How do I know what blanket to use? And when?
Some of this is “science”, some of it is “art”, and there’s also a huge bit of “guessing” involved. So how can you go about figuring out what type of blanket to use, and when? For more info on what denier and fill mean, you can read this article here.
A horse that has even the slightest chance to be outside must have a waterproof blanket.
Some general guidelines are as follows:
For the clipped horse:
Remember that a clipped horse has LESS hair than even a normal summer coat. You could call it "super naked".
Below 50 degrees in the sun and 60 in the shade or at night: Sheet or rain sheet.
Below 40 degrees in the sun and 50 in the shade or at night: Medium weight blanket (about 200 fill)
Below 30 degrees in the sun and 40 in the shade or at night: Heavy weight blanket (about 300 fill), or one sheet and one medium weight. Consider using a neck piece.
Below 20 degrees in the sun and 30 in the shade or at night: Start adding layers, like a heavy and a sheet or a heavy and a medium, or one ultra heavy.
For the unclipped horse:
Below 30 degrees in the sun and 40 in the shade or at night: Sheet or rain sheet.
Below 20 degrees in the sun and 30 in the shade or at night: Medium weight blanket (about 200 fill)
Below 10 degrees in the sun and 20 in the shade or at night: Heavy weight blanket (about 300 fill), or one sheet and one medium weight. Consider using a neck piece.
Below 0 degrees in the sun and 10 in the shade or at night: Start adding layers, like a heavy and a sheet or a heavy and a medium, or one ultra heavy.
Now before you guys start yelling at me about unclipped horses not needing blankets at all, keep in mind that some horses grow the equivalent of 4 extra hairs in the winter and don’t even come close to having a winter coat. Others are so hairy that their belly hairs tickle the backs of their knees. Adjust the chart accordingly to fit the needs of your horse super hairy (or not) horse!
Migs = YAK, so only sheets to keep away the wet.
So now you have a place to start, but add these factors in as well:
- Is your horse outside in a paddock, or inside a toasty barn? Even with a nice shelter, the outside horse can be more exposed to the elements. Just because you have bedded his shelter to his elbows with shavings, doesn’t mean he’s going to use it!
- It’s a safe assumption that the outside horse will be more exposed to the elements. Consider using a heavier blanket or adding a sheet for your outside guys. But, if he has buddies and lots of space to walk around, he may be warmer than the horse in the barn that's isolated from his buddies and can't walk around to generate heat. Your farm's design will dicatate this.
- What’s the weather forecast? Cold and windy, or chilly and still? Rain, snow, sleet, or hail? For horrid weather, add neck pieces, an extra sheet under your blanket, or nylon pajamas. For precipitation, make sure the blankets are waterproof. (This is pretty much a good idea at all times if your horse is outside, has a run outside, or is possibly going to go outside.)
Comet = Winter coat equivalent to growing a few extra moustache hairs. Needs all the fluff!
- Is your horse a difficult keeper or a senior guy? Helping the older horse or difficult keeper maintain his body temperature overnight is critical - add that extra layer! Part of being a "hard keeper" is not keeping weight on, and he certainly won't do that if he's using every calorie to stay warm.
- What’s the feeding schedule? Having a unfettered access to hay in a round bale 24/7 will keep your horse warmer than the horse that gets two flakes at dinnertime when the sun goes down. Adjust your blankets accordingly and perhaps add some more forage at dinner.
How do you decide what blanket to use?