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Blanketing the horse that lives out 24/7

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  • Blanketing the horse that lives out 24/7

    For those who have horses out 24/7, how do you blanket your guys? Do you own a thousand blankets and switch them around when they get wet? How heavily do you blanket them? Do you let them grow a bit of a coat to survive the elements?

    Clearly, its my first year having my mare outside 24/7 in the winter!

  • #2
    I have one clipped and one unclipped, and generally blanket the clipped guy any time it is below 50ish at night, 45ish during the day, or very wet, and the unclipped guy any time it is below 40 or if it is in the 40s but raining.

    I have a bunch of blankets, but really don't use that many of them! If it is going to be raining really hard, I often use a turnout sheet over the turnout blankets, so that only the one sheet per horse gets really wet.

    For the clipped horse what I actually use is:
    --regular turnout sheet that is not super waterproof (40-50 degrees)
    --turnout sheet with full neck that is waterproof (40-50 degrees; top layer in wet weather)
    --100 g regular turnout blanket (35-45 degrees)
    --midweight turnout blanket with full neck (20-35 degrees)

    Below 20 I will use both blankets. Below 5 or so I will sub in the heavy weight blanket for the 100 g one.

    For the unclipped pony, I use:
    --turnout sheet (35-50 degrees)
    --100 g blanket (30-40 degrees)
    --midweight turnout blanket (15-30 degrees)

    Below 15 I will use both blankets. It doesn't get cold enough for more than that.


    • #3
      Depends on how shaggy the horse is and how sensitive it is to cold.

      A shaggy draft cross might be fine with no blankets and just an adequate shelter from wind and rain, and plenty of hay to eat to generate heat internally.

      Other horses might appreciate a blanket when the weather is especially cold, windy, wet, snowy and any combination thereof.

      Some horses might like to be blanketed 24/7 typically below 40 degrees.

      But as a general rule, any horse that gets blanketed for anything but just the worst weather, will generally need to be blanketed the same way throughout the season.

      In other words, the horse will acclimate to how you blanket him or her, and any sudden changes in blanketing could cause the horse to become chilled, stressed and possibly become sick.

      I think all old horses who are showing their age, any hard keepers, or any horse with a disorder who might be more comfortable blanketed, should always be blanketed to keep them from the stress of having to heat themselves by requiring them to eat extra calories.

      Old horses especially may already have nutrient absorption issues or trouble eating, and forcing them to maintain weight by eating extra can be hard on them, and cause them to loose condition and weight.

      But if you do choose to blanket 24/7, it's important to monitor the horse to make sure it is being blanketed appropriately.

      A horse should not be allowed to sweat under a blanket as it may later catch a chill.

      Some horses might shiver or feel cold under their blanket as a sign that they may need a heavier blanket, or another layer (depending of your blanketing style).

      Some blankets may loose their weather proofing, or not be that weather proof to begin with, so every blanket the horse wears in cold wet weather will have to be assessed for suitability.

      Spares are essential, as well as a few good warm coolers to dry the horse out should they become drenched after any particularly harsh weather.

      I look at blanketing as an art, and I don't think there is any single protocol that would be appropriate for every type of horse. Blanketing can also be very individual to the beliefs of different horse people of how horses should be blanketed. Some people are very anti blanketing, and others very pro blanketing.

      To get it right requires trial and error, learning how different horses react to specific blanketing under different conditions, and then applying that experience to blanketing other horses in the future.

      That's my viewpoint.


      • #4
        Depends on the horse.

        I live in the "high desert." We get a lot of snow and it gets cold, but it's usually dry and sunny, not drippy, here.

        I have two horses and a pony at home. One of the horses is a geriatric and getting a little frail. The other is a hale and hearty 20 year old. They both have good coats.

        Whilst it is still dry, we have been very cold (19 degrees this morning) for the past few days, the the old man has had a midweight blanket on overnight, but not in the sunshine during the day. The 20 year old has remained naked.

        As soon as it starts to snow, both with wear midweights if it is snowing, and overnight. If the sun is out during the day, then I'll pull them off before I leave in the morning.

        I have a heavyweight for the old man if we need it (God forbid) and I have spare midweights for both of them. All a pretty raggedy to be honest, but waterproof and do the job, and they do live outside!

        I also have waterproof sheets for them both. These come in handy for spring and fall cold rains.

        If they get wet and cold, I'll throw a midweight on until they are dry, then change it out.

        The pony doubles his size with fur in the winter, and is scared to death of sheets an blankets, so I leave him be and feed him lots of hay. He has a nice cosy shed to get into out of the weather.


        • #5
          Blanketing depends on a lot of variables: access to shelter, hay provided (burning calories from digestion keeps a horse warm), how heavy a winter coat they grow, etc. I think the biggest questions are does your horse have access to a good shelter with 3 solid walls and a roof? Is there a round bale or lots of hay provided? Is she going to be clipped? Those are the biggest things that will determine blankets and how to blanket.

