Blanketing Your Horse

horse-winter-running

I’m not sure when a horse needs a blanket and when they don’t. I have a 6 year old quarter horse mare, she is overweight and has plenty of fat! I have not put a blanket on her before. It gets very cold where I live (Iowa) and she is turned out half the day with a round bale and access to a shelter, and inside a shelter half day (to limit hay consumption).
Also if you could please let me know what kind of blanket to get that would be great! – NL, Iowa

Dear NL,
I was hoping someone would ask a blanketing question this winter! Fortunately for you, it doesn’t sound like your mare needs a blanket. Shes’s a young adult, in good flesh (perhaps TOO good!), getting plenty of hay, already acclimated to the temperature, with access to shelter at all times. If she was very young or very old, already thin, just in from a warmer climate, or sick or debilitated, I might suggest a waterproof turnout blanket for her, with at least 200 grams of fill. Or you could use a stable blanket and layer it with a lighter waterproof turnout blanket (0 to 100 grams of fill), also called a turnout sheet. However, unless your mare actually begins shivering, I recommend letting the fermentation of the hay and the windbreak of the shelter keep her warm (you might have heard that horses should be fed corn in the winter to keep them warm, but this is a common misconception—hay has been proven to give off more heat during digestion).

If you are planning on working your horse during the winter hard enough to make her sweat on a regular basis, you may want to consider body clipping her. If you do remove her hair, then you MUST blanket her since you have taken away her natural protection from the cold. You don’t say if the shelter is the side of a building (sufficient for a windbreak) or a three-sided lean-to or run-in stall that also has a roof. If she is not protected from rain, sleet or snow during the colder months, you may want to consider a waterproof layer for her.

I think your mare will do fine in the situation you describe, providing she has access to unfrozen water at all times and a fortified grain (or in her case, a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement or forage balancer). Just make sure you feel her all over at least every two weeks throughout the winter to make sure she is not dropping in body condition score (BCS). You can’t simply look at a horse with a heavy winter coat and determine its BCS—you have to feel how much muscle and fat they are carrying. Here’s a website where you can brush up on the scoring scale:  Click Here

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Seasonal Horse Care

Recent Posts


3 comments on “Blanketing Your Horse
  1. Eve R Mead says:

    My 7yr Arab has been Pasture Boarded since fall..she’s alw)s been on suppl.decided to see how just hay w/ no suppl for 2mo. She get pdr Biotin,an 1 Apple,Banana,loose salt, 1 Carrot, Nutrena Performance(21/2Cups,) She doesn’t seem to energic so decided to put Her back on Smart Combo…with Fruit as a treat….Is this ok…There R a lot of Horse owners who do not suppl.their Horses…

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Eve, thanks for your question! It’s great that you’re looking to ensure your horse’s diet is complete and balanced. Being pasture boarded is a nice plus, as forage should be the foundation of a horse’s diet. Figuring out if additional feedstuffs such as fortified grain are appropriate for your horse will depend on a variety of factors such as the quality of your pasture, your horse’s body condition, age, workload and more. I would encourage you to loop your veterinarian into the conversation to help determine what might be appropriate for your horse. It’s also worth noting that a supplement like SmartCombo is not designed to help complete and balance the diet, but rather, support specific areas of the horse such as joints, digestion, hooves, skin and coat. I’ve also included an additional blog article that outlines some good basics in equine nutrition that I think you’ll find helpful. – Dr. Lydia Gray

      Is Your Horse’s Diet Coming Up Short: http://blog.smartpakequine.com/2013/11/is-your-horses-diet-coming-up-short/

  2. Ellen says:

    I have a 14 yr old rather plump but not overly fat APHA mare that is not being ridden during the winter months, as I am disabled. I have been her only owner having raised her from a 5 mo. old foal. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and this is the very first year i have ever had to blanket her. The weather has plummeted down to -14F and -21F with wind chills of -41F and she is never locked inside her barn having free range to come and go as she pleases.
    I have a Tough quilted waterproof blanket on her and run my arm up under it frequently to check the temp. and she is warm against the frigid outside temps. On any given day when it is only 7F outdoors she will be found standing out catching a bit of sunshine in her yard.
    She has had cracks in her hoof walls all of her life. They come and they go. I would like to know which of the formulas you think best for her. Smarthoof Pellets, Farriers Formula Double Strength, or Ultra Pellets. I would like to email you a few pics of her hooves so you can tell me what you think and make the right choice for her.
    Thank you
    Dandy’s mum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share it:
SmartPak is the Official Tack and Equipment Supplier of the USEF.
Members save 5% off all purchases.
You'll this

SmartCombo™ Senior Pellets


As Low As: $55.95
(21 reviews)
Have questions? Contact us »
Connect with us:

Meet the SmartPakers

Jen and Tally
Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

Learn more »

Read our blog

Ask the Vet
Every week our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray, answers tough horse health questions from riders just like you.

Read her latest answer now »

Healthy horses, happy riders.
SmartPak is committed to a greener planet.
Sign Up Now!
Free Catalog Get Yours Now!

SmartPak Equine is the premier online provider of horse supplies and equine supplements.
Questions? Call us Toll-Free at 1-888-752-5171. © Copyright 2013 by SmartPak Equine LLC. All Rights reserved.