In many parts of the country, weather has been changing and growing cooler. Time for winter! While many owners may pull out the first blanket that may suit the temperature, there are additional factors to consider before blanketing your horse for the winter season.
- Indoors or out? Blanketing can inhibit the speed at which your horse’s coat grows. If you blanket during mild temperatures too early in the season, your horse may not grow enough coat in time for the winter months. Use a light waterproof sheet, which will keep your horse dry and comfortable, but also allow the cold to help grow the coat. Horses that are stabled tend to experience more frequent blanketing changes to accommodate indoor and outdoor temperature changes.
- Workload? Most serious competition horses are completely clipped to make for faster cool-downs, and tend to look sharper in the ring than a furry beast. A clipped horse also requires more effort to keep warm. Consider a partial clip if you are going to be riding regularly during the winter. Here is a list of clipping illustrations if you’re not sure which one is right for your horse.
- Breed? Some horses tend to grow more or less hair than other breeds. While very hairy Thoroughbreds and fine-coated ponies do exist, knowing your horse’s type is most important. Watch your horse’s coat pattern throughout the year to gauge whether their coat type.
- Access to shelter? If living outdoors, the winter can be a cold and cruel place for an unblanketed horse without any shelter. Horses should always have access to shelter against wind, rain and sun. On the most severe days, you may want to consider bringing your horse indoors if there is no adequate shelter outdoors.
If you are a casual rider who stables your horse outdoors, depending in his or her coat type you may want to consider allowing your horse to go “au natural”. Most horses can adequately grow their own protection if they have proper shelter, food and water even in the coldest of temperatures. The only caution is that when cooling your horse down, take extra care that your horse is clean, cool and dry before turning him out again on a cold day.
Blanketing horses for the winter isn’t rocket science, but with a bit of planning your horse can stay warm and comfortable this upcoming winter season.