Figuring out whether or not to blanket your horse is a personal decision. Make your decision based on facts, and not on what your other horse-owning friends do with their horses.
There is not a “right” or “wrong” way to take care of your horse in bad weather. Some horses need a little help from their owners, some need a lot, and some take quite good care of themselves.
If you are deciding what to do about your horse, you might start by asking yourself these questions:
- Is my horse a baby or weanling who is struggling from poor nutrition?
- Is my horse a senior who needs lots of extra care even in the best of times?
- Is my horse showing signs of discomfort like breathing heavily, agitated, or lethargic? (any of these signs can indicate illness – contact your vet asap)
- Does the weather change so suddenly that my horse is unable to get adjusted to temperature drops?
- Does my horse have a wind break that he can seek shelter from? A side of a barn or run-in, a bank of trees, or a large round bale even?
- Does my horse have a nice healthy coat or is it thin, dull, and sparse?
- Has my horse been getting adequate nutrition on a regular basis to support his immune system?
- Are there other horses who can add their warmth together as a group?
- Has my horse just recovered from a major accident or illness?
Below are some of our horses at Wellness Ranch and how we see to their comfort during cold, nasty weather.
Windstar – an 8 month old colt with poor prenatal nutrition, still gaining weight as a weanling. He has a run-in shed for wind/rain break, a round bale, and a pasture buddy he can stand next to for warmth. Windstar was given several different coats to choose from but eventually chose NOT to wear one at all! Since he was comfortable and didn’t show any signs of stress we chose not to make him wear the extra layer.
Hemi – 30 year old senior recovering from starvation and neglect; poor teeth, limited forage, side of a barn for a windbreak; likes his coat but only needs it in severe weather as he is getting his health back and gaining more weight.
Murray – 26 year old senior with navicular; hard keeper, free-choice hay with extra alfalfa, daily low starch mash with fats for calories/heat; no windbreak except round bale, refuses to stay in a stall – wants his coat so he can remain with his herd.
Living in southeast Texas, these are our criteria for considering blanketing of any horse:
- the temperature drops below 40 degrees
- rain plus high winds plus temperature below 50 degrees
- the horse is very young or very old and has underlying issues
Our best approach in helping horses through bad weather is a solid immune system and a good diet. Having free-choice hay is of utmost importance. Our horses eat as close to nature as possible. They have good digestive health, enjoy grazing, and have access to areas where they can run and just “be a horse”.