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Does my horse need a blanket?

By Toni McAllister | Nov-08

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Horse Illustrated MagazineAssuming he is in good health, has appropriate shelter from wind and rain, is not clipped, receives free-choice high-quality forage and has access to clean water that is never frozen, he probably doesn’t need a blanket says Dr. Benjamin Darien, DVM, University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine.

But Dr. Darien advises that human intervention—clipping, life under barn lights (light inhibits coat growth), and diets that don’t allow for continual chewing and digestion to keep core body temperature up—can mandate blanketing even for healthy horses.

Dr. Darien suggests these general “what to wear” guidelines for healthy horses whose lifestyles might require a little extra warmth.

Above 60o Everyone goes naked! (unless wind is a factor)  
50o-60o F

Not clipped: sheet only
Clipped; midweight insulated blanket

40o-50o F

Not clipped; sheet and lightweight liner
Clipped: midweight insulated blanket
30o-40o F Not clipped: midweight insulated blanket
Clipped: heavy blanket
20o-30o F Not clipped: heavy blanket
Clipped: heavy blanket with fleece liner
Below 20o F Heavy blankets and liners for all; bring on the polar fleece for clipped horses.

This article was originally published in the October 2005 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.

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Reader Comments

Lexi    Windsor, WI

1/3/2016 6:44:48 PM

My mare is around 20 and she had a fluffy winter coat but she's older so I wonder if that is a factor. I've never noticed her shivering or huddled but she's also in a pasture during the day that has no shelter. I have one blanket for her and its not very padded or thick. I know she wore it some last winter before I took ownership but I don't know what weather she wore it in. Wisconsin winters can be pretty fickle and I'm new to horse ownership.

Vickey    Pahrump, NV

12/27/2015 9:00:15 AM

I thought sleazy used in winter months for warmth was counter productive because they crush the hair down and the coat loses its insulation capabilities, and should not be used under blankets. I just read this in another article...

Megan    Tulsa, OK

10/25/2015 1:17:31 PM

My horse does not grow a winter coat whatsoever. So if it's around 50 degrees with wind, I put her sleezy hood on. If it dips below 50, she gets her mid-lightweight blanket on also. Under 40, it's heavy coat with sleezy. 32 or below, sleezy, heavy blanket and stalled up. But here in OK the weather is SO unpredictable that I literally watch it hour by hour and sometimes have to run back to the barn and remove/add a blanket/her sleezy. She is very lean also so she doesn't have hardly any extra fat on her to help keep her warm. She's a TB/QH mix.

Tammy    Benton Harbor, MI

3/18/2015 9:55:37 AM

My very healthy, well cared for paint gelding has never grow a heavy enough coat for Michigan winters. He's not being shown now, and we start off naked to see if this will be the year, but I always end up with a thin coated shivering guy. I'm not going to make him suffer, so on goes the blanket. He has free choice grass hay, free access to a stall with a heated automatic waterer where he can escape most of the wind, doesn't get wet unless he wants to, and still no heavy winter coat. So, I blanket him.

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