When it comes to blanketing your horse during colder temperatures the first question should be, should you even blanket your horse? Dr. Martha Rasch, clinical instructor and equine ambulatory specialist at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, suggests you should observe the overall comfort of the animal and use that as a gauge. “When horses are blanketed prematurely, they will often start sweating or even panting underneath the blanket,” she added. “A horse should never be over-blanketed because the sweat will actually often make them colder overall.”
According to Mark Russell, extension equine specialist for the University of Arkansas Department of Animal Science, it all depends on your situation and the horse.
“If your horse is inside the barn and you’re attempting to achieve a slick and shiny coat, then the answer is yes,” Russell said. “However, when attempting to keep a slick coat, the horse needs to be under lights (in the barn) for 18 hours a day to simulate sunlight. Simply keeping a blanket on them will not keep them slick.”
“Horses grow hair for a reason,” he added. “When you blanket them and they have long hair, the blanket will actually push the hair down and keep the hair from doing what it is naturally supposed to do, and that is provide insulation.”
Rasch strongly advises horse owners not to use a regular blanket in place of a horse blanket. “Normal blankets aren’t fit or shaped to them and could predispose them to rubbing sores or worse, get tangled in the legs and lead to injury,” she said.
According to Rasch there are temperature guidelines published for blanketing, but they should be used in conjunction with observation of the horse. For example: 55 degrees, no blanket; 45 degrees, rain sheet for turnout in inclement weather; 35 degrees, medium-weight blanket or sheet with fleece liner; 25 degrees, heavy-weight blanket or sheet with fleece liner; and 15 degrees, very heavy-weight blanket or medium-weight blanket with fleece liner.
“Water can be one of the most important factors to consider when trying to protect your horse against the elements,” Rasch added. “The better the water seal, the warmer your horse is going to stay. Often a 35-degree rainy day will be much tougher on them than a dry 20-degree day.”
Blankets should be cleaned once a month, before the cold season starts and at the end of the cold season. “Blankets should not be washed in machine washer or they will get water logged, rather they should be professionally cleaned or hosed and scrubbed by hand,” Rasch said.


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