask if you should blanket your horse.

It’s kind of amazing really, that so many people feel so very strongly about it. The “always blanket” camp can be pretty adamant that not blanketing is an unacceptably low standard of care, and the “never blanket” side is just as vehement that horses are better off with nature’s defenses instead.

They are both wrong, of course. After all, how on earth could someone who’s never seen your horse or your situation make that determination?

The truth is, Miniature Horses don’t need to be blanketed in winter ….. unless they do.

Clear as mud, yes?

There are some cases that are most straightforward. Obviously, if your horse is clipped when they need to be hairy, put a blanket on them. Or maybe two or three. If they just moved from a more temperate climate? Blanket.

A horse in full haircoat though, usually doesn’t need a blanket even in the most severe weather, provided they have a shelter from the wind and are in a healthy body condition, with access to a suitable amount of forage.

There are definitely exceptions though, and only by careful and consistent monitoring of your horses will you be able to know if they need a little extra help.

If you find you have a horse who is having difficulty gaining weight, particularly an older horse, blanketing can help because they won’t have to waste calories to keep warm and can instead use them to improve their body condition.

And though it should be a no-brainer, if your horse is shivering, then they need to be blanketed. When I see a horse shiver, I watch them for a bit – sometimes if they just came out of their cozy shelter into the wind they’ll only shiver til they get some breakfast in their tummy and then they’re fine again. But if they’re still shivery after I finish feeding and circle back to check on them? Blanket.

And if they’re still shivery after a bit in the blanket? Another blanket, a stall in the barn and a warm mash of soaked cubes and senior feed. 😉

It’s also important that any time you do blanket a horse, you remove the blanket on a regular basis to check for any rubs and monitor body condition. There are too many stories of horses, particularly elderly horses, whose well meaning owners didn’t realize they were losing weight under their blankets until it was too late.

Another common refrain of the “never ever blanket” crowd is that once you blanket, then you’ll have to blanket for the rest of the winter, which isn’t necessarily true. You will, however, have to wait until there is a stretch of weather warm enough for them to be without a blanket long enough to allow the “lift” to return to their coat, the airspace that is a critical component to their insulation.

Really, what it boils down to is that you’ve got to pay attention to your horse, and make the decisions that are right for them.

Or, if you just really want to blanket them, then that’s okay too.


6 thoughts on “To Blanket or Not To Blanket”

  1. Right on! I have had this discussion many times with clients but those firmly in one camp or the other generally don’t want to listen to options! It all boils down to knowing your horse and understanding when he needs or does not need help in the way of a blanket. Good info Kendra!

  2. Hi Kendra! I Totally agree with you on the blanketing article. In our rural area in Nevada, my husband, who is a court Bailiff, hears non horse owning people file cases against horse owners because they have no blankets on them in the winter. I Wish these non owners could read your article. We might have less frivolous complaints going through the courts. I Am a mini owner and she has a full blanket of hair and shelter. Thanks again.

  3. Most valuable lesson there? Pay attention to your horse and assess their needs as they need them – adjust as required.
    Great blog!

  4. Great blog! So true about the debate.
    Horse owners want the best for their babies..and sometimes forget that what works for their horse..just doesnt work for someone else’s.
    Or even their own..if they have muliples. I have one horse who hates blankets.. he lived for years without..and now refuses any. Within minutes of being blanketed..he will wriggle out of it. My other 2?? They accept all the pampering I want to give!

  5. Agree! I was in the “Never Blanket” camp until I found myself with a 32 yr old Arabian. As a mini and Haflinger mom, I’ve had to change my thinking on everything, not just blanketing.

  6. A voice of balance! THANK YOU!

    I have one horse that I could never blanket. He loves the cold.
    My other boy gets cold-induced colic if it drops to the low teens, and definitely when below 10.

    My vet has me on a small routine when we know the temp is going to drop to/below 10. Saves us all long walks in the frigid night!!! 🙂

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