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Blanketing Your Horse


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 F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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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:

  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

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