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Extension > Agriculture > Livestock > Horse > Horse care and management > To blanket or not to blanket

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To blanket or not to blanket

Marcia Hathaway, PhD, University of Minnesota

We have received numerous questions lately regarding blanketing. A horse's winter coat can be an excellent insulator, but its insulating value is lost if it gets wet. It is important to keep the horse dry and sheltered from moisture.

Research has been conducted on the benefits of blanketing a horse to reduce the effects of cold weather. However, most horses are blanketed for various reason (show schedules) and/or personal beliefs of the horse's owner. Blanketing a horse is necessary to reduced the effects of cold or inclement weather when:

  1. There is no shelter available during turnout periods and the temperatures drop below 5°F, or the wind chill is below 5°F.
  2. There is a chance the horse will become wet (not usually a problem with snow, much more of a problem with rain, ice, and/or freezing rain and chilly temps).
  3. The horse has had its winter coat clipped.
  4. The horse is very young.
  5. The horse has not been acclimated to the cold.

Keep in mind a horse will continue to develop a natural winter coat until December 22 (Winter Solstice), when days are becoming shorter. Horses begin to lose their winter coat (and start forming their summer coat) as the days begin to get longer (starting on December 23). Blanketing before December 22 will decrease a horse's natural winter coat.

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