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Blanketing the horse

Horses have natural insulation, but there are times when a blanket can help keep them warm
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota

My parents have miniature horses. This time of year they’re fat and fluffy with a long hair coat, and like to be out in the cold weather despite having a cozy shed to stay in. There are blankets made to help keep horses warm, but most don’t need them.

Ann Swinker is an Extension horse specialist at Penn State University. She says horses have a natural insulating layer of fat and a thick hair coat to keep them warm. However, there may be times when you’re dependent on a blanket to do what nature does. A sick, very young, or very old horse might benefit from the extra protection. Show horses that have their winter coat clipped for showing would, too.
 
Swinker says it’s very important to make sure you get the right size so it doesn’t rub the skin raw if it’s too tight, or get caught in the hooves if the blanket is too loose. Measure the horse from the point of the shoulders to the point of the rump.

"One size isn’t always the same, so ask if you can open it up and re-measure the blanket," she says. "If you have, let’s say, a Saddlebred or an Arabian with a level croup, you don’t want to get one that’s made for a Quarter Horse with a sloping rump because it’ll be rubbing it back there, so you want to try to pick brands that are made for that type of horse."

If the horse will be turned out in wet weather and it’s in mud all the time, make sure the blanket is waterproof.

"The bad thing is, if that blanket gets wet and it’s sitting on the horse wet, now the hair underneath is wet so the insulation of their hair is gone, the blanket’s chilled and it’s laying on them there’s no insulation left," says Swinker. "You don’t want to do that, that’s really unhealthy for the horse."

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