Thursday, February 25, 2010

When to Blanket Your Horse. Just how cold does it have to be?

Just asked this question the other day.......“When should I put a blanket on my horse?”

As with questions in general and horse questions in particular there is usually no easy answer. There are certainly a lot of opinions on this. My opinion is all horses should be broke or trained to accept a blanket. A blanket is a good tool to use when the horse is colicing or you are trying to minimize body heat loss after heavy exercise particularly in cold weather. But the intent of today’s question was due to the colder than normal temperature we were experiencing in West Texas.

I have an old roping horse, named Roy, that’s 27 years old. I have talked about him before in other posts. Anyway, he never grows much hair so I generally blanket him when the temperature is below 28 to 30 degrees. If it is early in the cold weather season and he hasn’t grown the minimal hair that he does grow, I may throw a blanket on him when it’s in the mid 30’s.

My other horses grow a substantial amount of hair. In fact my Mustang looks like Sasquatch. All my horse’s are broke to wear blankets but don’t generally do so until the temperature drops in the low 20’s.

Horses that grow up in cold climate are more accustomed to cold weather and may not need blankets until very, very low temperatures – for me this would be low teens to hell freezing over. Keep in mind that horses in the wild or turned out in large acreage can move around keeping blood moving whereas horses confined to stall, particular small stalls cannot.

Putting a lot of work on a horse then into a trailer for a long ride home when he is still hot and not dried off, especially in cold weather, may not be such a good idea. In really cold weather (for me that’s teens to high 20’s) I’ll unsaddle my horse and put a lined canvas blanket on him for the cold ride home.

Also keep in mind that wearing blankets early in the cold season can minimize hair growth. In fact, some show people keep sheets and blankets on their horses practically year round to keep that short hair look and make them easy to groom. Sometimes they keep them in perpetually lighted stalls to help reduce hair growth.

There are many different styles to choose from: Velcro belly bands versus belly straps with hooks; pull over the head versus buckles in the chest. Introduce the blanket to the horse for the first time like you would when saddling him for the first time. It’s the odd horse that can’t be conditioned to accept a blanket even the ‘pull over the head’ ones.

I gotta say that the pull over the head, velcro belly band blankets, even if I still use the old buckle type, are quick and easy to put on. If you are using a velcro belly band blanket for the first time, sack your horse out on the velcro sound. Someone recently related to me that the velcro noise really spooked one of their horse and almost made her run through a fence. In any case, you should be able to buy a good quaity horse blanket for under $50.

Blankets are purchased by size, measured in inches, from the middle of the horse’s chest, around the side to the middle of the butt. publishes a "rules-of-thumb" guide for blanket fitting.

68" - For 1 to 2-Year Olds (13-1/2 to 14 hands tall)
72" - For 2-Year-Old-Horse (14-1/2 to 15 hands tall)
76" - For Average Horse (15-1/2 to 16 hands tall)
80" - For Large Horse (16-1/2 to 17 hands tall)

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