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CSU Blanket Study

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  • CSU Blanket Study

    interesting article..... Here is some information on winter blanketing that may surprise you. This is the result of a multi-year study done by CSU, using state of the art thermal detection equipment. Colorado State University is widely considered to be one of the top three equine veterinary schools in the country:

    Blanketing horses is one of the worst things that you can do to a horse in the winter. Horses have the abi...lity 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- except that we don't know what they need as well as they do. Their 'self-blanketing' process works a little like 'chill bumps' do in our own skin. That's why long-haired horses may seem fluffier on some days than on others.

    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. Also horses are in 'neutral' (meaning not using energy for either heating or cooling) when the air around them is between 26 and 38 degrees. Otherwise, they're using energy to control their temps. So- since they're cooling their bodies when the temp is over 38 degrees, they're having to use extra energy to cool themselves when blanketed in temperatures over that.

    Any time a horse that is outside and has a long coat is shivering, it's because the horse has opted to shiver to warm itself, instead of using the option of moving. Moving generates a considerable amount of heat for a horse, but they sometimes stand and shiver while napping, etc. It does not mean that they need to be blanketed. However- a horse MUST have a way to get out of the wind in order for their 'self-blanketing' abilities to function fully.

    It turns out that blanketing is done more for pleasing the human, than to fill a need of the horse. The horse blanket industry has done a great job of making us think that their product is a necessary part of good horsekeeping- when it is actually an item that is very seldom needed.

    Another often unknown fact is that horses become dehydrated more frequently in the winter than in the summer. The horse feels less thirsty because they're not triggered by heat to drink more water, so the lack of appropriate intake often causes dehydration. A suggestion for this is to offer one or two buckets full of cool-to-tepid molasses-enhanced water per day. 50 lb. bags of crystalized molasses are available by order through feed stores (if they don't keep it on hand), and is easier to work with than wet [sticky] molasses. A 50 lb. bag of dry molasses costs under $20.00 and will last all winter for several horses. Molasses are high in iron, and make a good supplemental addition, in any case.

    Another little known fact is that horses do not need more feed in the winter than in the summer. In the summer horses are using energy to cool themselves. In the winter they are using energy to warm themselves. Both efforts use similar amounts of energy. In fact, if horses have feed before them for more of the time during the winter, they are less likely to move about, which decreases one of their most efficient heating processes.

    (Old or unhealthy horses may need extra help keeping warm in the winter just as they need help staying cool in the summer- but even in the cases of these special-need horses, over-blanketing may cause sweating, which can then cause chilling- and more serious consequences.)

  • #2
    Link to original source, please?
    Balanced Care Equine

    Comment


    • #3
      Do you have a link to the study? I'd like to see what the parameters of the study were.

      Comment


      • #4
        Funny, the only link I've found so far is facebook and a reference to Elaine Nash's Handy Hints for Horses (which is also nowhere to be found). It's gone viral on horse forums, but any original link is so far, no where to be found.
        Last edited by LauraKY; Oct. 31, 2011, 12:10 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          i don't know if this is new to anyone. we all know they have the ability to fluff their coat to keep warm. i think most of us who blanket do it b/c our horses are clipped, aged, sick, b/c they're worked to the point of sweat and need something on while they're drying, or b/c we're trying to keep them clean.

          i have to admit that i'm surprised that according to the study rain has no impact on the ability to maintain body temperature. in my experience, cold rain is what will make horses shiver, and why is it that it seems that in the rain they continuously opt to shiver rather than move if in fact that would keep them warm?

          anyway, thanks for posting. always an interesting subject to read about. would like to read the actual publication (if one in fact exists )
          http://www.eponashoe.com/
          TQ(Trail Queen) \"Learn How to Ride or Move Over!!\" Clique

          Comment


          • #6
            I think a lot of people overblanket. I felt guilty when I got up this morning and the temp was 8 degrees lower than predicted (18). I would typically put a stable blanket on my unclipped horse at that temp. But he was fine and happy in his stall.

            Comment


            • #7
              I suspect the study does not exist.

              Comment


              • #8
                LauraKY is correct. No study.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by atr View Post
                  LauraKY is correct. No study.
                  Lesson...before repeating what you read on facebook, fact check it. I need an eyes rolling icon.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LauraKY View Post
                    Funny, the only link I've found so far is facebook and a reference to Elaine Nash's Handy Hints for Horses (which is also nowhere to be found). It's gone viral on horse forums, but any original link is so far, no where to be found.
                    I think Elaine has been on this bandwagon for years. And as far as I know there is no study either!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rapazzini09 View Post
                      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.
                      CSU or not, "formal" or not, "scientific" or not, I call bull on this. I'm not shooting the messenger, I promise

                      I have SEEN my fuzzy, dense-haired, healthy horses shivering - not just a little muscle twitch, but full body rolling muscle shivering, when wet to the skin. There is absolutely no fluffing, no 17 degrees of "blanketing", when the hair is laying down on the skin.

