The Four Best Horse Blankets for Winter
Like almost everything in the horse world, blankets are a topic that can lead to heated argument. How much is too much? Does your horse really need a blanket? And if so, what kind? Don’t worry – this article should shed some light on the subject. I’ve been managing a yard of horses that mostly live out in all weather, so I’m well acquainted with the ins and outs of keeping them comfortable.
First off, consider whether or not your horse really does need a blanket. Some horses can live out in almost any weather without a blanket, provided they have an adequate run-in shelter. In my experience, native ponies who have been allowed to grow a winter coat don’t even use their run-in shelter except in violent hail. They’re generally more bothered by the wind than by cold or rain. Even in snow, their coats are so well insulated that heaps of snow can lie on their backs without melting.
On the other hand, some horses absolutely cannot go without heavy blanketing. Don’t let breed fool you, either – the biggest sissy on my yard is a native. Like all my other natives, he spent the last winter outside even though he’d been body clipped, wearing a good thick New Zealand rug. The others were all fine. This one shivered so much on his first night that he tied up. He’s been stabled ever since. Blanketing should be tailored to the individual horse; the best way to perfect your blanketing program is to use trial and error to check your horse. A sweating horse is too hot; a shivering horse is significantly too cold. If he feels pleasantly warm under his blanket and appears happy and comfortable, he’s just right. Some factors that affect blanketing include:
• Condition – Fat under the horse’s skin will insulate him from the cold; skinny horses get cold more easily and then shiver, which causes them to lose even more weight.
• Breed – Generally speaking, thoroughbreds, warmbloods and other more refined breeds will tend to suffer more in the cold than whatever breed is native to your area.
• Coat length – Some horses just don’t grow that much of a winter coat. Body clipped horses must always be blanketed to make up for their lost coat.
• Age – Old horses tend to get cold more easily, and the cold is unkind to their ageing joints.
• Acclimatisation – Horses who grew up in your area will be able to deal with the climate better than those who didn’t. Horses who have lived out for their whole lives will be happier outside than those who are used to being stabled.
The Amigo Mio Turnout Sheet is the economical version of Horseware Ireland, a company that specialises in sturdy, quality products. Given Ireland’s inclement climate, they know how to keep your horse comfortable. The blanket is also designed to stay still on your horse without using hindleg straps, something that many horses dislike.
For hardy horses living out with good winter coats, you may not need a blanket to keep them warm, but in rainy winters it’s best to try and keep them dry. The vast majority of horses tolerate cold or wet but not both. Even if they’re coping with the temperature, wet winter coats take a long time to dry, and damp horses are at risk of developing rain scald – an unpleasant and painful fungal infection of the skin.
The solution for this problem is a rain sheet. Rain sheets are thin, lightweight blankets that won’t warm your horse up much, but they’re waterproof and provide some protection from the wind.
The Derby Originals West Style Winter Horse Blanket is both economical and quality, with the added benefit of being slightly water repellent. This means that you can turn your horse out in it on a cold day and if there’s an unexpected cloudburst, he’ll still come in warm and dry if you fetch him quickly.
Stabled horses don’t need waterproof rugs, but they will need something thick and cosy to keep them warm in icy winters. There are a variety of different types of stable rugs on the market, but the warmest and most comfortable for your horse is the duvet type. These are thick and warm with the added benefit of being smooth on the outside, so hair and bedding doesn’t stick to it as much, making it easier to keep clean for the winter.
The Horze Glasgow has the added benefit of a neck piece, keeping your horse warm from ears to tail. Its adjustable elastic leg straps will keep the blanket from blowing open if your horse turns his tail to the wind. This company has been in existence for more than two hundred years; making horse blankets is nothing new to them.
The turnout rug is the ultimate in outdoor horse clothing. It is fully waterproof and also very thick, keeping your horse warm and dry no matter what the weather. Even driving rain can’t penetrate these blankets. For a body clipped horse living out, or for a stabled horse to get some time outside even in bad weather, this is by far the best option. These blankets are expensive but can last for years if you buy quality and store it properly in summer.
For the stabled horse who still has his winter coat, or for the transition period in spring and fall when a stable rug is just too much warmth, the fleece blanket is the ideal solution. It can also be used for an extra layer of warmth underneath a stable rug. This thinner blanket is made from polar fleece that just provides a little covering for the horse that doesn’t get cold so easily. It’s essential to buy quality, as fleeces tend to tear easily due to their thin material, and it’s inadvisable to turn your horse out in a fleece. It can also be used under a normal rug for thin-skinned horses to provide a layer of comfort.
Blanketing is something that needs to be tailored to the individual horse. Get to know your horses and what they like. It’s also extremely important to buy a blanket that will fit your horse, as blanket rubs can cause open sores if left unattended.