September 24, 2013
Dear Boarders and fellow horse lovers,
With winter on our heels, it’s time to begin thinking about keeping our
horses warm and healthy throughout the cold season. In this edition of the
CEC Newsletter, we will talk about the types of blankets and their uses,
blanketing strategies, and how to select/buy blankets that suit your
particular horse’s needs.
If you have a horse blanket at the stable, please retrieve it and have it
it to the barn in a sealed white trash bag with your horses name on
it. Please make sure it is dry to ensure proper storage.
Blanketing strategies that will keep
your horse healthy and happy all season.
If you keep a horse in any of the many regions where winter brings
significant cold, you're naturally concerned about his well-being. After
all, you can always step indoors for a restorative cup of cocoa; he's out
there 24/7, coping with whatever nature dishes up. When you feel anxious as
the mercury drops, however, remind yourself that your horse is much better
equipped to deal with cold than with heat. If you help him make the most of
his natural defenses, he'll come through the coldest winter in comfort and
good health. And a major part of doing that is making sure he dependably has
the blanketing he needs. The question of whether to blanket at all gets
plenty of discussion among horse owners as every winter comes around. A
general rule of thumb is that if your horse is clipped, he absolutely needs
blanketing. And you need to clip him if you expect you'll regularly be
working him hard enough to make him sweat--unless you have lots of time to
cool him out after every ride. There are also some horses who need
blanketing because, for whatever reason, they just never grow the heavy coat
that would give them cold-climate winter protection. An unclipped horse
who's underweight can benefit from blanketing, too: Having external
protection from the cold means that he won't need to burn up so many
calories in order to keep warm, so blanketing may make getting him back in
Signs Your Horse is Chilly
Instead of checking the thermometer, check your horse. The fact that you
feel chilly doesn't necessarily mean he's uncomfortable. If your unclipped
horse's winter coat looks "fluffed out" on a frigid day but his attitude is
happy and normal, he's coping with the weather as nature intended: His
coat's hairs are trapping insulating air against his skin to prevent heat
loss. But if he's standing with his feet close together, his head down, and
his tail clamped, and if his hair has the appearance of standing on end,
he's probably uncomfortably cold. If he's shivering, he is definitely cold.
In either case, you need to blanket him or bring him inside.
Another point to remember: If your horse is turned out, and especially if he
doesn't have trees or a run-in for shelter, the wind will affect his comfort
as much as the temperature.
You can use a three-layer blanketing system that enables you to adapt
horses' clothing to weather changes quickly and efficiently. It gives more
flexibility than a single heavy "mega" blanket. And all of the layers are
breathable, so a horse's body heat can drive moisture out of them and into
the surrounding air.
Use a lightweight polyester-fleece sheet for this next-to-the-skin layer.
The fleece wicks away moisture and doesn't irritate sensitive skin. (This is
especially important if you're blanketing a newly clipped horse, but the
layer that lies against the skin needs to be soft and friendly for any
horse.) Don't use a cotton sheet, because cotton absorbs and retains
moisture. And don't use an "Irish knit" or other type of anti-sweat sheet
with a coarse or uneven texture for a blanketing under layer.
This can be a quilted stable blanket or one of the heavier blanket liners,
such as the style made of quilted nylon with insulation.
The best choice for this layer is a waterproof/breathable turnout sheet or
midweight turnout blanket. Whether you go for an uninsulated sheet or an
insulated blanket depends on how severe your climate is and how sensitive to
cold your horse is. A turnout sheet or blanket with a tail flap, because it
protects the back of the rump and the dock area from rain and also helps
prevent a strong wind from flipping the rear of the blanket up over the
Here's how this blanketing system works:
On moderate days, say around 25 degrees Fahrenheit with not much wind, your
horse can go out in the fleece under layer plus the outer layer. As
conditions get more severe--windier, and/or lower temperatures--add the
middle layer for increased protection. The way you adjust his clothing for
the conditions will vary with his sensitivity to cold and whether or how
extensively he's clipped. I always use the bottom and top layers for horses
who are clipped.
An additional advantage to this system is that the fleece under layer is
easy to wash and dry. Using it (and laundering it frequently), avoids
letting oils and scurf from the horse's coat collect on the lining of his
turnout sheet or blanket.
Always check the TV weather channel or listen to the radio weather forecast
on winter mornings. Even if the temperature is really low when you leave for
work, you may need to lighten up the layers if the forecast is for a sunny
day warming up to 40 degrees. Horses will do better if they are a little
cool when they're first turned out than if they have been cooking in a
blanket at midday. If you are at home on a day that's turned warm and wonder
if you horse has too much on, slide your hand under all the layers at his
shoulder and chest areas. His coat should feel smooth, flat, dry and kind of
"temperature neutral"--not really warm. If you feel any dampness, you know
for sure he's wearing too many clothes and you need to lighten up.
