Blankets for horses? It depends


By Sadie Wilson, Staff Writer

Winter in the Midwest is bone-chilling for everyone, including our furry friends, big and small. Horses are large animals, built for tough conditions, but how do we know when they need a little extra support from us? This is a common debate for horse owners around the world, and while there are no set rules for when it’s necessary to put a blanket on a horse, there is valuable information to consider when making the decision.

According to Colorado veterinarian Dr. Luke Bass, “Primary considerations in horse blanketing are hair coat and environmental temperature.”

He first suggests that horses with short or clipped hair are more likely to need a blanket as the weather starts cooling off. He goes on to recommend blankets during cold, wet conditions, when a horse is new to a cold climate, and when the proper blanket is used considering the weather.

Bass repeatedly mentions that these are only valid suggestions if the horse has proper nutrition and shelter of some kind. If the horse is young or underweight, they may be more likely to get cold without a blanket. However, blankets should not be put on if the horse or blanket is wet. Another issue owners may face is a lack of winter coat growing in on the horse if heavy blankets are continually used. While this may be helpful for some people who regularly clip or prefer their horse to have a thinner coat, many prefer their horse to keep their coat to stay warm without a blanket.

Although vets can give recommendations, many recommend that owners pay attention to their horse’s behavior and make a decision from there. A local barn owner in Woodstock, Lorraine Kraeplin is facing this issue. She currently has three horses with short hair, and often puts blankets on them when the weather gets below 40° F. However, she only does so when she can check on them consistently to make sure they aren’t overheating, which is a concern.

Typically, the rest of her horses, all of whom have thick winter coats, don’t need a blanket until it gets below freezing. All the horses on her farm have access to lean-tos while outside and are given individualized diets specially for their needs. A specialized diet for each horse ensures they have enough energy to keep warm throughout the day.

Kraeplin also mentions instances of her horses choosing whether or not to wear a blanket, as some have learned how to get it off on their own. In these instances, the blanket often cannot be put back on due to it being dirty or wet, but the horses never seem disturbed about going a while longer without it.

Many may wonder why this is such a controversial issue, as it very clearly depends on many different factors about a horse, but many have a strict mindset. Some even go as far as to accuse other owners of abuse for deciding what’s best for their horses. This topic continues to divide a community, both in person and on social media.