To blanket or not to blanket, that is the question. And so here I go spouting my opinion and my opinion only! When you come out to the ranch you often will hear me talk about how horses are in the wild. How they are very instinctive animals even having been domesticated for 1000’s of years. So that is where my point of reference comes from. I have never seen a wild horse put on a warm weather resistant blanket to keep warm. Now I admit I have not followed herds of wild horses around and especially not in the winter, but …
So why do we blanket horses. Well the answer is easy. It makes us feel better. It is cold outside to humans, so it must be cold outside to horses.
There certainly are times that we should blanket our horses. After all, we have taken them out of their natural habitat and put them in very artificial environments, so I believe that we should blanket horses that:
Are primarily stalled
•Are body clipped
•Have limited turnout (moving around room)
•Have limited shelter and it is windy, cold, rainy
•Are sick or malnourished
•MAYBE if they are geriatric
•DEFINITELY if they are shivering
Horses were magnificently designed. Their hair sheds out in the summer and a thick winter coat is produced. That hair “fluffs up” when it is cold outside. The sun warms them up and that heat is transfer and retained. So what do horses need to stay warm?
•Plenty of hay. Forage eating (not grain eating) is what is a heat producer for horses! I try to put their hay in lots of places so the horses can do what they do naturally… and that is graze and walk and graze!
•Plenty of water that is not frozen. They don’t like drinking water when it is below 40 degrees or so.
•Plenty of free roaming space
•Wind blocks (natural or manmade)
So I do blanket the horses when it is going to be rainy, windy, and cold because we have a bunch of geriatrics and we have really poor shelters. However, even when I think that it’s cold out, the horses have a difference of opinion. This is how I found Dawn’s blanket yesterday. She somehow wiggled out of her blanket and left it balled up out in the field!