Does my horse really need a blanket?
Every winter the tiresome question of cover the horse with a blanket comes up. Many stable colleagues cover, because everyone does it, so it has to be right, right?
One thing is for sure, a clipped horse should be covered.
What temperatures can horses actually withstand?
But do we intervene too much in the thermoregulation of the horse by blanketing or not clipping too much?
We are trying more and more to take the nature of the horse into account through better forms of livestock, nutrition, etc., but shouldn’t we then take a close look at all areas?
Let’s be honest, a wild horse gets by without a blanket. Sure, these horses doesn’t have to work either – a perfectly justified objection, which we’ll go into later.
Real record artists are, for example, the horses in Siberia, who accept temperatures down to minus 70° Celsius without batting an eyelid. Even in summer at plus 40° Celsius , the temperature doesn’t bother them much, which shows that horses are enormous artists of adaptation .
This is just an extreme example to illustrate what our four-legged friends are capable of.
Thank God we don’t live in the tundra now and our sheltered sports and leisure horses would really be in a fix there, but they can withstand temperature fluctuations of up to 40 degrees without any problems.
How does thermoregulation work?
But now Let’s get to the real point: What happens when we take our horse cover up?
The thermoregulation of the horse is highly complex. As the days get shorter, their fur begins to thicken.
Annoying for us, because it takes time to get this fur dry again and putting the horse wet in the stable means diseases, so definitely not an alternative.
They feel most comfortable at minus five to fifteen degrees . Only when the temperatures drop below minus ten degrees does the thermoregulation of a normal winter coat really start to work.
The coat, arteries, skin and sweat glands are involved.
Does my horse need more feed in winter?
Fat is particularly important. In fact, fat is such an insulator that a University of Minnesota study by Marcia Hathaway and Krishona Martinson said the more fat a horse has, the less fur it needs because fat is energy.
The colder the temperatures, the more energy the horse needs. Roughage, preferably hay, can support this additional energy requirement.
But that doesn’t mean that you should feed the horse until it’s round as a ball, because after all it’s not a bear that has to prepare for hibernation.
On the other hand, it is completely normal for the horse to gain weight over the winter, but we are talking about a little here. This means that ideally you should increase the daily feed ration, because the change of coat means high performance for the metabolism and the horse needs this energy from somewhere.
The thickness and density of the winter coat is also controlled by the outside temperature.
The colder, the more fur.
If we cover up in time now, we pretend to the horse’s body that it’s not that cold yet, which is why less fur is put on.
So when do I cover the horse with a blanket?
It is clear that a healthy horse with enough winter fur can do without a blanket, even if there is a layer of snow on its back.
However, if the temperature falls below minus 15 and there is no shelter available, you should consider covering the horse, the same applies if it is exposed to constant rain or freezing rain.
This flattens the fur, which degrades the insulation. However, one cannot say the whole thing in such a general way.
Horses that are ill, old, or sensitive to wet and cold weather need a blanket.
The same applies to some warm-blooded or thoroughbred horses, where wetness is a problem, whereas cold-blooded horses or Icelandic horses have fewer problems with cold, wet weather conditions.
Adaptability to the cold also varies with breed.
It is different with sport horses. If you train a lot every day, covering up in good time can prevent too much winter fur, which means that the horses don’t sweat as quickly and clipping can even be prevented.
Unfortunately, one cannot give a general answer.
The owners are required to take a close look at their horse and to consider the pros and cons of covering up and to decide for the horse’s benefit.
This means thinking carefully about what type the horse is, including the way it is kept and how it is trained. This also includes taking into account the lining of the blanket and not going by your own feelings.
That’s why it’s better to reach under the blanket to see how cold or warm the horse is underneath, not that we mean well and our darling then starts to sweat.
one stands However, blankets are a good alternative to give every horse one to offer a species-appropriate outlet and that’s what it’s all about in the end also.