          If you have blankets that aren't waterproof, pick up a good rain sheet. You can layer it over a winter blanket to prevent it from getting wet in cold snowy/sleety weather and the extra layer will provide a little more insulation and warmth. I only have 1 waterproof blanket so I use the double layer - rain sheet + winter blanket - almost all winter.

          If you're going to clip her, then I'd say double-blanketing will be a must. Most people I know have at least 2 blanket for their horses: a mid-weight (200-300 fill) and a heavyweight (300-450 fill) plus rainsheet if the blankets aren't waterproofed. This is the most basic type of blanketing. For non-clipped horses, the midweight is used when it's 0 to -10 degrees. The heavyweight is used when it's -10 to -15ish (depending on winds, windchill, etc). Both are used if it's -20 or colder. If it gets to -40, then a cooler is usually put on under the blankets and the rain sheet on top, even if it's not wet out. Some people get hoods - make sure it's headless so it doesn't slip over their eyes - for the really cold days, too.

          If your clip your mare, then she'll probably be wearing two blankets all winter, from -10 to -30. If you have a 3 blankets, then you can double up your two heaviest blankets on the really cold days and use the midweight and heavyweight combo on the average cold days (-15 to -20).

          That's the easiest blanketing system I've ever seen up here. Mine is a little more complex since my horse is a princess and gets cold easily, even on a round bale. This is how I basically do it:
          0 to -5. Lightweight 150-200 fill. Rain sheet on top if it's snowing or rainy.
          -5 to -12. Medium weight 250 fill. If there's a bad windchill, he gets a liner underneath.
          - 12 to -20: Heavy weight 300 fill OR liner + med blanket + hood.
          -20 to -30: Super heavy weight (420 g) + liner.
          -30 to -50 (or colder): Super heavy weight + heavyweight + liner + hood.
          God help us if it's in the -60 range...one year he wore a wool cooler, a liner, a medium weight, and a heavy weight blanket plus hood and rainsheet.

          (Both my liners are about 200 fill.) Honestly, I don't buy any blankets that are under 200 fill...the only lightweight blanket I have is a heavy weight blanket I bought 8 years ago and got packed down over the years and lost its warmth. It just doesn't seem to be useful up here. If it's nice enough that he needs a 150 g blanket, he'll be happier to be naked. If it's cold enough that I think he needs one, it's probably raining and he has a lined rain sheet.

          The most important thing will be to check how cold your mare is or if she's okay. A warm horse will have a pocket of warmth between the blanket and their coat (I usually check the shoulder). A not-warm, not-cold horse won't have that pocket of warmth but won't show signs of being cold either. If that's the case, usually more hay or a hood will help warm up. If the horse is mildly cold, you'll have:
          - tips of the ears cold to the touch.
          - dock tight against haunches

          A very cold horse will:
          - have entire ears cold
          - be standing hunch backed or reluctant to move (which increases case of colic since horse is reluctant to move to water or hay)
          - shivering (a last ditch attempt to warm up)

          In mildly cold cases, I throw a hood on or another medium blanket and move the hay and get water so they can eat/drink without leaving their shelter. In super cold cases, horses another heavy blanket tossed on and a hood and again, food moved closer and lukewarm water offered.

          Hope that helps!

          Also, remember to stick a hand up by the ribs so you can gauge your horse's weight. If she's cold, she'll be burning calories trying to stay warm and it's not always noticeable under winter hair OR if she's not getting brought in to be worked due to the cold.


          • #6
            Each horse has a sheet and a medium weight blanket. I don't blanket unless it's cold and skin-soaking wet, or I may blanket the harder keeping mare if it's super cold (which for us is below 20) with high winds. I might blanket her in the 20's at night with high winds as well.

            The sheet is generally for temps above 50. The blanket, below that.

            Nobody is clipped.
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


            • #7
              I think it really depends on the individual horse, and what you intend to do.

              I have one that is furry, but is well blanketed in the winter (heavyweight with hood). I can ride him all through the winter as he never sweats, so I dont need to clip him.

              The other one is body clipped, lives out 24/7. He generally wears a heavyweight with hood, and a thick liner on the cold nights. He is an old man, works hard and gets sweaty if he isnt body clipped. His legs are still furry.

              I feel the hoods keep them quite warm. I used to keep them all in at night (one still stays inside), but found these guys do really well outside and actually keep weight on better outdoors than ina stall. They have a run-in shed, and have 24 hour access to hay, heated water and shelter. The worst time of year is right now, with all the mud. Winters the easypart!


