When to Blanket a Horse

Blanketing a horse during the colder months is crucial to their care and well-being. As horse owners, we want to ensure our equine companions stay comfortable and healthy throughout winter. However, determining the optimal time to blanket a horse can be challenging. Factors such as temperature, weather conditions, age, and the horse’s overall health must be considered. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore when it is appropriate to blanket a horse and provide you with valuable insights to make informed decisions for your equine friend.

The Basics of Blanketing a Horse

Before delving into the specifics of when to blanket a horse, let’s first understand the basics of horse blankets. Blankets, or rugs, provide horses extra warmth and protection from the cold weather. They come in various types, including turnout blankets, stable blankets, and sheets. These blankets are made of durable materials such as nylon, polyester, or both.

Turnout blankets are specifically designed for outdoor use and are equipped with waterproof and breathable features to keep the horse dry and comfortable. On the other hand, stable blankets are intended for indoor use and provide insulation in a controlled environment. Sheets are lightweight and typically used to protect the horse from dust and insects in mild weather conditions.

Now that we have a basic understanding of horse blankets, let’s dive into the factors to consider when deciding whether to blanket your horse.

Temperature and Weather Conditions

One of the critical factors to consider when deciding to blanket your horse is the temperature and prevailing weather conditions. Horses are naturally equipped to withstand cold temperatures. Their thick winter coat is an excellent insulator that traps air and keeps them warm. However, extreme cold, wet, and windy conditions can compromise their natural insulation.

When the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit), and there is a combination of rain, snow, or strong winds, blanketing can provide additional protection for your horse. Blankets, especially turnout blankets, are a barrier against precipitation and wind, preventing the horse from getting wet, chilled, or developing hypothermia.

It’s important to note that horses generate body heat by moving and grazing, so if they have access to shelter like a barn or run-in shed, they may not require a blanket even in cold weather. However, blanketing becomes necessary to keep them warm if the horse doesn’t have access to a sheltered area or is clipped.

The Horse’s Age and Health

The age and health of your horse play a significant role in determining if and when to blanket them. Young foals and older horses are generally more susceptible to the cold due to their less developed insulation systems or compromised immune systems, respectively.

For young foals, blanketing becomes essential when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). Their thin coat and limited ability to regulate body temperature make them vulnerable to cold stress. A lightweight blanket or a well-fitting foal rug will help maintain their body temperature and comfort.

Older horses, particularly those with arthritis or other age-related conditions, can benefit from wearing a blanket to help alleviate discomfort caused by the cold. Additionally, horses with compromised immune systems or certain medical conditions such as Cushing’s or laminitis might require blanketing to maintain their body temperature within a healthy range.

Body Condition and Weight

Your horse’s body condition and weight also play a crucial role in determining if blanketing is necessary. Horses with a lower body condition score or those that struggle to maintain weight may require an extra layer of warmth during colder months.

If your horse tends to lose weight during winter despite ample access to hay and forage, blanketing can help conserve their energy by reducing the need for constant calorie expenditure to stay warm. By keeping them warm, you can help prevent weight loss and ensure they maintain a healthy body condition throughout the season.

Clipping and Blanketing

Another consideration when blanketing your horse is whether they have been clipped. Clipping refers to removing all or a portion of a horse’s winter coat, which can be necessary for horses in heavy work during the colder months. Clipped horses lose their natural insulation and rely on blankets to stay warm.

Blanketing becomes crucial if you have clipped your horse as its defenses against the cold are compromised. In these cases, blanketing your horse when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) is advised to ensure they remain comfortable and avoid any potential health issues.

Monitoring Your Horse

Regardless of the above factors, it is essential to watch your horse’s response to the weather conditions. Just like humans, horses have unique preferences and tolerances regarding temperature. Some horses may naturally adapt to colder temperatures and grow thick coats than others, making them less dependent on blankets.

Please be sure to observe your horse for signs of discomfort or distress. If you notice excessive shivering, a hunched posture, or a general sense of lethargy, it may indicate that your horse is cold and requires a blanket. Additionally, watch for signs of overheating, such as excessive sweating or a raised respiratory rate, as this could indicate that your horse is too warm and may need to have their blanket adjusted or removed.


In summary, deciding when to blanket a horse requires careful consideration of various factors, including temperature, weather conditions, age and health, body condition, and whether they have been clipped. By evaluating these factors and closely monitoring your horse’s response to the environment, you can make informed decisions regarding blanketing to keep your equine companion comfortable and healthy throughout the winter months.

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