You’ve probably seen it on Facebook this week, or in Octobers past: There’s a picture of two horses in a field. One’s wearing a blanket, and one’s not. “Here is some information on winter blanketing that may surprise you. This is the result of a multi-year study done by [Colorado State University], using state-of-the-art thermal detection equipment,” the text begins.
It goes on to say, “Horses have the ability to loft and lower their coats to 17 different levels, so it’s like exchanging 17 different thermal weights of blankets off and on them all day and night, depending on what they need,” and, “Only three things make the ‘self-blanketing’ process not work: blanketing, clipping and wind. Not even snow or rain stops their own thermostats from doing the job.”
It all sounds fairly scientific except for one major detail—there’s no science behind it at all. Colorado State University’s College Of Veterinary Medicine has never conducted a study on blanketing, and neither has the CSU Equine Sciences department.
“I don’t know where it originated,” said Ryan Brooks, an instructor in the CSU Equine Sciences department. “I keep asking people in the office, and I wish we could find a source. I can’t find anything outside of blogs or online forums. You can search literature databases, and you don’t find any studies on blanketing, period.”
Brooks said the hoax originated online a few years ago, and that it continually resurfaces in the fall. So does CSU have a formal opinion on blanketing horses?
“I’m sure everyone in the office probably has our own little take on stuff, but I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that CSU has a scientific statement on the subject,” said Brooks with a laugh. “I wish we had something more scientific now, but anything I’d say would be hearsay. I’ve seen articles about blanketing in magazines, but they’re just a layperson’s opinion. It'll be interesting to see if someone does a study on this, and then we could point them to that.
"Or maybe one of these years this will stop popping up, but with the power of the Internet, I kind of doubt that,” he added.