              • #8
                Mine isn't clipped but I blanket to keep hair short and keep him from losing weight. I have Rambo Supreme blankets with neck covers. They are completely waterproof so even if it's pouring rain they stay dry. As I change temperatures and change blankets I'll hang wet ones to dry, otherwise they stay on and the outside dries on the horse.
                My temp guide is:
                45-55 - sheet
                35-45- medium
                25-35- heavy
                15-25- heavy and sheet
                5-15- heavy and medium

                I adjust blankets for rain and wind by adding layer. I also blanket for an approximate temperature rather than the low. I can only change blankets at morning feeding and night feeding. This means that if the overnight low is 32 but it's 50 when I leave the barn, my guy will wear a heavy since most of the night will be in the upper 30s. Did that make sense?
                "ronnie was the gifted one, victor was the brilliant intellect, and i [GM], well, i am the plodder."


                • #9
                  My 3 (2 Morgans, 1 TB) lived outside in MN winters. I have 4 layers (turnout sheet, medium weight turnout blanket, stable blanket, polar fleece blanket liner). I rotated around (stable blanket as bottom layer and turnouts on top, polar fleece on really cold nights) as temperatures warranted. They only got the heaviest layer (stable blanket + medium weight turnout + polar fleece liner) maybe 5 nights a year, when it was sub zero with 20mph+ winds.

                  Snow never soaked through the layers, so it was never necessary for me to switch them out on that account. The only thing that happened was when it would snow then freeze so that the blankets were frozen in their shape. I could take them off and stand them up in perfect pony shapes.


                  • #10
                    Others have already beat me to a more detailed response, but basically, yes -- if you're going to blanket, keep the same blanket rules throughout the season; learn your horse and her preferences; layers are your friend.

                    My two are 18 and 9, and live out 24/7. I blanket, admittedly out of convenience for me (less time scraping mud and drying coats = more time riding!), but in exchange I am very, very attentive to what they DO wear. Luckily I have them on self-care and they're two minutes from where I work, so I can check frequently and change blankets whenever I need to!

                    My 18y/o is starting to feel his age and is running colder now, so I err on the side of overblanketing him. It sounds contradictory, but he's got a low trace clip to keep him comfy on the freak 80°+ days. Odd as it sounds, it works for him.

                    The 9y/o I've only had for a year, and I'm still learning his quirks and preferences. He tends to run hotter, so I err on the side of underblanketing. A trace clip might be in his future, too, so I may have to adjust accordingly.

                    I am an admitted blanket hoarder and probably overdo it on wardrobes (the older guy has around 12 blankets and counting; half of that would probably be sufficient!), but having more choices means I can do better layers for the days when the temps run wild, and I have a replacement on hand if something gets drenched/shredded/grody. I do clean blankets at least once or twice a season, because no matter how well-groomed they are when you put them on, they will eventually get pretty gross if they live outside.

                    It's a lot of work, but they stay fat, sleek, and happy throughout the winter, so...
                    Member of the Standardbreds with Saddles Clique!
                    They're not just for racing!


                    • #11
                      My two cents:

                      I am from a coldish climate (Ohio), and I believe if you start blanketing (several days or a week, not just one night), you keep blanketing through the rest of the season. If you change the horse's natural defenses, they get dependent on the blanket pretty quickly.

                      The simplest way to look at it IMO is a blanketed horse is equivalent to our comfort on a pleasant day in the summer. It's not fair to put a horse into "summer" one day, and switch them back to winter or late fall like temps the next day when you don't blanket.

                      For me, if I start blanketing, I do it to moderate the trace clipped (or lightly haired but unclipped) horse to about 60 or 65 degrees, using heavy, medium, light or rain sheet as needed; so they may go without during the day if it's overcast at 60/65 or sunny and a just little cooler, but until the temperatures consistently stay up there, I blanket continuously once I start. This is with a high-ish trace clip. Full clip, I'd want him warmer.

                      My guy had a good heavyweight Rambo Wug, a heavyweight rug, a medium weight, a rain sheet, and a poofy (200gm?) liner. This would allow me to switch something out if it did get wet and provide the same protection, but if you have a good rug and take proper care of it, it really should stay dry inside for the horse.

                      I'm presuming your horse is not clipped? Some feel an unclipped horse is happier rugged on those crummy mid 30s to low 40s rainy days... but I don't want to blanket, and I do think once you start you should continue. To help keep the field horse more comfy and naturally "waterproofed", I don't groom down to the skin as much in winter. I may do a really through curry, or brush well, but seldom do both on the same day, unless it's during a warm spell... A blanketed horse should get a good to-the-skin grooming with both pretty much every day.
                      I'm not really at the top of my game today. I'm not even exactly sure what game I'm supposed to be playing, in fact... or where it's being held...

                      My horse's antics iamboyfriend.com


                      • #12
                        One thing to remember. A wet blanket is worse than no blanket. This is because the horse cannot 'loft' his coat to keep warm if he has a wet blanket on.