I know there are a lot of different strong opinions on horse blanketing so I wanted to post something about it. This is my opinion and I don’t know everything but I’m drawing from everything I have researched and heard (which is a LOT and a lot of very different perspectives as all you other horsepeople know)
Honestly, I used to think they were very important but recently I’ve changed my opinion and I beleive they are actually harmful.
I heard once a long time ago they were needed in the midwest because horses can handle winters but not our harsh MN winters we have here because when horses were wild, they didn’t exist here naturally. So it made sense to me to ‘protect’ them from the cold. However, what I’ve recently learned with help of the wild Nokota horse from North Dakota, yes, horses did not only live but thrive in our northern climates for many many years. I’ve read a couple different studies saying horses are most comfortable between 15-60 degrees.
In one study horses were thermal tested in extreme weather and the study said they can arrange thier fur in so many different ways it was like having 17 different jackets to chose from to use at any given time they want. So when we blanket, we stop this natural ability. It pushes down on the fur and traps moisture and can cause them to sweat which actually chills the horse and causes them to be colder. A lot of horses get rub marks from where the blanket hangs so we know there is pressure even when the fit is right.
A friend of mine had a really good point when she said it would be like us wearing a cloak all day which she’s done and she said after 8 hrs of being in that cloak it felt like a weight it was so heavy and her shoulders hurt from the pressure and rubbing.
I know that in some cases blankets are important, if the horse is older, has a thyroid problem, was moved from a very warm climate or is very thin, in some cases a blanket could be helpful, but there isn’t any reason a healthy horse needs to wear one. After all if they can be out in extreme heat working for hours on end and can thermal regulate in those cases why do we have difficulties beleiving they can’t do this in cold weather too? We as humans have to keep in mind they do not feel cold and heat like we do. We also have to remember sometimes we can go overboard and do things FOR our horse that make US feel better but can get in the way of the natural abilities to regulate, heal and function.
So with that being said, I have to say I have been very disapointed to see so many horses blanketed in 30 and 40 degree weather blocking the hair growth process and it’s shocking to me that people will blanket a horse and leave it on all winter long. I’d much rather see people offering 24 hr food sources because that hay burning warms them up, offering fresh not frozen water and having a lean to or a few so if they need to get out of the elements they can. I also know it’s benificial even on those super cold days to go out once in a while and give them some nice footing to play on like the indoor arena, you wouldn’t beleive how much fun they have when they realize they won’t slip and fall.
I hope more and more knowledge and studies come out about this subject because I think we all need to focus more on doing what’s best for the horse instead of doing what makes us feel better. The only way we can do this is opening up and accepting the responsibility to learn as much as possible and spreading the knowledge as much as we can.