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.