If you want to start an argument among horse folks, bring up the subject of the temperature at which a horse needs a blanket. In the view of many owners, blankets aren't required, even in the coldest of climates. On the other end of the spectrum are those who blanket on the first chilly day in fall. The latter usually have a substantial collection of light, medium and heavy blankets for their equines.
Horses Who Require Blankets
Regardless of temperature, certain horses must have blankets in cold weather. These include:
- Horses whose coats are clipped.
- Geriatric horses.
- Foals or weanlings.
- Underweight horses in poor condition.
- Horses relocated to a cold climate from a warm one.
- Horses turned out in a field with no shelter, in wet weather or with temperature or wind chills below 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you don't clip your horse, his natural coat should grow long enough to insulate him from all but subzero temperatures. If you decide to blanket a horse with a natural coat, the University of Minnesota Extension recommends waiting until after Dec. 22, the winter solstice. That's when winter coat growth stops, so blanketing before that date will lessen the amount of hair your horse grows. Keep in mind that snow can actually help insulate a horse's coat.
Blanketing Clipped Horses
If you intend to show or ride your horse a great deal during the winter, it's a good idea to clip him. A winter coat will make him sweat during exercise, and the long cooling-out period in cold weather is an invitation to illness.
At about 40 degrees, put a lightweight blanket on him. At 30 degrees, he needs a medium weight blanket, and once the temperature drops down to 20 degrees or less, a heavyweight blanket is necessary.
The actual time that you must start blanketing depends on your region. While this temperature gauge is a good frame of reference for unclipped horses requiring blankets, such as healthy young or aged equines, ask your vet about blanketing needs for animals in poor condition or those with special needs.
Winter temperatures can change from day to day, so you must blanket your horse appropriately. A horse can develop a chill if he's sweating under a too-heavy winter blanket.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.