For those of us that experience snow in our Winter months and have horses that may need blanketing – what blanket do you use and when? It can be difficult to figure out so your horse isn’t too hot or too cold – so here’s some tips…
The tips below are based on horses that may or may not have a thick winter coat but are not shaved. For shaved horses different rules may apply and the need for more warmer blankets may be needed and adjusted to their needs.
- Rainsheets with little to no lining should be put on when it is going to be raining, cold and especially when accompanied with wind…or when quite windy at 40 km (25 miles) per hour or more (without much rain) and horses have no proper shelter to hide in. I use a simple rainsheet for temps 1 C to 9 C (33 – 48 F) with windchills bringing it to no less than – 2 C (28 F). But if it is going to rain a lot I go to the next step. Leaving a soaked rain sheet on is worse than nothing at all…horses dry faster when wet then with soaked blankets!
- Rainsheet + Wool or Cotton Cooler combination I use when I know it is going to be raining for a long time and the Rainsheet has a chance to soak through so I put it under their Rainsheets. The Wool in particular wicks the moisture away no matter how much it rains and allows the horse’s skin to breathe better. I use the Rainsheet/Cooler combination in times when it is hovering around 0 to 2 C (32 – 35 F) and and dips down no less than – 5 C (23 F). This is when I expect things can fluctuate but stay more around the 0 degree C (32 F) mark…but won’t get much colder. If I feel it can get colder I go to the next blanket below.
- Medium weight Winter Turn-Out jacket gets put on when it is cold/damp out and the Rainsheet/Cooler seems not quite enough. Or when it it is 0 C to – 9 C (32 – 15.8 F)with windchill. Sometimes when I’m in doubt and it feels like there is a cold chill in the air but not freezing yet – I’ll put this one on the horses. Always feel under your horse’s blanket to see if they feel toasty warm. If they feel cool to the touch – the jackets aren’t enough and they will be cold. If they feel too hot/damp – the jackets are too much! You should never feel sweat under the blankets…it means you weren’t following these tips or horse was running around too much or something is wrong.
- Heavy Winter Turn-Out on temps – 5 C (23 F) plus windchill in the teens. This should keep them warm even when it is -30 C (-22 F). When we get into -35 C (-31 F) I like to combine the Heavy Winter jacket with either the Medium one over top or the Wool Cooler underneath.
I should add – it is better if horses don’t wear or need blankets at all. BUT it is equally important to recognize horses that need them. If a horse is shivering all the time, has a poor winter coat, is older or sick or very young…please blanket them.
However, if there is no one to change blankets regularly – it is also at that time better no blankets and let them figure it out. As long as there is a shelter and hay 24/7 they should be okay.