Monday, February 23, 2015

"Blanketing Horses"

Howdy Friends,

Coffee Clutch friends and Facebook friends know my position on blanketing our horses is pretty much, guarded. I’ve chatted about horses and blanketing HERE and HERE, and always I say something to the effect, “Understanding there are exceptions, I’m in the anti blanket camp.”

Exceptions. There are always exceptions to and for everything and exceptions are noteworthy, important and viable, my only concern is they can also be used to self justify not making a change. Conversely exceptions can be the reasons folks use to make changes not in the best interest of their horse.
Kessy wears a blanket for the first time in the 5 years we've been together. Unusual weather, temps dropping from 50 to 0 in one day, and she is already shed out a lot ... She wore the blanket evening to mid morning the next day, temps were back up to 30 in 15 hours.
That’s why when I write about blankets and horses I don’t spend a lot of time on the exceptions as to why it’s good to blanket horses, there are valid exceptions, and some horses certainly need and fair better with them, but most would thrive much better without blankets.

My most vehement exception to blanketing horses is how many times it is overdone, improperly done and in far too many instances sloppily managed. We’ve all seen horses standing outside on sunny days of 40, 50 and even 60 degree days blanketed because their caregivers don’t know any better, or worse are simply too lazy or busy to remove them. I’ve personally known horses who have been forced to wear blankets from fall to spring without ever once the blanket being removed. I’ve seen horses with rain rot, sores and bare skin under the blankets. I’ve seen horses gone lame from blankets causing pressure on their shoulder points. On and on this list of bad management and misunderstanding goes on.

However blankets used and managed with the horse’s best care in mind can be extremely helpful. I believe blankets properly managed should be removed daily and the horse brushed. I believe no blanket should be allowed to hang on the horse without removal daily, the horse checked for rubbing and other issues. Temperatures must be watched closely, with the horse’s best interest in mind, not the convenience of the caregiver or owner. Blankets are not easy to manage correctly, and blanketing a horse should not be taken or managed lightly.

Having stated many of my anti-blanket views here it is my hope to give all our friends a chuckle, or at least a smile when I tell you, for the first time ever, I blanketed Kessy this weekend!

Here in Appomattox our average daytime temps this time of year, should be 50+, with nights in the 30’s. And we’d been enjoying them or temps close to that for a while, even with the snow days. Kessy is just about a third or more shed out. Then the other day, as a large chunk of the country, we were visited by that weather they’ve labeled a polar vortex—and temps plummeted. Daytime highs in the teens and clean down to zero overnight!

Kessy’s barn is an open three sided run in, easy to get out of the weather and wind, but it stays about the same air temp as outside. In cold weather she gets all the long stem forage she wants. Some days she’ll eat 35 pounds of hay! However with this huge and sudden swing in temperatures this weekend she needed a little help. I was forced to rummage through my old tack tubs and dig out a blanket I hadn’t seen for a long time. It only had half a dozen mice holes, but was still in good shape.

Kessy’s eyes widened when I introduced her to it, but stood nicely as I adjusted the straps and buckles, and I can’t be sure but I think she liked being swaddled in the overnight zero temps. I removed her blanket the next day when temps rose to near 30 and brushed her. Our weather is not yet settled, but temps in the 30’s or high 20’s are about where we are now, and she is happily au naturel again. And yes, this was one of those things we can call an exception.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry


  1. Dutch, it's hard to know the right thing to do! I'm just up the road from you in Amherst, VA, so we got the same plunging temps after some relatively nice weather. I'd not blanketed either of my horses, and both were in fine health and fuzzy. My general rule of thumb is that, if they need blanketing due to precipitation (rain and/or snow) AND cold (below about 18) AND wind (more than 20 mph), then I might as well put them in their stalls in the barn, with lots of water and hay and the tiny bit of grain they both get. The barn, when they're both in there, is usually about 10 degrees warmer, and they both seem happy. They are very different: one is a fat fuzzy paint who gets fat on air; the other is an Arabian. What do you think of my reasoning? I have been told my logic is faulty because they are colder for not being able to move around (my stalls are 12 x 12, rubber mats, well-bedded with clean shavings, heated water buckets.) But they seem happy, and even on our -8 morning, the Arabian was not shivering. During the day, they've been out in the snow, no blankets.
    I value your opinion on anything horse-related better than anybody's. THANK YOU for all you do.

    1. Howdy Monica, I think you did/do the best thing, in the surprise weather. I have done the same in years past, when I had a barn. Kessy's barn cannot be closed and I worried with her shedding out and the temps dropping to or below zero from 50 she would be cold. I only had the blanket on from dark to mid morning when temps were back to near 30. This is the first time in 5 years I used a blanket and as I said, Kessy never had one on since I've known her. I believe if your barn did not get over 34-40 you did a great thing. Now if your barn is tight enough that with 2 horses in it rose to 50-60 that would be too warm. Thanks and Gitty Up, Dutch