Do you have to blanket your horse?
Blankets can be a great way to keep your horse clean, but they are not essential. In fact, many horses have issues with winter blankets, which can cause skin problems or excess weight gain. Ultimately, the decision to blanket your horse is a matter of personal preference and is highly dependent on the weather in your area. If you live in a very cold climate, you may find it necessary to blanket your horse during the winter months. However, if you live in an area that doesn’t dip too far below freezing temperatures (including windchill), you may be able to get away with skipping the blanket and save yourself some money!
Skipping the Blanket
Your horse’s needs may also vary depending on the time of year. There are some cases where throwing an extra blanket on your equine friend will make things worse, not better. For example, once a hot horse becomes sweaty, putting on a blanket can start to feel like being smothered in a wet sweat suit. Blankets can also be uncomfortable for horses with skin conditions such as rain rot or ringworm and can trap moisture within their coat, increasing irritation and making the issue worse. If you’re considering draping your horse in a warm blanket for the winter months, consider that horses with long or thick coats won’t need them unless they live in unusually cold climates or spend long periods of time outside without shelter in freezing temperatures.
Some horses—especially those that have previously lived outdoors—may even find warm blankets to be too comfortable and become complacent or lazy when wearing one. In this case, it’s best to let them go all-natural during mild weather and reserve their wardrobe items for rainier days.
Easy Does It
- Let your horse acclimate to the weather. Just like you need time to get used to a hot and humid summer day, so does your horse. Don’t ask him to do too much in the heat right off the bat.
- Don’t overdo it. That means if he’s sweating, it’s time to call it quits for the day and cool him down.
- Work your horse early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Avoid riding him during the hottest part of the day (usually between 10am and 4pm).
- Be smart about how far or fast you’re going, how much gear you’re wearing, and how long you’ll be out there exercising.
Planning ahead is a must for any horse owner. With the summer months fast approaching, now’s the time to make sure you’re ready to help your horse beat the heat. Consider these tips:
- Start planning now! You can’t wait until temperatures begin rising in May or June before taking action. You need to have everything in place beforehand so you and your horse can be prepared when things get hot.
- Develop an emergency plan if it looks like temperatures are going to spike suddenly and significantly or if there’s a weather warning (like a tornado forecast). Work with other owners as well as trainers and veterinarians who are familiar with your equine friend(s). Learn what warning signs you should look out for and set up a plan of action that everyone involved understands.
Keep Your Horse Cool
- Keep Your Horse Cool. There are a few methods you can use to make your horse cool in hot weather:
- Avoid the Sun – If possible, keep your horse out of direct sunlight and in the shade as much as possible. This is especially important at midday when the sun is hottest and brightest.
- Avoid Heat Sources – Try to get your horse away from natural heat sources like steam vents or geysers, which will of course heat up their environment. You should also watch out for unnatural heat sources that may not be apparent, such as a vent near a furnace or an exhaust pipe from a car. These can heat up an area quickly without you realizing it.
Protect Your Horse’s Skin
Blankets are supposed to protect your horse, right? Well, yes and no. Blankets may keep your horse warm in cold weather, but they can cause serious problems if used when it’s hot out. The blanket can rub and chafe your horse’s skin, causing dermatitis. It can also create an environment that encourages the growth of fungus or ringworm on the skin. That would be bad enough if it was just those two things! But blankets don’t just protect against heat loss—they also protect against heat gain by keeping insects away from your horse’s skin. So if you don’t use a blanket to cover him up at night, biting insects will feast on his blood and leave behind itchy bites.
Impact of Blankets on Horses with Health Problems
- Blankets can cause skin problems in some horses. Rain rot is a common disease that can result from a wet, dirty blanket covering your horse’s back. Fungal infections like ringworm can also develop under blankets and worsen in warm weather.
- Blankets can lead to overheating and sweating, especially if the horse is young or has existing health conditions. Horses with respiratory problems are particularly vulnerable to overheating, as they may not be able to breathe easily through their noses anymore when wearing a blanket.
- If your horse sweats excessively because of a blanket, he could become dehydrated on top of over-heated. Overheated and dehydrated horses tend to be less alert than their well-hydrated counterparts, so pay attention for listlessness or unusual behavior in these situations.
- Blankets worn for long durations can stir up allergies in some horses—in the same way you might get skin irritation from wearing an itchy sweater too much throughout the day, your horse could show signs of discomfort after being covered for an extended period of time.
Get in the habit of checking out your horse’s skin and coat before draping a blanket on him.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: You should always be checking on your horse’s coat and skin condition. You’ll want to do this anyway to make sure that your horse is healthy and doesn’t have any sores or rashes. Obviously, if you have a horse with a health problem, you need to consider how the blanket will affect his condition even more carefully. Remember to check for signs of any problems like heat rash before you drape him in a blanket.
If you are going to use a blanket, remember that it should be the right type for your horse. If he has short hair that doesn’t grow quickly in fall and spring, he may not need any extra insulation. If you are going to use a blanket, think about how thick it should be based on the climate where you live and when you will use it (for instance, at night or during the day).