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Blankets can help horses ward off winter’s chill

Amanda Cornwell Home, Lawn, Specialty Product Manager 9/30/2010

For me, there’s nothing cozier than snuggling under a warm blanket to ward off winter’s chill. Doesn’t it make sense that your horse would feel the same? After all, he is likely to be exposed to wind, snow, freezing rain, and cold temperatures while turned out during the winter months, and a blanket can help protect him from those elements.

Whether you blanket your horse or not depends on many factors, including body condition, activity level, hair coat, nutrition, and your facilities. Some horses are more likely than others to need a winter blanket: show horses, clipped horses, southern horses that move north, older horses, or horses exposed to severe weather with inadequate shelter.

When choosing a blanket, proper fit is paramount. Blankets that are too small can rip or cause rub marks and sore spots on the withers, shoulder, chest, and hips. Too-large blankets can easily slip and twist, which can cause the horse to become tangled. A rule of thumb for determining what blanket size you need is to measure from the middle of the horse’s chest to the horse’s tail and then add two inches to that number.

Blanket linings should also be of a smooth material to prevent damage to hair, such as the mane near the withers.

Overheating can be a problem with blanketed horses, so each horse may need two or three types and weights of blankets. What is appropriate for low, nighttime temperatures in a barn is not necessarily desirable for daytime temperatures in a sunny paddock.

Waterproof blankets keep precipitation off a horse but often do not allow heat and moisture from normal body respiration to escape. A better choice is a waterproof, breathable blanket that prevents rain and snow from entering but also allows moisture to escape. A too-heavy blanket can cause a horse to sweat, become wet, and then become chilled. This can sap a horse’s energy, lower his resistance, and create an open invitation for respiratory infections. Check for overheating or dampness by slipping your hand under the blanket at the girth and flank areas.

Your Co-op has many different styles and sizes of winter blankets available. Check with the equine experts for help in choosing the one that’s right for your horses.

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