This was a question my horse friend sent me a text about last week. Are you putting blankets on your girls this winter?
As soon as September comes, the shorter days and cooler nights get us thinking about how to keep our horses warm through the winter. We are getting catalogs sent to us daily featuring pages and pages of horse blankets for every temperature scenario. A good horse owner should have multiple blankets or our horses will freeze to death is pretty much the concern. Plus who can resist the attractive marketing of blankets from the standard classic colors to the cutest tie dye zebra print for your horse. I even get temporarily lured into how cute my girls would look in them. Then I think about how horses have existed for 55 million years not needing tie dye.
The first year of owning Bailey I bought a purple heavy weight blanket for those sub zero temperatures, and I also bought a water proof blanket for cold wet temperatures. I was told at the barn I was boarding at to provide those for my horse, so of course I did. I put one on her everyday pretty much from September through April, checking the forecast to be sure I had the perfect weight blanket on to protect her and keep her healthy and warm. A friend of mine was telling me at her barn there was an owner that had a temperature chart linked to every blanket weight she had for her horse. The barn staff was expected I suppose to hourly check the temperature and adjust the blanket on her horse, and layer if necessary. That sounds ridiculous to me, and stressful for all including the horse.
That was then.
It has been four years of no blankets, and I am happy to report that I have very furry healthy happy horses in cold and wet weather. Bailey and Cheyenne are given the opportunity to decide for themselves to seek covered protection from the weather and they have hay access 24 hours a day to help create warmth. I don’t miss at all storing blankets in the off season, cleaning blankets, repairing blankets, and putting the blankets on and off the horse all the time.
The lifestyle my horses have through winter is very casual. They are not clipped and ridden aggressively indoors or outdoors where they are sweating and may require other options to control their temperature. My girls enjoy the easy life of occasional rides around the property for probably under a half hour as my toes get cold about then. They also as I have mentioned carry a fuller figure, well Cheyenne at least, and that excess fat helps them stay warm through the winter.
There is lots of scientific evidence to support that blankets are not necessary and are actually worse for many horses. You can google that for more specific information. I found it very interesting when I was making my decision on my horses. The important thing to remember is stay committed to your choice for the season. If you have already started blanketing your horse, but like the idea of not blanketing, it’s too late. You have already disrupted the natural insulating “loft” in their coat.
How you go about deciding if you need a blanket for your horse is of course your choice. That’s the beauty of owning a horse. There is always a list of special circumstances in every decision regarding the care of your horse.
So if you are heading to Equine Affaire this weekend, save your money on the horse blanket and buy yourself a cute jacket.