Tuesdays with Tony
To blanket, or not to blanket. That is the question. With the drastic change in weather, it’s difficult to know exactly when and with what you should blanket your horse. I, for one, am all for blanketing. My staff recently went as far as purchasing myself and Teeny some very nice flannel to keep us warm on these chilly days. I pretend to hate it, I can’t let them know that I actually appreciate their gesture, but I just love my new flannel, I look so fancy and chic, plus it keeps me warm while I’m out patrolling the clinic. Enough about me. Well, not really, it’s always all about me, but I know you all are here to learn about blanketing horses, not cats, so let me tell you all about it.
When I grow up, I want to be a weatherman. It’s literally the only job where you can be wrong 99% of the time and you don’t get fired, what gives? You all know what I’m talking about. This past weekend in Florida, for example, it was supposed to rain part of the day Friday but then turn out partly sunny on Saturday and Sunday with highs in the 60s. Well, guess who was wrong again? Not me, of course, but you guessed it, the weathermen! Not only did it rain all day Friday, it rained and was overcast all day Saturday. Certain parts of our area saw the sun for a brief moment on Sunday, but other areas saw only clouds. The bigger disappointment was the temperature. I spent the whole weekend inside, but I don’t think it got over 60 all weekend, with feels like temperatures in the 50s! So, this leads us to this week’s blog topic, blanketing.
Has your horse ever been blanketed?
So many factors go into when we should blanket our horses. First and foremost is, has your horse ever been blanketed? If your horse has never had a blanket on him for his entire life, now may not be the time to start. If you do decide that you want to start blanketing your horse, remember to always monitor how your horse tolerates having a blanket on. As you all know, some horses think that ripping blankets to shreds is the best game and will find any way to rip their blanket off or may try to take their friends’ blankets off. This can get very expensive unless you know someone who is handy with a sewing machine, and don’t look at me. I have many talents but sewing is not one of them. Apparently opposable thumbs are necessary for sewing. The other thing horses like to do is get caught on objects, fencing, trees, etc. So, for horses who aren’t used to wearing a blanket, please keep an eye on them for the first few days while they are getting used to it.
Let’s say your horse tolerates blanketing well and kind of actually enjoys his new clothes. Now we have to decide at what temperature we blanket and what type of blanket he needs.
Is Your Horse Body Clipped?
Has your horse recently gotten a snazzy new ‘do? I bet he looks great, but when you clip your horse, they lose a layer of insulation they use to keep warm. I am all for keeping your horse clipped and looking his best, so when the weather gets cold, be sure to have blankets on hand. My rule of paw is, if your horse is clipped and the temperature drops into the mid 50s, your horse should have a light sheet on. If it drops into the mid 40s, I recommend a blanket. Anything in the mid 30s or below, you may want to consider a sheet and blanket or a very heavy blanket.
If your horse has not been body clipped recently, he probably doesn’t need a blanket at all. The exceptions to this are horses who can’t regulate their temperature or put on an appropriate winter coat, such as older Cushing’s/PPID horses, or horses who are subjected to a lot of rain followed by freezing temps. If you have a horse you aren’t sure about, call my docs.
Where does your horse live?
Does your horse live in a barn, is he in a pasture, or a combination of both? I am a fan of the combo living myself, I like to spend my days laying in the sun outside and my nights inside sleeping in the office chairs. Whatever lifestyle you have picked for your horse will also dictate what kind of blanket you may want for your horse.
If your horse spends most of his time in a stall and is only turned out in fair weather, you can probably get away with having a stable sheet and stable blanket on hand for your horse. However, if your horse is ever going to be out in inclement weather, I highly recommend having a waterproof sheet and blanket on hand. Even if your horse lives in a pasture with access to a stall or shelter, I still recommend waterproof clothes for him. Horses make bad decisions sometimes and will stand in the rain despite having a stall right in front of them, so waterproof is necessary in these situations. Who wants to wear a wet blanket when it’s freezing?
What if your horse is wet/sweaty?
If for some reason your horse is out in a blanket that is not waterproof and it gets wet, it is always better to take the wet blanket off and let it dry. Do not leave a wet blanket on your horse in cold weather, this is just asking for your horse to get sick.
Is your horse already wet or sweaty? Wait for them to dry before you put their blanket on them. This is where wool coolers come in handy. You can put the cooler on your horse while he dries. It helps to pull the moisture away from your horse while keeping the heat in. While coolers make excellent beds for me to sleep on, I do not suggest leaving your horse in his cooler unattended as they tend to slip and can get caught around feet, legs and necks, and well, we know what happens after that. You got it, a call to my docs. So, once your horse is dry, switch out the cooler for a sheet or blanket with secure straps to prevent injury to your horse.
As always, your horse’s safety is most important and what is best for your horse may not be best for your neighbor’s horse and vice versa. If you have questions about blanketing your horse and what is best for your individual situation, do not hesitate to ask my docs. Remember, they are horse owners too, and make the same decisions about their horses that you make about your horses every day and they love talking about what is best for your horse to keep him happy and healthy.
Want to learn more about this? Check out the upcoming episode of the podcast my humans produce. The December 1st episode is all about blanketing. While you’re at it, you should check out the hottest horse book on the market. It’s called Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband. You can read all about it by clicking on the banner below, or on the Books link up in the menu bar. But before you do any of that, scroll down a bit more and subscribe to my blog. It’s what all the cool cats do.
Until next week,
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!