Much Ado about Winter

Winter is almost here again and with the colder weather comes unique health concerns for our horses. Let’s get one of those worries out of the way so you can spend these beautiful days riding and enjoying your horse!

The wagon rests in winter, the sleigh in summer,

the horse never. – Yiddish Proverb

“To blanket or not to blanket?” that is the question many horse owners ask. When the weather turns cold we want our warm jackets on and want our horses to stay warm also, right? So what is the answer?

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It depends, but for most horses it is best to naturally thermo-regulate since their fluffy winter coat has natural loft for insulation. Make an exception for horses that are body-clipped since their natural weather protection has been removed. Also take into account your horse’s age and weight. Geriatric or underweight horses may need a blanket to help regulate their body temperature so that they don’t need to burn extra fuel to stay warm.

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Remember that once you start blanketing your horse for the season, you cannot stop as that natural loft is gone and the horse is used to the blanket providing protection. An alternative to blanketing is supplying your horse with plenty of high quality hay. Most horses are happy to eat more! Increasing hay, not grain, is best. Grains can produce a fast heat and sometimes even sweating but hay creates a slow, steady warmth.

If you do choose to blanket then be sure it suits the average winter temperatures in your area. One that is too warm can cause sweating, over-heating, and even dehydration. And remove the blanket during the day as it warms up outside so again it does not cause over-heating. A blanket that is not warm enough is worse than none at all, as the blanket compresses the hair removing its natural insulation qualities.

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Other situations where blanketing may be appropriate is after riding if your horse is sweaty and the ambient temperature is dropping then a fleece blanket or sheet is good to wick away the moisture and prevent chilling. The fleece can be removed after a short time or the regular blanket can be placed over the fleece if removal isn’t an option. The other situation is when it is cold, wet, and windy outside which can cause a horse to get chilled. Blanketing for a day or two in this type of weather may be appropriate, particularly if there is no good place for the horse to be out of the weather.

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To blanket or not? We hope now you have the answer for your horse! If not, or if you have other questions about Winter Horse Care, contact us by email at info@HealingHandsEquine.com or visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HealingHandsEquine and send us a message! We’d love to hear from you.