                      Also horses are in 'neutral' (meaning not using energy for either heating or cooling) when the air around them is between 26 and 38 degrees. Otherwise, they're using energy to control their temps. So- since they're cooling their bodies when the temp is over 38 degrees, they're having to use extra energy to cool themselves when blanketed in temperatures over that.
                      Not when it's 40* and they have been wet to the skin for hours and are flat out cold

                      Any time a horse that is outside and has a long coat is shivering, it's because the horse has opted to shiver to warm itself, instead of using the option of moving. Moving generates a considerable amount of heat for a horse, but they sometimes stand and shiver while napping, etc. It does not mean that they need to be blanketed. However- a horse MUST have a way to get out of the wind in order for their 'self-blanketing' abilities to function fully.
                      I don't know that a horse *chooses* to shiver. They can choose to move, or they can choose not to move, and the latter can lead to shivering.


                      It turns out that blanketing is done more for pleasing the human, than to fill a need of the horse. The horse blanket industry has done a great job of making us think that their product is a necessary part of good horsekeeping- when it is actually an item that is very seldom needed.
                      I will agree that many people over-blanket, either in temps too warm (ie they need a light jacket, they think the horse needs a sheet, they need a heavy jacket, they think the horse needs a blanket), or with too heavy a blanket (heavy weight when it's 25*). But there are absolutely valid reasons to blanket a horse, for the sake of the horse, and it doesn't even have to be windy OR raining

                      Another often unknown fact is that horses become dehydrated more frequently in the winter than in the summer. The horse feels less thirsty because they're not triggered by heat to drink more water, so the lack of appropriate intake often causes dehydration. A suggestion for this is to offer one or two buckets full of cool-to-tepid molasses-enhanced water per day. 50 lb. bags of crystalized molasses are available by order through feed stores (if they don't keep it on hand), and is easier to work with than wet [sticky] molasses. A 50 lb. bag of dry molasses costs under $20.00 and will last all winter for several horses. Molasses are high in iron, and make a good supplemental addition, in any case.
                      Horses don't need supplemental iron Molasses IS high in copper though, which many horses could use a bit more of. I think anything you can do to entice a horse to drink more water if he's not drinking enough is a good thing, within reason

                      Another little known fact is that horses do not need more feed in the winter than in the summer. In the summer horses are using energy to cool themselves. In the winter they are using energy to warm themselves. Both efforts use similar amounts of energy. In fact, if horses have feed before them for more of the time during the winter, they are less likely to move about, which decreases one of their most efficient heating processes.
                      Says who again? My mare absolutely needs more food in the Winter. Not a lot, but she needs more. I would have to feed her even MORE if I did not blanket her judiciously, which is really not a lot

                      (Old or unhealthy horses may need extra help keeping warm in the winter just as they need help staying cool in the summer- but even in the cases of these special-need horses, over-blanketing may cause sweating, which can then cause chilling- and more serious consequences.)
                      *sigh* it is not just about old or unhealthy horses. I have 3 adults who WILL shiver if they are soaked to the skin and it's 40* outside, let alone colder. They WILL be miserably cold if it's 30 and sleeting. They are not unhealthy, though 1 of them is older. However, he is the one who takes the longest to get to the point of shivering
                      ______________________________
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I"m with JB on this one. I have heard in the past that 40 degrees is neutral temp for unclipped horses, and I would even argue that this can ONLY be an average, as different horses have very different coat thicknesses.

                        And when horses are wet and their coats are flattened, they aren't getting much of any insulation out of that (go ahead, wrap yourself in polar fleece, soak with a hose and tell me you are just as warm as before).

                        I agree, humans overblanket, yes, we wear a coat and think snookums needs one too and are probably wrong. I. Don't. Care. And will gladly tell any know it all who shows up at my place and tells me that animals have their own thick coats for warmth and I don't need to blanket that yes, they are totally right, and so smart and that yes, I do it for ME not them. Because I sleep better at night when I convince myself they are tucked up and snug as bugs in rugs out there in their Rambo heavyweights. And if I can smile as I drift off, thinking of how cozy they are, then great!!

                        And stupid question...but shivering and running around burn energy from all the muscle contractions going on and create heat. Easy.
                        For cooling though, what, increased respiration, ok, some faster movement of lungs would burn energy. Sweating, ummm increased water consumption, but how much energy is burned from the release of sweat? I don't see HOW that could surpass the amount it takes to keep warm. I think I"ve seen 15 national geographic shows saying that people exploring the arctic need all these extra calories to keep warm and not a single one that says that you need all those calories to keep cool in Houston on a hot day!!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'd much rather have a horse a little (little!) too cold, than be too hot under a blanket he doesn't need

                          Have you (anyone) ever shivered so hard and so long your muscles were sore the next day? Ever dealt with a horse who spent all Winter with, off and on, muscles that shivered to stay warm? Yeah, let's do that to a horse for the sake of "they don't need a blanket".
                          ______________________________
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Whatever happened to common sense?

