Should I Blanket? How and When?

This is a question many people start asking themselves as fall rolls around. The cooler weather rolls in, you start putting on an extra layer yourself before going out to do chores or ride, and you wonder if your horse needs an extra layer as well.

Most horses naturally grow a fluffy winter coat as the days begin getting shorter, after shedding out their summer coat, and blanketing a horse too early or too heavily may leave you piling the layers on to a chilly horse when the weather gets really cold. The average horse has in its digestive system a 24-36 gallon fermentation vat (the hindgut – cecum and large intestine). This is where the majority of their feed digestion takes place. This fermentation produces large quantities of energy in the form of heat, which helps to keep them warm even in the coldest weather. 

But he just looks cold! Even with their insulating coat and personal internal heater, some horses just like people just don’t like the cold. Very young horses and older horses can be particularly susceptible to the cold, as they are using more energy to grow or maintain body condition. Horses with increased energy demands, such as high levels of work, growth, or age, can often benefit from a blanket to decrease the energy they put towards keeping themselves warm.
Clipped horses in the winter should always have some type of blanket or sheet, depending on the amount of clipping, as you have removed their natural protection from the weather. 

Fire had a wonderful winter coat, but needed a clip to stay cool while working

So if you’ve decided to blanket, when to start? And what type?


Guidelines for body clipped horses and hard keepers:

40-50 degrees

  • A lightweight turnout sheet
  • Protection from wind and rain

20-40 degrees

  • A midweight blanket
  • Warmth
  • Blocks wind and rain 
  • Good for almost all winter weather

 Teens and below

  • Heavy weight blanket
  • Extreme cold
  • Or horses not adjusted to cold weather (shipped from the south in the winter)


Healthy young adult to adult horses with normal haircoat:

20-40 degrees

  • Consider a lightweight blanket or sheet for turn out if stabled for long periods in a warm >45degree barn

Teens and below

  • Light to midweight blanket for turnout if not adjusted to temperature (stabled in warm barn or normally wears stable sheet)

Don’t forget if you decide to blanket, to regularly remove the blanket and check for wear spots, any rubs on the horse, and make sure the straps are in good condition.