Ponies in a Blanket

Today’s Tip: Only blanket if you have to. You only have to in extenuating circumstances. Simple as that.

As we drove along in the car today, my husband asked my opinion on a conversation he’d had the other day. He is very much a “horse husband” rather than a “horseman” (fellow listener of Horses in the Morning, my favorite internet radio show, developed a Horse Husband Rating List from which I derive my labels). He is kind of interested in learning about horses, but it will never be a passion for him. So the conversation…the other day someone asked him why she saw some horses with blankets on and some horses without blankets on. He provided several reasons and then asked me if he was kind of on track or just “blowing smoke” (his words). These are the reasons he gave:

  1. Some horse owners are just over-protective, just as some parents are over-protective of their children.
  2. Some of it depends on the type of horse. Some horses come from places like Iceland and Norway [Editorial Comment: He wants and Icelandic and I care for two Norwegian Fjords, hence where this comment comes from]. They survived in cold weather for 10,000 years so they’re better at it here.
  3. Some horses are show horses so they might have their hair clipped short. [I wish I could remember his wording better on this reason. His phrasing, to a horse person, was hilarious.]
  4. Sometimes it depends on the weather conditions. Like if it’s rainy or freezing rain they might have something on.

I was actually pretty impressed with his explanation. He did a pretty good job. I did tell him that the second one was a little silly. It might have some validity, but pretty minimal. I also added that there are some individual circumstances such as age (old horses don’t regulate body temperature well), illness, horses recovering from underfeeding, or any other causes for not maintaining body temperature well.

Evee is perfectly happy out in the snow.

Blanketing is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Generally I think horse people over-blanket. I’ve read in several reputable magazines that horses are comfortable down to the single digits, maybe even down to 0* F. I believe it. Mine seem perfectly happy as long a it’s not blizzard conditions and/or if they can get out of the wind. I do bring them in if the temp is below 0* or if the windchill gets below -5* to -10* (depending on conditions).

My short answer, if someone were to ask me when to blanket, is “when there are extenuating circumstances.” If the temperature drops significantly below what is normal for the horse (“normal” for our winter is 10-20*, so -20* is below normal; for some “normal” winter temps are 40* so a sudden 10* might warrant a blanket), that is “extenuating.” If it’s really windy, particularly combined with cold temperatures, that might be “extenuating” (I prefer my horses to have a wind block and then it’s not extenuating). If it’s raining and, IMO, below about 50*, that’s worth blanketing (or providing a roof to shelter them from the rain or even both if it’s a run-in shelter). If the horse is ill, etc., that is definitely “extenuating.” And finally, if the horse is body-clipped, that is “extenuating.” Otherwise, don’t put a blanket on that horse.

Pretty is a woolly mammoth in the winter and it takes her forever to shed. She’ll be at the Midwest Horse Fair April 15-17. She’ll have to be body clipped. I’m not happy about having to do it or about having to blanket her, but even I, the anti-blanketing queen, will break down and do it!

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