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To Blanket or Not to Blanket
 By Saferaphus   •   10th Nov 2013   •   2,676 views   •   1 comments
To Blanket or Not to BlanketI live in one of the most southern-most parts of Canada. So while winter here can be long and hard, it's still not as severe as it can be in many parts of North America. When I was young (yes, my first horse was actually an Eohippus), no one ever blanketed their horses for any reason but to keep them clean before a show. Forward a couple of decades, and it's unusual to see a horse standing in the snow without a blanket on. But, despite the fact that more people are blanketing their horses, many people are still against using winter blankets (turn-out rugs).

Several years ago, a farmer delivered hay to me, and on seeing my blanketed horses said, ďyou're making your horses sick wearing them there blanketsĒ. I was taken aback, not just by his poor grammar, but because there before us stood four happy, healthy horses, who for years had been healthy despite wearing blankets. In fact, if I had any qualms about their wearing blankets it was not their health I worried about, but their safety. Over the years, I've seen far more injuries than illnesses caused by blankets.

Related: How Not to Freeze to Your Horse
Related: How Horses Stay Warm in Winter

One of the most important things we need to do when our horses wear blankets is to check them daily. Loose straps, rips and tears and can quickly become hazards. Horses can become entangled and cast in damaged blankets, and this can lead to potentially severe injuries. Another hazard is poorly fitting blankets. Pressure over the withers or shoulders can cause nerve damage. I've seen the skin on a horse's withers cut deeply no thanks to a poorly fitting blanket. Worn hair is a sign the blanket doesnít fit right and needs either altering or replacing.

In defence of blankets, however, there are many places where cold, which horses deal with quite well, is not the only factor horses have to deal with. Driving freezing rain can quickly saturate a horse's coat and leave them shivering. Frigid winds blow the warmth out of the thickest winter coats. It's just not healthy to keep horses indoors all the time to avoid miserable weather. And, like little kids, even if there is a run-in shelter available, they don't always know when it's time to come in out of the rain. So, a blanket can help protect horses from elements beyond those they are naturally designed to withstand.

Whenever I went out to my paddock with my horses' blankets draped over my arms, they'd storm to the furthest corners and refuse to be caught. Clearly, they wanted nothing to do with those blankets. One night, however, a brutal storm of driving icy sleet and wind blew up. I carried their blankets out, and I was amazed as each horse quietly and untied, waited to be blanketed. There was no question that they understood their blankets would give them some relief from the storm. I have learned to use my judgement in balancing the risk of having a horse wear a blanket against the benefits. Your horse's behavior and physical condition can answer the question, to blanket or not to blanket.

Image Credit: © Judith A. Brown | Dreamstime.com
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I feel any horse of value should be blanketed because they can easily get sick from not having them on if it gets cold enough. My friend's mare (Champion Rocky Mountain mare) is fighting ammonia from being outside without a blanket on. Now she's inside with a blanket and getting better with weekly visits to the vet for treatment.

Both of mine have blankets on because I feel there is no reason for them to be out in the cold with just their winter coat. That would be like us being out in the freezing cold with just a sweatshirt. Dee is the most onrey thing when she's cold, she has some kind of blanket on the second it gets below 60. She is starting to be kept in right now due to how cold it has been, with a heavy duty winter blanket. (Can you say spoiled?)

I have never seen a blanket stand up to a horse when they get tangled in it. Want to see what happens when a horse gets tangled in it's blanket? See Image. I came home to find THAT around Archie's neck with the rest of it scatter
  Nov 17, 2013  •  5,184 views
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