Understanding When and How to Blanket Your Horse: A Comprehensive Temperature Guide

Understanding When and How to Blanket Your Horse: A Comprehensive Temperature Guide

Ever found yourself questioning when it’s the right time to blanket your horse? You’re not alone. This common dilemma for horse owners can be quite puzzling. With fluctuating weather conditions, knowing the perfect temperature to blanket your horse becomes crucial for their health and comfort.

This article is your go-to guide, providing you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. We’ll dive into the key factors that determine when it’s time to pull out that horse blanket. So, whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a novice horse owner, you’ll find valuable insights here. Let’s unravel the mystery of horse blanketing together.

Key Takeaways

  • Horses develop a natural winter coat with guard hairs and an undercoat, equipping them for colder seasons. However, wind can disrupt the layer of warmth trapped by the fluffy undercoat.
  • Various types of horse blankets are available based on climatic conditions and horse health. These include turnout, stable, cooler blankets, and blanket liners, among others.
  • When to blanket a horse depends on the physical condition of the horse and external climate. Factors to consider include horse’s age, body fat, signs of discomfort, coat thickness, and weather conditions.
  • An outdoor thermometer at approximately the same height as the horse’s back can provide accurate temperature readings helping to discern when to blanket. It’s important to understand how different temperature thresholds affect the horse.
  • Case studies suggest a medium or heavy blanket for temperatures below 30°F (-1°C), a light blanket between 30°F (-1°C) to 40°F (4°C), depending on the individual horse’s needs, and usually no blanket for temperatures above 40°F (4°C).
  • Blanketing practices should include choosing breathable fabrics, ensuring the proper fit of the blanket, understanding the effects of wind chill and moisture, monitoring the horse’s body condition regularly, and considering the horse’s activity level. Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial.

Blanketing horses is essential for their comfort in various weather conditions. SmartPak Equine provides a detailed guide on when to blanket your horse based on temperature and weather conditions, ensuring your horse stays warm without overheating. The Schneiders Learning Center elaborates on choosing the right type of blanket, considering factors like wind and moisture.

Understanding Horse’s Natural Winter Coat

As part of your journey to unravel the horse blanketing mystery, we first dive deep into the horse’s natural winter coat. Horses possess the extraordinary ability to adapt to changing weather conditions. Their body starts producing a thicker coat in response to the shortening daylight hours, preparing them for colder months.

You might notice two types of hair on your horse’s winter coat. First, the guard hairs. These are long, coarse hairs that serve as the first line of defense against the cold, repelling snow and rain. Second, the undercoat. It’s a layer of fluffy, short hairs that trap air to create insulation and retain heat.

There’s also something called ‘piloerection’. That’s when horses fluff up their coats, creating air pockets which serve as natural insulation, enhancing their warmth. Not unlike how goosebumps work on our skin in response to cold, but much more effective.

But, horses face a frosty adversary. Wind. It’s not the subzero temperatures that cause the most trouble, it’s the wind chill. The wind can disrupt the insulating layer of air trapped by the fluffy undercoat, reducing its effectiveness. Therefore, if your place experiences high winds along with low temperatures, you might consider blanketing your horse even if it has a heavy winter coat.

An understanding of these basics provides you with an initial guide to detecting whether your horse may be feeling cold. In the next section, we’ll focus on assessing your horse’s overall health and specific breeds’ tolerance to cold, thus fine-tuning your horse blanketing skills.

Understanding the Different Types of Horse Blankets

Understanding the Different Types of Horse Blankets

In addition to recognizing your horse’s natural insulation, it’s crucial that you understand the various types of horse blankets available. Each applies to different scenarios, depending on climate, overall horse health, and activity level.

  1. Turnout Blankets: Designed for outdoor use, turnout blankets resist water and withstand the rigors of frolicsome horseplay (for example, galloping, rolling, jumping). They maintain warmth, even when it’s damp or cold, and they’re breathable, reducing the likelihood of overheating if temperatures rise unexpectedly.
  2. Stable Blankets: These are best suited for indoor use, less resistant to severe weather. They’re lighter and more comfortable, ideal conditions being in a stable with moderate temperatures. But remember, they don’t provide water resistance.
  3. Cooler Blankets: After intense workouts or in cool environments, a horse’s body temperature drops rapidly – a danger to the horse’s health. A cooler blanket allows the horse to cool down gradually, preventing abrupt chill or potential illness.
  4. Blanket Liners: An added layer beneath a primary blanket, a liner offers extra warmth for cold weather. They fit snugly, designed to be lightweight and prevent additional pressure or movement interference.
  5. Fly Sheets: In warmer weather, fly sheets protect horses from biting insects. They’re light, breathable, and often incorporate UV protection.
  6. Rain Sheets: Rain sheets shield horses from rain and wind, without additional insulation. It safeguards the horse’s coat from becoming soaked, preserving the natural warmth.

