Apparently there's actual controversy over whether to blanket a horse in winter.
|Annie likes her blanket, but would have preffered pastel purple over blue.|
I'm serious! This happens! I've been on boards and such where one person will claim that blanketing ruins a horse for life: "If you put a blanket on them all the time you mess all that [natural toughness] up and you will be forced to blanket that horse until the day it dies." Another person will accuse non-blanketers of cruelty on the level of clubbing baby seals. Wow people. Settle down.
Whether or not to blanket a horse is a decision you can make based on weather conditions, the condition of the horse, etc-- but either way, it's probably fine.
Here are the FACTS:
- Yes, wild horses do survive without blankets. But some do get frostbite, or become ill.
- Blanketing a horse does not cause permanent physical changes. Like "hat hair," blanketing will temporarily smush down a horse's hair, limiting its ability to trap warm air for insulation when the blanket is removed. Just brush the horse to help it re-fluff.
- A soaking wet blanket is worse than no blanket at all.
- Older horses, thin horses and clipped horses obviously need a bit more help to stay warm.
- Feeding more hay, more times during the day, will do a lot to help horses stay warm.
- Well-fed horses with some kind of shelter will not be totally fine in any weather conditions, just the vast majority of them. Generally, wet + bitter cold = dangerous. One or the other is ok.
- Use common sense. If you are outside and absolutely freezing even with your winter coat on, you horse might need a blanket.
|Wild mustang showing signs of frostbite.|
For me, blanketing is usually based on guilt. If I feel cold in my apartment, dammit, I feel guilty about my horses being out in the colder pasture.
When I was a teen, full of callous disregard for anyone except myself, I never used to blanket my horses. They survived just fine.
Then I grew up a bit, developing some more empathy along the way, and started blanketing my older horse.
Now, I blanket any horse when the temperature drops into single digits, or when there's a nasty wind, or when I just feel like I should-- but sometimes, after forgetting to haul the newly-dried blankets back to the farm from my kitchen, I will also say, "screw it guys, suck it up tonight, okay?" and not feel too terrible.
By the time I'm old, I'll probably be swathing every living thing in crocheted underwear and hats as early as October, for no other reason than to take pictures like these:
You can tell they're absolutely delighted.
More Notes on Blanketing:
- DO practice putting one on your horse BEFORE you absolutely have to. It sucks really bad to train a reluctant/spooky horse to hold still for the blanket. It sucks even worse when you're freezing, the ground is icy and the wind is flapping the blanket around everywhere.
- The older over-the-head type is especially bad for spooky horses. Invest in a front-buckled version. Trust me on this one.
- DO take blankets off when it gets warmer!! Horses with their winter coats will suffer from being overheated otherwise.
- Blanket sizing: take a tape measure and measure your horse from the middle of its chest, along its side, to its butt crack. Round to the nearest even number.
- Make sure your horse's blanket fits okay and isn't rubbing anywhere. Fleece padding can help prevent rubs and pulling. If you blanket all the time, take it off once in a while to make sure it isn't biting into a horse's neck. Your horse will thank you for the break, and the opportunity to run around and roll freely.