When do you start to blanket your horses?

Posted in: Horse Care

Well, it’s official.  Winter has finally decided to make it’s appearance in Montana. The big question for many winter residing horse owners is; to blanket or not to blanket my horse?

My feelings are that blanketing your horse depends on several different variables.  Here are four of the main circumstances that come to mind:

1. Your winter riding/competing plans.

2. Your horse’s housing situation. (enclosed stall, open stall with run, or pasture)

3. Your horse’s feed program. (constant forage, or scheduled feedings)

4. The weather.  (probably goes without saying)

For our personal situation, blanketing certain horses at certain times, seems to be the theme.  Most of our horses are kept pretty natural. We do not keep any of our horses in enclosed stalls, and many of them have no cover at all. They are all turned out to pasture and have feed in the form of a round bale accessible to them at all times. The only exception, being our stud, who has a very large pen (small pasture) and is fed on more of a schedule.

So when do I blanket, you might ask?

I blanket anything that I’m consistently riding indoors all winter. I do this to keep the hair slightly shorter just for the ease of cooling down and getting dry after a work out. If they have super long hair, it really adds on to my riding time (or should I say non-riding time). They sweat more easily (because they are fully insulated), and then it takes much longer to get them dry before leaving the barn.  I will still ride “other” horses on occasion that aren’t blanketed, but I’m very aware of how warm I let them get, and make sure I have plenty of cool down/drying time.  I don’t ride in a heated barn daily, but when I do travel to other barns that are, my horses are overly warm if their hair is too long.

These horses have a run in shed to stay dry and out of the wind.

These horses have a run in shed to stay dry and out of the wind.

I blanket any horses that are lacking cover when crazy weather is rolling in.  If they have been rained on, and I know it’s going to be freezing that night with high winds, I give them a waterproof/windproof layer. (Do not put on a blanket that isn’t water proof during wet weather. It will hold moisture and do more damage than good.) These horses are not blanketed most days, so it’s very important to remember to take them off when the sun comes out.  Believe it or not,  some of my horses are too warm in a blanket (even when it’s below zero) if the sun is shinning!  If they have access to a run in shed, I do not blanket them.  They have constant access to feed and water, and you’d be shocked to see how they lay in the snow to cool down most days! Even in Western MT!

Full cover Blanket

This blanket does the job for our stud when there is rain, heavy winds, and freezing temps.

I also blanket our stud when the weather gets extra frigged, or in times of wind and rain. He does not live with his head buried in a round bale and huddled up with his buddies for warmth.  He gets fed morning and night, and though I do tend to feed him extra always, I like to know he’s warm if he runs out of feed in the middle of the day or night.  Basically “I” feel better when he’s babied, but I think he likes it too.

If you do decide to blanket your horse sporadically like I do for some, its very important that you get those blankets off when it warms up.  Most horses living in winter climates do a great job of keeping themselves warm naturally, and the last thing you want is for them to sweat during the day, and then be wet when the sun goes down.

And hey! Who needs to go to the gym when you can trudge through feet of snow, wearing 3 layers of your own clothes, packing around winter horse blankets???


Posted in: Horse Care

About Jessie Salter

Horses have been a part of my life since I can remember. Riding with my Dad as a youngster was what I lived for. There was nothing better than working cows, or racing my dad across an alfalfa field. It seems I never grew out...

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