To pick appropriately, consider your horse’s lifestyle and the specific weather conditions typical to your locale. Factor in your horse’s age and health status: an older or underweight horse, for example, may require additional insulation. It’s not one-blanket-fits-all; the choice becomes a jigsaw of individual needs, climate sensitivity, and practical functionality. When blanketing your horse, arm yourself with knowledge and sensitivity to make the best decision. Remember, a comfortable horse is a happy horse.

Assessing Your Horse’s Blanketing Needs

Assessing Your Horse's Blanketing Needs

Optimal blanketing depends on two main factors: your horse’s physical condition and the external climate. Let’s delve deeper into each.

Physical Condition of Your Horse
To begin, consider your horse’s body condition. For example, a lean horse with too little fat padding might require extra insulation in contrast to a horse with adequate body fat. A horse’s age plays an integral part, too. Older horses, notably those with declining health, experience more difficulty maintaining their body heat, warranting the use of blankets.

Look for signs of discomfort in your horse. Shivering, for instance, indicates cold, while excessive sweating signifies overheating. Both extremes highlight the necessity for blanketing adjustments.

Last but not least, assess the horse’s coat. Horses with a thick winter coat may not require as heavy a blanket as those with a thinner coat.

External Climate Conditions
Equally important, gauge the external weather conditions. In colder regions, temperatures below 20°F often demand a heavy blanket, while temperatures between 20°F and 60°F generally require a medium blanket on clipped or thin-coated horses. Above 60°F, light or no blanketing becomes essential, unless conditions include rain, wind, or both.

Take into account the combination of wind and moisture levels. The presence of wind significantly lowers the temperature perceived by the horse, incorporating moisture, as with rain or snow, exacerbates these effects further.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to when to blanket a horse. It’s a balance between your horse’s physical needs and the local weather conditions, keeping in mind air temperature, wind chill, precipitation, and the horse’s health, weight, age, and coat type. As a horse owner, you’re best equipped to make this call, guided by gauging your horse’s comfort levels and the current weather conditions.

Using a Thermometer to Determine When to Blanket a Horse

Precision in judging temperature, at horse’s level, aids in discerning when to blanket your equine friend. A basic outdoor thermometer, placed at approximately the same height a horse’s back would be, can provide an accurate measure. Documentation of the temperature readings at various times of day delivers data on the range of temperature fluctuations.

Ensure understanding of how different temperature thresholds affect the horse. Above 15 degrees Celsius, horses are generally comfortable without blankets, given they’re dry and shielded from harsh winds. Add wind and rain to such temperatures, and a waterproof, breathable turnout blanket becomes necessary.

From 5 to 15 degrees Celsius, fit horses usually stay comfortable without a blanket. Yet, aged, clipped or thin horses might require a light to medium blanket. Below 5 degrees Celsius, start considering blanketing options. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, though. Assess your horse’s comfort, shivering or excessive eating hints towards a potential need for added warmth.

Understanding other crucial factors provides an effective measure of your horse’s blanketing needs. These include wind speed and direction, precipitation, and the horse’s behavior. For instance, persistent shivering, noticeable weight loss or a hunched posture suggests the horse is cold and may need additional protection.

Remember, over-blanketing can also lead to problems, including overheating and excessive sweating, potentially causing skin conditions. Thus, observing horse behavior and tailoring choices accordingly is essential.

Using a thermometer and knowledge about your horse’s comfort levels play a pivotal role in deciding when to blanket. Successful horse care involves balancing between individual needs and external weather conditions. Applied effectively, this approach ensures optimal well-being and comfort for your horse, irrespective of variable weather conditions.

Case Studies of When to Blanket a Horse: Temperature Guide

In an effort to offer tangible examples, let’s take a closer look at particular scenarios detailing when to blanket a horse based on temperature.

  1. Temperatures Below 20°F (-6°C): Under these frigid conditions, especially with wind chill or precipitation, even a horse with a dense winter coat benefits from a heavy blanket. It’s crucial to keep your equine friend comfortable during these icy spells.
  2. Between 20°F (-6°C) and 30°F (-1°C): During this cold but slightly less harsh weather, a medium blanket becomes sufficient if your horse maintains a healthy winter coat. If your horse’s coat is thinner, opt for a heavier blanket.
  3. Between 30°F (-1°C) and 40°F (4°C): In this bracket, a lightly insulated blanket works well for horses with a standard winter coat. Yet, always remain attentive to individual needs, including age or conditions impairing thermoregulation, prompting a move to a medium blanket.
  4. Above 40°F (4°C): Above these temperatures, most fit, healthy horses with an adequate winter coat don’t require a blanket. Indeed, overheating becomes a risk if you insist on blanketing in these circumstances.

