Blanketing your horse in winter is a common practice for horse owners. However some argue that this is not necessary.
One argument is that by blanketing your horse you are getting in the way of Mother Nature. Horses can regulate their own body temperature, unlike humans, so they do not always need a blanket as humans do when we feel cold. We tend to apply human actions to horses – however, a horse does not need to be in a warm stall or have a blanket on when it is a bit cold. Their bodies are built to fight this.
This argument however comes with conditions. Horses can withstand the cold naturally if allowed to grow out their natural winter coats. Horses that have been clipped however will need to be blanketed as we have taken their natural source of insulation.
Horses that are old or sick also need blankets as they are not able to keep themselves warm. This goes for horses with any health problems, horse that are underweight, or horse that have been rescued and are weak.
It is important to realise that horses adapt to temperatures – but that they need time to do so. A horse that is used to a shelter cannot be put out in the cold without a blanket. If a horse has become accustomed to wearing a blanket you also cannot simply decide to stop using one.
Remember also that there are different horse blankets for different reasons. A thin sheet may protect your horse from rain and wind, but a thicker and heavier blanket will be needed to provide warmth in the colder winter months.
There are a few signs that you can look out for to tell if your horse is cold. Cold horses will generally huddle together or move into a sheltered space and not want to move from there. If your horse refuses to leave his stall, even to eat, then he may be cold. Shivering is a sign of cold, but it is also a natural way to warm up. Your horse may shiver for a bit to warm up and then be happy and act normally. If your horse continues to shiver then you might want to look at blanketing.