I love to talk to people about their horse blanketing beliefs – there are dozens of different systems, and those within each system believe their way is the only way. As a gal who’s owned trail horses, show horses, outdoor horses and stabled horses, I want to share my own blanketing beliefs and de-bunk a few myths. Make sure to leave a comment below and weigh in with your own thoughts!
First off, I believe that mother nature will always give a healthy horse a warm coat for winter. When the days grows shorter, a horse’s coat grows longer and thicker. Just like certain breeds of dogs, horse’s have two layers of hair: 1) The undercoat, which consists of short, fluffy hair. The hairs serve as insulation by trapping warm air and preventing the loss of body heat. My chestnut horse’s undercoat is a soft beige colour. 2) Guard hairs, which are long, coarse hairs that move with the horse’s muscular system. These hairs shed snow and water, and they can withstand a fair amount of precipitation before soaking through.
If your horse is healthy, can grow a natural coat, and has shelter from wind and the elements, you probably don’t need to blanket.
If your horse is aging, cannot grow a thick coat, does have access to shelter or sweats easily during winter workouts, you will need to design a blanketing system. Here are a few types of blankets you may want to consider for your tack trunk:
Designed to keep a horse clean in a temperate barn. Stable sheets do not contain insulation, and their fabric and construction will not stand up to pasture play.
Designed to keep a horse clean and warm in a cool barn. Stable blankets can contain as little as 180 grams of insulation or as much as 440 grams. Their fabric is usually designed to shed straw and shavings, but they do not stand up well to pasture play.
Designed to keep a horse dry in temperate climates. Turnout sheets normally have a nylon lining with little-to-no insulation. Their fabric and construction is designed to standup to pasture play. Sturdiness is ranked in denier count. 600 denier blankets are suitable for horses who are gentle on clothing, while 1200+ denier blankets are better suited to horses who like to roughhouse. Generally, the higher the denier count, the higher the price of the blanket.
Designed to keep a horse warm and dry in cooler temperatures. Turnout blankets can contain as little as 180 grams of insulation or as much as 440 grams. Like turnout sheets, they’re designed to stand up to paddock play. The higher the denier count, the tougher the blanket.
This is my favourite new trend in horse clothing. Blanket liners are essentially stable blankets designed to be layered under a turnout sheet or turnout blanket. They generally have a closed front and no surcingles or leg straps, and instead have reinforced openings for the over blanket’s straps. The one draw back to blanket liners is that they do not stay in place without an over blanket, and therefore do not make good stable blankets.
Designed to help a sweaty horse dry and return to a normal temperature without incurring a chill. Coolers are usually made of fleece or wool. Some can be used as blanket liners, but coolers will not stand up to pasture play.
So what blankets do you need for your horse and climate?
Horse turned out during cold, dry winters
Make sure your horse as adequate shelter. Use a turnout sheet for the rainy fall, and then add a blanket liner or switch to a heavy-weight turnout blanket when the day time highs drop below -10. Keep a cooler on hand for drying out after a ride.
Horse turned out during mild, wet winters
Make sure your horse has adequate shelter. Use a turnout sheet for the rainy fall season, and then add a blanket liner or switch to a mid-weight turnout blanket once the temperature drops. Keep a cooler on hand for drying out after a ride.
Horse stabled during cold, dry winters
Throw a heavy-weight turnout blanket on your horse before sending him outside to play. If he stays in a warm barn, use a stable sheet or no sheet when he comes inside. If he stays in a cold barn, leave the turnout blanket on or swap it for a heavy stable blanket.
Horse stabled during mild, wet winters
Throw a mid-weight turnout blanket on your horse before sending him outside to play. If he stays in a warm barn, use a stable sheet or no sheet when he comes inside. If he stays in a cool barn, leave the turnout blanket on or swap it for a mid-weight stable blanket.
My horse grows a thick winter coat and only needs a rain sheet.
Remember how I talked about the horse’s undercoat? How it traps warm air and acts as natural insulation? No matter how thick your horse’s natural coat, never send him out into the cold winter air with nothing but a rain sheet to cover him. Sheets flatten your horse’s hair, and any natural insulation his coat offers will dissapear. Uninsulated sheets are meant for mild weather. If you are blanketing your horse in the winter, you need to replace his natural hair insulation with the polyfill in a stable blanket or turnout blanket.
Now tell me, what are your blanketing beliefs?