Most healthy horses are naturally protected from the weather. Their hair coat changes with the seasons - becoming thicker in the winter and thinner in the summer. This change is based on the shortening or lengthening of the days.
As long as the healthy horse has shelter from wind, cold damp rain and access to shade, he should be fine.
Notice the key word - "healthy". There are instances when a horse needs the added protection of a blanket or sheet.
Old age - senior horses lose the ability to regulate body temperature; the coat may become less thick and a decrease in insulating body fat may be a problem. In a herd situation the old-timer may not be allowed in the shelter.
In addition to providing a blanket for added warmth, the senior horse must have his nutritional needs addressed. If other horses are not allowing him in the shelter, he needs to be moved.
Illness - horses that are ill and running a fever may need a blanket to help regulate body temperature. Consult your veterinarian.
Horses that suffer from photosensitization need to be protected from ultraviolet light. These horses have severe reactions when exposed to sunlight…their skin "sunburns", becomes crusty and painful. A sheet rated for UV protection is a must for these horses if they are in sunlight.
Healthy horses in abnormal conditions may also require a blanket.
Show or performance horses - horses that are clipped or kept under lights to limit hair growth need to be blanketed. They no longer have insulation which long hair provides.
Horses being hauled may need to be blanketed to keep warm. Care must be taken they don't become too warm in the trailer.
After exercise a horse may need a cooler (a sheet made of material that will absorb sweat) to ward off a chill. It's very important a hot horse is cooled out properly. Replace the damp cooler with a dry blanket or sheet before putting the horse up.
In addition to warmth, show horses are kept blanketed to keep the coat from fading in the sunlight, keep the hair lying flat and clean.
Light weight sheets are great for fly control. In addition to sheets, leg protection and neck attachments are available to help ward off flies. Special fly sheets are light weight and breathable.
If you've decided your horse needs a blanket, it's time to go shopping! You'll find there are many choices. Your horse will end up with as many "coats" as you - one for every season and every weather change. Be sure to get his name embroidered on it - it's fashion at its highest!
* For information about how to care for horses take the online course "Stable Management" and "Nutrition For Maximum Performance" taught by Eleanor Blazer. Earn certification or work toward a Bachelor of Science degree in equine studies.
To Blanket, or Not to Blanket?
By Eleanor Blazer
Does my horse need a blanket?
He might if he needs protection.
There are four reasons to blanket a horse -
1. To protect the horse from the weather.
2. To protect the coat.
3. To protect the horse from bugs.
4. To protect the horse from ultraviolet light.