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For the love of your pet: To blanket or not to blanket, that is the question

By By Shana Bohac
Dec. 19, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.


As we begin to have some cooler weather, we start to pull out our horse blankets from last winter. There are a few things to consider when deciding the appropriate time to blanket your horse.

First of all, a horse can stay warm much better than people. They will be comfortable when you or I need a jacket. Horses stay warm by producing heat through digesting hay because the fact that digestion is a fermentation process.

During a cold night, one way to warm your horse is to provide plenty of hay. The horse also has significantly larger body, which provides more heat - not to mention the fact that they get a longer coat in the winter.

This long hair provides a warm, protective layer as long as your horse is out of direct wind and rain. Even though horses can keep themselves warm, remember that blanketing your horse when it is really cold will help keep weight on your horse.

When to blanket can be difficult to determine, so you will want to evaluate the horse as a whole. Look at your horse's coat, weight, environment, overall health and types of blankets that you own.

Horses that have thin coats or have just been clipped will need a blanket at warmer temperatures than your average horse. Underweight horses or those with health issues may have compromised abilities to stay warm.

There are some key things to consider when blanketing your horse. You should periodically check under the blanket to make sure that your horse is not too hot or sweaty.

Make sure you give your horse some time without a blanket, particularly if they are being turned out. It is also a good idea to groom your horse prior to blanketing each time. When doing so, check the underside of the blanket for hay, stickers or hair that could rub your horse.

When choosing the appropriate blanket, make sure it fits your horse well and it doesn't rub anywhere. You will also want to decide which fabric is best for your circumstances. If you are turning your horse out, you will want a durable material that is waterproof or water-resistant.

Make sure you read the labels carefully to determine what the manufacturer means by each of these terms. You may need a sheet for the daytime and then a blanket for the cooler nights. Keep in mind also that if you are turning your horses out, they will need freedom to run and play; therefore, you will need a very sturdy sheet or blanket.

There are other options besides blanketing during the winter, which include putting up heating lamps in your barn to keep each stall warm. You can also provide plenty of roughage to increase your horse's internal temperature.

If you have any questions regarding winterizing your horse and barn, please contact me at drshanabohac@hotmail.com.

Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to drshanabohac@hotmail.com.

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