A final word on blanketing in snowy weather: First, brush accumulated snow
off your horse's blanket before you put him in his stall. This prevents the
melted snow from wetting his bedding and reduces the opportunities for
moisture to find its way through the blanket's waterproofing. Second, if his
outer blanket looks damp, resist the impulse to take it off until you've
felt his back and sides underneath his blanket(s) with your bare hand. If
he's dry and comfortable in those areas, leave the blanket on--even if it's
damp around the neck and chest. Modern blanket fabrics and construction are
designed so that if you leave the blanket on, your horse's body heat will
drive moisture out of it. If you take the blanket off and hang it in the
barn, it will freeze into a "board" and require a trip indoors to dry.
Why Not All Equines Need a Winter Horse
Stable Blankets Can Make Some Horses Colder in the Winter. When the cold
winter weather hits, many horse owners automatically bring out the horse
blankets. However, a horse’s normal winter coat is much more insulating than
a blanket, and unless the horse has been clipped, is outside without a
windbreak, or has been moved to a colder climate during winter months, it
will usually actually be warmer without a blanket. The longer winter coat
helps to trap the body heat against the skin. Also, tiny muscles in the skin
raise the hairs, creating tiny air pockets that heighten the insulating
effect. Flatten this ‘fluffed-up’ coat by adding layers of light blankets,
or even one heavy one, can actually make the horse colder.
If a horse is not accustomed to being blanketed, it can put the horse at
increased risk. If it becomes overheated, it will begin to sweat. The
dampness causes it to become chilled later, which then increases the risk of
pneumonia or other respiratory infections. If a horse must be blanketed in
the colder temperatures of morning, make sure that you or another
responsible hand is there to take the blanket off when temperatures rise
later in the day.
Therefore, it is important to choose a blanket that is appropriate to how
much extra protection from the weather that the horse genuinely needs.
Modern blankets are much warmer and resistant to weather than traditional
wool blankets, using inner and outer shells with an insulating fiber
between. Outer shells are usually made of synthetics which are water
repellent and windproof, while the inner lining is smoother than wool so it
won’t chafe against the horse’s skin. The filling between them provides
warmth with much less bulk than older blankets. This means the overall
blanket is light enough not to flatten the horse’s coat, and is more durable
than their wool or cotton predecessors.
The outer shells, made of nylon fiber, will not snag or tear and are treated
to be waterproof, which also makes them resistant to rot and mildew. This
waterproofing also helps to hold heat in, but in the most extreme cold, the
coating might crack. Foam particles or fiberfill usually make up the filler
due to their insulating properties, without weight.
Making sure that the blanket fits the horse properly is important,
regardless of the blanket type. One that is too tight will irritate the skin
and put the horse at risk of developing abrasions and sores, while a blanket
that is too large can slip down under the horse’s belly. Not only will that
result in the loss of almost all the blanket’s insulating ability, if the
horse gets its legs tangled in the blanket’s straps, it can be seriously
injured. Putting the blanket on properly also helps to ensure a good fit.
Put it on well forward, then slide it gently back into position to keep it
from pulling the coat the wrong way.
Each horse should have its own blanket. Sharing blankets can facilitate the
spread of skin problems such as girth itch, ringworm, and other fungal
infections. Even if no horses in the stable have known skin problems, fungal
spores can cling to the blankets and be spread to other horses. The blankets
should be washed if they are used often during the winter, at least twice,
using cold water and a disinfectant soap. Rinse the blankets well to make
sure that no soap residue remains to irritate the horse’s skin. Cold water
washing is preferable to dry cleaning. Dry cleaning will not remove odors,
and the heat and chemical solvents can dissolve the waterproofing and shrink
Five Tips for Buying Winter Horse Blankets
When temperatures get extremely cold, your horse will likely need to wear a
winter blanket. There are a few things you need to consider when buying
winter horse blankets. Some of these things include type, outer shell, and
fit. This article will give you a few tips for buying winter horse blankets.
One of the first things you need to consider when buying winter horse
blankets is their type. There are two types, namely stable and turnout
blankets. A stable blanket is thick and comfortable and is worn when your
horse is stabled. Turnout blankets will provide more maneuverability as they
are designed to be worn when your horse is in the pasture.
● Outer Shell
One of the next things you need to consider when buying winter horse
blankets is their outer shell. You should look for an outer shell that is
made of material that is windproof and waterproof. These winter horse
blankets should also be resistant to rot and mildew.
You will also need to think about the fit of the winter horse blankets. If
you buy a blanket that fits your horse too tightly, abrasions and sores may
develop due to skin irritation. On the other hand, you should avoid buying
winter horse blankets that are too loose. These blankets can slip down and
get tangled in your horse's legs which may lead to serious injury.
One of the next things to consider when buying winter horse blankets is
their inner lining. You should look for a lining that is smoother than wool.
This will prevent the lining from irritating your horse's skin. You should
look to buy winter horse blankets that are filled with foam particles or
fiberfill. These materials are much lighter while providing the necessary
If you have more than one horse, you will need to buy winter horse blankets
for each one. You should never let your horses share blankets. If you share
winter horse blankets, you will increase the risk of spreading skin diseases
to your other horses.
These are a few tips for buying winter horse blankets. Turnout blankets
offer more maneuverability which is useful when the horse is grazing in the
pasture. You should also make sure that the winter horse blankets don't fit
too tightly or your horse may develop sores and abrasions. Make sure that
you buy each one of your horses its own separate blanket.