It is December, and the low temperature will be 32 degrees Farenheit. The question comes up every year when the temperature starts to drop in the deserts of Central Arizona. Should I blanket my horse during the night?
Many people feel their horses cannot survive a cold or several cold nights without the benefit of a blanket to keep them warm. Others, feel that Mother Nature provides several internal defenses to combat the cold weather. This includes a thick coat and plenty of fat below the horses's skin. These horseowners feel it is not necessary to blanket.
There are several ways to help your horse overcome cold or wet weather. A horse needs a good supply of hay and fresh water. With a good diet, a horse will grow a thick winter coat to use as a defense against the cold temperatures. This heavy coat will usually become the heater a horse needs. With temperatures rarely reaching below fifteen degrees Farenheit over night in the central deserts, this is usually enough to protect a horse against the cold.
It is important to provide your horses with proper shelter during a cold rain, especially with windy condtions. A stall with a roof over it or a run in shelter, is good to keep the horse's coat dry. The rain and wind can push a horses's coat flat on its body, causing the natural defense of a thick coat to stop insulating the body.
Most horses can withstand cold weather without blanketing with a thick coat and proper shelter from a cold rain, without the temperature going below five degrees Farenheit, with a proper diet and shelter from the rain. The old theroy, that if a person is cold, than your horse will be cold is not an viable theroy. Even if a horse does not have a thick coat, the previously mentioned fat a horse has under its skin will work as a heater.
There are a few cases where blanketing is advised. If a owner has an older horse, or a horse is body clipped, such as a show horse. Many owners will blanket their horse during the winter to keep their horse from developing a thick coat. This is done again for show horses, and also for owners who for appearance purposes do not want their horses to have a winter coat.
If you decide not to blanket your horse, do not use a purported study by the Colorado State University of Veterinary Medicine as a reason to not blanket your horse. According to Ryan Brook an instructor of equine science at the school, there is not any documents on file at the school that show that such a study was ever made. This appears to be a hoax, that somehow shows up on social media outlets such as Facebook every year.
If you do decide to blanket, be sure the blanket fits the horse properly. A horse can become entangled in loose straps. Check the blanket for tears on a daily basis. A blanket can get caught in fencing or another horse may use the blanket to chew on it.
Wether or not you blanket your horse, is really up to the horse owner. There are not any definitive studies available to convince an owner either way. If it makes you feel better to blanket, than maybe you shoulddo it.