Blanketing Study Stating Horses Shouldn’t Wear Blankets Is An Internet Hoax

Warmth guide-updated-DEC-2014With the winter just around the corner we are pulling out the winter coats and also our horses blankets. And every winter comes the debate whether to blanket or not to blanket your horse. This year though has also come along with an article that has everyone talking… This is an article that surfaced a few years ago and has recently popped back up on Facebook. It starts out saying that the CSU (Colorado State University) has done a study recently with thermal technology. It later says  “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.” Looking at the article you would never know that this was a hoax and that there has never been a study at CSU.

Blanketing is very different for every horse it depends on breed, weight, climate, his work load, and even their coats themselves. Horses that are used to the colder weather and have spent most of their time outside do better than those horses that are stabled all the time. It also depends on the climate weather it is just cold or cold and raining or even snowing. So when deciding if you need to blanket or not here are a few charts to look at.  Also here are few tips on blanketing from Dr. Luke Bass DVM.

  • Only apply blankets to clean, dry horses.  
  • Use the appropriate blanket for the appropriate use. A turnout blanket is for use during turnout and is designed to be waterproof. Horses that live in the elements wearing blankets should wear waterproof and breathable blankets. A blanket that is not waterproof will quickly become saturated, making your horse cold – the opposite of the desired effect with blanket use.
  • If you have decided to blanket, use the blanket weight that is most appropriate for your horse’s needs and the weather conditions. If it’s 40 degrees, your horse probably only needs a lightweight blanket. If it’s 10 degrees below zero, he might prefer a heavyweight blanket.
  • Sweating in a blanket on a hot day can be just as problematic as wearing a non-waterproof blanket in wet weather.
  • Remove your horse’s blanket and groom on a regular basis.

Stay warm and remember, not everything you read on the internet is true.

Written By Jona Lane.  Share this on Facebook and spread the word to other horse owners who may believe the internet hoax!

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5 Responses

  1. Joanne

    I do not know whether CSU ever did a study or not, but I do know that blanketing a horse negates the natural thermoregulatory of horses. Nature gave them what they need to stay warm & healthy – part of which is growing hair in the right amount for the season/environment AND the ability to regulate body heat with that hair. Clip it off and you have a problem — now there is cause to protect the horse with artificial means. This is not good for the horse, so best advice is let nature take it’s course whenever possible. Good common horse-sense!

  2. CountryGurlLane

    I agree that horses do have a natural defense against the weather but we have also bred horses so much that they do not have the same breeding lines as though in the wild so I think we need to help them when needed… Now this being said, I usually go off of if it is wet and cold and how the horse does at growing a coat…

    • joanne

      The physiology of the horse has not changed from the wild horses in thousands of years. The real factor you speak of is the horses environment. Horses kept stalled, heated barns, blanketed, and possibly clipped during coat season are being compromised by man — the breeding has nothing to do with it. Once the horse is compromised, certainly there can be issues and therefore needs to be addressed. But to assume domestic horses physiology is different is false — horses adapt to their environment and they adapt fast if they are healthy to start.
      Several years ago I brought a 12yr paso stallion from it’s life-long home in a heated barn in Minnesota to Nebraska. The owner claimed he never grew a winter coat, so when winter here approached (our horses are out 24/7/365) – I prepared to have to blanket him. My vet said don’t do it! I waited and although he did not grow as heavy a coat as my others, he did grow coat and the blanket hung unused for years! He passed at age 27 with the best years of his life in the great outdoors – where horses are designed to be.
      2 years ago, I brought a stallion up from Florida to Nebraska in January (yes, a bit crazy) – and he had been stalled with an outside run, but since a foal never had the need to grow a hair coat in S. Florida. The blanket was ready upon his arrival as our winter had turned unseasonably bitter cold. Amazingly he started growing a coat within days – it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. We stopped blanketing and he grew the thickest coat of all my horses in a very short time. He maintained the heaviest winter coat each winter while we owned him. Both of these horses are show-ring bred paso finos that many consider the farthest thing from a wild horse as you can get. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If a horse bred mainly in the tropics can transplant to an extreme environment and adapt in a matter of a couple weeks, any horse can. All (healthy) horses have the ability to adapt and survive in nature if humans would just let it happen….naturally.

  3. Laura

    We had a mare foal in December in North Idaho, one of those over the fence oops breedings. That foal was born fuzzy, it had winter hair. It was unbelievable. Baby did fine.
    Older and underweight horses benefit from waterproof blankets when it’s cold and rainy, freezing rain is the worst. Most other horses with free choice grass hay and trees for shelter and block the wind do fine. My old guy gets chilled once in a while, he hates a blanket even when he needs it.


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