Please remember, these guidelines aren’t hard-set rules but flexible suggestions dependent on a variety of factors. Monitor your horse’s behavior: shivering, weight loss, and visible discomfort imply a need for additional covering. Meanwhile, a sweaty or restless horse might be telling you it’s time to remove the blanket.

It’s all about the balance between external conditions and your horse’s comfort. Your blanket choice fluctuates: It adjusts with the changing seasons and responds to your horse’s signals – essentially, you must tailor your approach to each unique equine friend.

Blanketing Tips and Additional Considerations

Blanketing Tips and Additional Considerations

Transitioning from understanding temperature thresholds, another critical aspect of horse care involves knowing the best practices for blanketing and additional factors worth contemplating.

  1. Choose Breathable Fabrics: Blankets made of breathable materials prevent the horse’s skin from getting damp. Popular options include those made of polyester and nylon. One must ensure it’s durable, resistant to wear, and easy to clean. A readily available option could be the WeatherBeeta ComFiTec Essential blanket, made from 1200 denier ripstop outer shell, providing comfort and breathability.
  2. Proper Blanket Fit: A poorly-fitting blanket causes discomfort, resulting in sores and rubbing. The blanket must cover from the base of the neck to the tail, yet allow freedom of movement. Brands, like Tough 1 and Horseware, offer adjustable, well-cut blankets, catering to diverse horse sizes.
  3. Understanding Wind Chill and Moisture: Blanket use changes if wind chill plummets, or during rainy or snowy conditions. In general, horses tolerate cold better than dampness or wind, therefore a waterproof, wind-resistant blanket becomes vital. Blankets like Shires Tempest Original Lite exhibit such features.
  4. Monitor Body Condition Regularly: Regular body checks help assess if the blanket provides adequate warmth. Maneuver your hand under the blanket on the horse’s side — if it’s cold, additional insulation may be required.
  5. Consider the Horse’s Activity: Horses that are run regularly tend to be warmer and may need less blanketing, compared to idle horses.
  6. Ease of Use: Blankets that are easy to put on and remove save considerable time for horse keepers. Look for features like quick-release buckles and adjustable chest straps.

Remember, blanketing is an additional tool in horse keepers arsenal and isn’t a substitute for a proper diet, appropriate shelter, and regular veterinary checkups. A keen understanding of individual horse needs and adjustment of blanketing practices to meet these needs is key for horse well-being.


So, you’ve learned a lot about when to blanket a horse and the factors that come into play. It’s not just about the temperature but also your horse’s health, age, and comfort levels. You’ve seen how to assess these factors and use them to make informed decisions about blanketing. You’ve also picked up tips on proper blanketing practices, from choosing the right materials to understanding the impact of wind chill and moisture. Remember, though, blanketing is just one part of horse care. It doesn’t replace a good diet, proper shelter, and regular vet check-ups. Always keep your horse’s well-being at the forefront and tailor your blanketing practices to meet their individual needs. With this knowledge, you’re well-equipped to keep your horse comfortable and healthy, no matter the weather.

When should I consider blanketing my horse?

You should consider blanketing your horse based on various factors such as the horse’s natural coat, insulation abilities, age, physical condition, signs of discomfort, and the prevailing weather conditions. Look for any signs of the horse being cold or uncomfortable.

What factors should I consider when deciding to blanket my horse?

There are several factors to take into account such as understanding the impact of wind chill, moisture, and considering the horse’s activity level. The correct fit of the blanket and its breathability are also important considerations, besides monitoring the horse’s body condition.

Are there any specific temperature thresholds that indicate when to blanket a horse?

Yes, there are specific temperature thresholds that can guide you when to blanket your horse. However, a horse’s individual tolerance to cold and its behavior should also be taken into account as individual horses may have different thresholds.

Does a blanket replace the need for proper diet, shelter, and veterinary care?

No, a blanket doesn’t replace the need for a proper diet, shelter, and good veterinary care. A blanket is just one tool in your overall horse care toolbox used to maintain the well-being of your horse in colder weather.

How should I choose a horse blanket?

While selecting a horse blanket, prioritize ease of use and consider the horse’s specific needs. Choose breathable fabrics and ensure the blanket fits properly. Adjust blanket choices according to the horse’s behavior, activity level, and the external climate.