As far as I have read in the past, horses are not only cold weather animals, they are supposedly able to withstand up to thirty degrees below zero without any pain. Just remember that we are talking about horses that are out in the bad weather all year round and their hide as well as their systems have adapted to these conditions just as Mother Nature intended. Bringing horses in out of the bad weather under shelter is a good thing but we then diminish their natural abilities to ward off the cold to some degree. I have seen horses standing in a barn and shivering when it was just thirty-two degrees. This is the result of horses being kept mostly in a stall, so in turn they have not developed the very heavy coat that they might have if they were in the elements all the time. There is nothing wrong with keeping horses in a stall as long as they have sufficient time every day to go out and exercise and play with other horses or are ridden daily or a combination of both. Thus, to compensate for the lack of a heavy warming coat, we can substitute with horse blankets if your horse has to endure fairly cold or below freezing temperatures. If your horse is in training, it is actually best if you start with a lighter sheet (a horse blanket but with no insulation and made of much lighter material) and progress into heavier blankets as the weather get colder. If your horse is in training, helping your horse in not developing a heavy coat is a win/win situation as long as you are diligent in making sure that your horse is blanketed each and every evening or day that the temperature is less than comfortable. Having a lighter coat will help your horse from sweating too easily while being ridden and will help you with the grooming and cooling out process.
If you have made a decision to blanket your horse, as soon as the weather starts to turn colder and the evenings are getting below a designated temperature, then you would start with a light sheet. The reason that I am not giving you a definite temperature is because as usual, different horseman will have different ideas on what is the right temperature to start blanketing. Let’s say that you start with just a sheet on your horse just as the temperatures get below fifty-five degrees. This is going to help your horse from developing a heavier coat, help the coat to lay down and have more of a sheen when you take the blanket off not to mention that your horse will stay cleaner. As the day warms up, of course, the sheet will need to be removed. Having horses sweating underneath a sheet or blanket is not a good thing. As the evenings start to become cooler, lets say when the temperatures get below forty degrees, you may want to go to a heavier blanket or some people will add another sheet on top of the first one. I prefer just to go to a heavier blanket. You can take the blanket off during the day and put the sheet on your horse if the temperatures are still a bit cool. Let’s say that the temperatures are going to be in the twenties. You can have another blanket that is insulated or you can put the sheet on your horse first and then put your heavier blanket on top of the sheet. Once you start with this process, you will need to check the weather every day and know when you go to the barn at evening feeding, whether you need to sheet or not, or whether to go to a heavier blanket. Remember that once you have stopped the process of your horse developing a heavy coat in order to combat the elements, it is your responsibility to make sure that your horse has the correct blanket or blankets on them. Missing an evening of blanketing on a very cold night could cause your horse to stand and shiver throughout the night. Your horse will not have the ability to warm him or herself up, due to the fact that they are in the stall and cannot run around and warm up in order to combat the shivers. This in turn could lead to your horse becoming sick. Sick horses are not only a sad thing, but usually, it is expensive to help them get back to good health.
Coolers are designed to put on a horse after they have exercised, especially if they are hot and steam is coming from their bodies. If the weather is fairly cool, you can give your hot and sweaty horse a warm bath, in a very quick manner, making sure to scrape the excess water off with a scraper and then put the cooler on them as you walk them off. Coolers are made of an absorbent material that will help your horse release the heat from his or her body slowly. Allowing a hot wet horse to cool out in the cold weather is harmful to their muscle health. Allowing the muscles to cool slowly will help them to keep their flexibility. Letting them go from hot to cold too quickly will cause your horse unnecessary stiffness and possible cramping, which could affect their desire to train the next day. Coolers will help your horse to dry more quickly after a good bath. In a competition barn or a racing barn, coolers and blankets are normal attire.
The blankets that are available today are very affordable, extremely comfortable for your horse, washable and come in many different materials and designs. It is a shopper’s delight. Like most things that I have written about, once you become accustomed to them, they really are not that big of a deal. In one way blankets can be somewhat of a pain but on the other side of the coin, they can help you to maintain a bright, shiny healthy looking coat on your horse throughout the winter, and that can brighten up any horseman on a cold gloomy winter day.