To Blanket or Not to Blanket? That is the question!


Do you blanket your horse(s) during the winter? Why or why not?

I have not yet blanketed any of my horses because we just haven’t had cold enough or wet enough weather to justify it. The horses that are in the barn at night will not get blanketed until it gets really cold, but the one of have staying outside at night will start getting blanketed this week (once I wash my blankets). The show horses get sheets at night during show season to try to ward off their thick winter coats and then blankets as it gets later in the year.

There is a huge debate about whether it is “healthy and normal” to blanket horses. Well honestly there are many things we do to our domestic horses that are not necessarily “normal” for horses because the wild horses don’t go through what our horses go through. I blanket my horses for several reasons, one being that is makes me feel better knowing they are warm and toasty in their blankets. The younger horses, older horses, sick horses or underweight horses should all be blanketed so they don’t have to use extra energy to keep themselves warm.

I recently read a great blog post titled “Blanketing is NOT Bad, and YOU Aren’t ‘Natural!’” In this blog the author explained that blanketing is not bad and why they felt that way. May people state various reasons why blanketing is bad and even share a FAKE article about a study done at Colorado State proving blanketing was bad.

“No, blanketing does not make it more likely that rainrot or other skin problems will happen.
No, blanketing does not permanently damage a horse’s ability to grow a winter coat.
No, blanketing has no real effect on a horse’s coat.
No, blanketing is not just a gimmick created by blanket makers to get money.

If you believe any of these things, you have fallen for what we call Bunk Science. Meaning bullshit, urban myths, quackery, superstition, stupidity. Perhaps you have been reading, or listening to someone talk about, one of these:

  • A fake article about a non-existent study done by Colorado State University that proved blanketed horses were actually colder than unblanketed ones. This study NEVER HAPPENED. Read this article where the CSU Equine Sciences department says it’s all fake.
  • The idea that “blanketing is unnatural.”
  • An “article,” aka sales pitch, created by Mac’s Equine, talking about how normal blankets are bad: “[blanketing damages the] ‘arrector pili’ muscles which are continually flattened with long-term rugging. Eventually the horse loses its natural ability to keep warm by raising and lowering its hair follicles.” Guess what? They want you to buy THEIR fancy Cool Heat blanket that won’t cause this! Just $200 plus shipping!”

The author did a really good job of explaining what happens when horses and other animals get cold.

“When animals get cold, they get goosebumps on their skins.
The goosebumps make fur (hair) stand up straight.
When the fur stands up, there is more air in between the hairs.
The animal’s body warms up the air between the hairs.
The extra warm air helps keep animals warm.
But if it is raining, or very windy, the hair can’t stand up straight.
There are no more pockets of warm air to keep the animal warm.
The animal’s fur doesn’t work very well. The animal gets cold.
Putting a blanket on an animal can fix this.
Blankets make pockets of air inside the cloth, like a quilt.
Blankets can be waterproof and windproof, so they still work in rain and wind.
Putting a blanket on does not hurt an animal’s ability to make goosebumps.”

Basically, putting a blanket on your horse, especially a windproof, water proof and breathable one, will help your horses stay warm, dry and CLEAN. As a barrel racer who runs during the winter I want to be able to pull my horse out, head for a race and not have to get crazy about my grooming. A blanket helps with that! I don’t have worry about washing my horses the day before and then locking them in the barn away from their buddies just because I want them clean. Keeping blankets on through the muddy winter helps with that.

Now I do have some rules when it comes to blanketing my horses.

  1. If the weather has myself wearing a t-shirt during the day my horses don’t need their blankets.
  2. If it is raining, they get to wear their waterproof and windproof blankets.
  3. If I have to wear a sweatshirt when I go down to feed the older horses get their blankets on for the night.
  4. If it is foggy and damp when I get up, they keep their blankets on until the sun comes out.
  5. If I have to wear a jacket at any point throughout the day, the horses get their blankets on.

Blankets are an important part of keeping my horses healthy and happy. I know I wouldn’t want to stand out in the rain without my jacket so my horses shouldn’t have to stand out in the rain without their blankets.





  1. C.J. Redman

    I used both sheets & blankets when I was riding the parade circuit. Both for keeping them clean & warm. We rode year round. Night parades were cold. After a parade they were cooled, brushed & blanketed for the ride home. Summer nights they got sheets.I brushed my horses before blankets loosening hair that would have come off anyway. I’m in favor of them from good experience & advice from more seasoned riders.

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