                            If your horse grows a good solid coat, the footing in the pasture is safe for the horse to move around on (i.e. not ice), and you have an adequately sized shelter which is angled in the proper direction to serve as a wind block, you probably won't need anything.

                            If your horse is clipped, or your shelter faces the wrong direction, or your horse's don't go in the shelter when it rains, or they spent half their lives where winter coats aren't necessary- and haven't cought on- you probably need blankets.

                            Just because you need a sweater at the barn, doesn't mean poopsie needs a heavy weight blanket.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No known reference

                              I am currently at CSU and have contacted most of the equine specialists and have not been able to find anyone who is at all aware of a blanketing study at CSU. If such does exist, please provide the reference so we might make any clarifications required.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by marta View Post
                                ... and why is it that it seems that in the rain they continuously opt to shiver rather than move if in fact that would keep them warm?
                                I ask myself this anytime I see any of my guys out in the rain instead of the sheds! My TB broodmare had a hair up her butt this weekend and was standing out in the freezing rain/sleet Saturday am - and being that she is the 'leader' - the 3 yearling fillies were standing out there with her - all shivering. (She isn't the dam of any of them - just babysitting).

                                They would not come over to their buckets to eat bc she wouldn't come. Something was up - she wouldn't come near the fenceline and was snorting like a bull. I finally got them in the shed and fed them in there. They stayed there the rest of the day but geez... why all the fuss out in the rain when there is a warmer dry shed 30' away? dum dums.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                                  Whatever happened to common sense?

                                  If your horse grows a good solid coat, the footing in the pasture is safe for the horse to move around on (i.e. not ice), and you have an adequately sized shelter which is angled in the proper direction to serve as a wind block, you probably won't need anything.

                                  If your horse is clipped, or your shelter faces the wrong direction, or your horse's don't go in the shelter when it rains, or they spent half their lives where winter coats aren't necessary- and haven't cought on- you probably need blankets.

                                  Just because you need a sweater at the barn, doesn't mean poopsie needs a heavy weight blanket.

                                  I used to overblanket bc I didn't know any better. I had to bc all my friends' horses had blankets. Then I clipped for a decade when competing so double/triple blanketed then. Then I got my own place and had 24 horses to blanket.

                                  After 4 winters of replacing blankets all season long - I read up on blanketing. Now I only blanket the 3 old horses (and not until it gets COLD/wet which is about January here) and my show horse IF I ride/clip him which is rare. The others blow coats out like buffalo, have deep big sheds, and are healthy/happy all winter.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I agree with the notion most horse people blanket for themselves! I do know my old man loses weight pretty quickly in the winter and blanketing seems to help him out. I also know he has sensitive skin and being thrown out 24/7 has made him more prone to skin infections and rain rot (mostly over the winter and into spring when he's in more wet conditions as he rarely uses his shelter unless need be)-which I can prove by my vet bills! Yet, since I started blanketing him over the winters, his weight has been better and those skin issues have significantly dropped...maybe a coincidence, maybe the two are directly related (no more antibiotic treatments) who knows?

                                    I do know when I was in charge of a farm, on the cold days, I tended to throw on a blanket, throw extra hay (and monitor if anyone felt too warm) but keep doors or windows open. That's been my biggest concern at various barns-people seem to blanket and close up and the horses DO get way too hot, amongst other issues.

                                    I'm another believer I'd rather my horse be a bit too cool than an iota too warm. But obviously when we start alternating what is natural for a horse, be it by clipping, stabling or keeping under lamps, we do have a responsibility to also ensure they are dressed and put up in shelter properly. I remember noticing my outside, naked guys, who could move about and had hay in front of them, would stay warmer than the ones kept in stalls, so I do believe there is a lot of truth in there.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by @CSU View Post
                                      I am currently at CSU and have contacted most of the equine specialists and have not been able to find anyone who is at all aware of a blanketing study at CSU. If such does exist, please provide the reference so we might make any clarifications required.
                                      from the horse's mouth, as it were....

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        The only time I have ever seen my mini super woolly shiver is in the spring when half her winter coat is shed and it is cold and raining and she is soaked.

                                        But no, she is not cold. (bangs head)

                                        Feeding 101 says that horses generate heat when they digest forage feed, ie hay. Which is why feeding more hay rather than pulp or grain is better to keep a horse warm.

                                        My pet peeve re blanketing is the person who puts a lightweight blanket on their horse and thinks it will keep them toasty all winter.
                                        The blanket keeps the hair crushed so the horse can't warm themself but is not warm enough to provide warmth to the horse when the mercury dips waaaay down.

                                        A close second is the blanket on in the fall and never comes off till spring, the poor horse must get sooo itchy and no way to scratch.

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