How Your Horse Stays Warm: Hair Coats and Blanketing

Two horses sharing the good news.
Two horses sharing the good news. Paul

Newsdate: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 9:35 am
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

Every winter horse owners are faced with the daunting questions of blanketing. What temperature do you start using blankets? Does each horse need the same kind of blanket? Does the blanket need a hood?

Horse in a quilted winter blanket.

Horse in a quilted winter blanket

This article takes a look at what your horse’s hair coat and body does to stay warm, and why that might not always be enough.
© 2017 by Ealdgyth New window.

Then, if you’ve decided to blanket, you can spend hours researching the different cuts, weights, fabrics, and benefits of hundreds of blanket options.

To help you navigate these questions, in this article, we’ll be breaking down the horse blanket, factors that may influence how and when you blanket, and finally how to make sure your horse is comfortable in their blanket.

Breaking Down the Horse Blanket

The most important (and confusing) part of purchasing a blanket is deciding which fabric and denier are right for your horse.

Questions to answer

  • Does your horse live in a group?
  • How tough has your horse been on previous blankets?
  • Is there access to shelter in their turnout area?

Answering these questions will help start to determine what strength and type of fabric will best suit your equine friend’s needs.  The first thing to consider is the denier which is the thickness of the thread used to create the fabric.

As you’re browsing blankets, you’ll notice 900D, 1000D, 1200D, and so on, which represents the denier count. The higher the denier count of the same fabric, the stronger the weave is. 

The next thing to consider is the type of fabric the outer shell is made of. Polyester, polypropylene, and ballistic nylon are three common fabrics used for the outside layer of a blanket and help indicate strength. Each fabric listed above varies in strength so it’s important to note they cannot be compared side by side.

For example, the 1000D ballistic nylon is stronger and more durable than a 2250D polyester fabric even though the denier count is higher. For a better understanding of how deniers and fabrics compare, Horseware Ireland has created a strength guide featuring their fabrics from strong to strongest.

But how do I know which denier and fabric to choose for my horse? Your horse’s living situation will be one of the biggest factors to consider when selecting which denier and fabric to use.

Perhaps your horse is stabled part of the day or in bad weather, turned out alone or with one other horse, and easy on their turnout blanket. In that case, Horseware Ireland’s Amigo® Hero collection would be a great place to start browsing. But, if your horse is playful in their paddock or stabled less often, then the fabrics used in a Rhino® or Rambo® blanket will offer even more durability for a longer-lasting turnout.

Factors Influencing Blanketing Needs

A thermoneutral zone is the range of temperature in which a living being can maintain its normal body temperature. For horses, this temperature range is 41 to 77degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison, a human’s range is 77 to 86 degrees). This means that a horse can comfortably maintain its body temperature to about 40 degrees without having any metabolic changes or external factors to help it stay warm. 

As temperatures drop below 40, their body will begin to start working harder and using more energy to stay warm. This is when we can help contribute to making things a little easier for them. 

Blanketing your horse during colder weather can help them by retaining heat inside so they can still use less energy to keep themselves warm.  If you have an older horse or one that’s more difficult to maintain weight on, this extra layer of warmth without using more energy can make the colder months a little easier.

Other factors to consider when blanketing:

  • Shelter – Does your horse have protection from the elements? Whether it’s a manmade shelter or natural protection, like trees, horses will seek cover during inclement weather. If no shelter is available, a blanket can offer adequate protection.
  • Forage – If the temperatures drop below the horse’s 41-degree thermoneutral zone, they will be using more energy to stay warm. This means, their normal calorie intake may not be enough and extra forage can help them maintain their body temperature. Plus, eating and digesting food creates heat.
  • Clipping – A horse’s natural winter coat helps trap heat to assist in keeping warm.  If you choose to clip your horse, that natural insulation layer is removed and can be offset by using a blanket.  A good rule of thumb is the more hair removed, the more blanket fill to consider using to compensate.
  • Acclimation – Have you recently moved from the previous winter?  Maybe you’ve moved someplace colder than the prior year and your horse needs to adapt to its new environment.  A blanket can help them acclimate to the new climate.

Blanketing Tips

A proper fitting blanket is key. The correct fit will prevent rubbing, slippage, and ensure comfort all winter long. To learn more about fitting your horse for a blanket, check our Horseware Ireland’s Size Guide.

Fitting Your Horse Blanket

There’s a wide range of horse sizes and shapes and Horseware Ireland has been dedicated to designing blankets to fit your horse’s needs. Here’s a breakdown of cuts available and which body type they best suit.

Classic Cut

  • Frames the horse’s neck and sits in front of the withers
  • Classic straight front closure
  • Best suited to narrow or fine-boned horses, as well as youngsters

Surefit

  • Sits beyond the withers to avoid pressure on the withers and shoulders
  • Very versatile fit to suit lots of horses
  • Great for well-built horses or those with broader chests

Wug

  • High neck design to avoid pressure on the withers
  • V-front fastening
  • Perfect for narrower horses with high withers

All-in-one

  • No seam between the neck cover and the blanket
  • Avoids placing pressure on the horse’s withers
  • Same fill from ears to tail

Plus

  • Detachable neck cover is included
  • Velcro loop system to attach the neck cover
  • Neck cover can be easily removed to suit changing weather conditions

Horseware Ireland also offers unique cuts for specific horse shapes.  For example, for horses with a deep neck and wider build, we’ve designed the XL cut which is 20% deeper in the neck and sides to give additional room.  We also offer the Rambo® Optimo with a pivotal dart above and behind the shoulder to allow the blanket to follow the natural movement of the horse while staying in place.

How Do I Know if My Horse is Comfortable?

It’s important to recognize signs if your horse is too cold or too hot.

Signs Your Horse is Too Hot

  • Sweating – this can be under the blanket, along the neck, or behind the ears
  • Heavy breathing
  • Change in behavior – could be more lethargic or restless
  • Rubbing the blanket to try and remove it

Signs Your Horse is Too Cold

  • Shivering
  • Tucked up tail to try and keep warm
  • Seeking shelter or huddling up with other horses
  • Change in behavior like pacing to try and warm-up
  • Weight Loss – typically a more long-term sign that they’re too cold

A quick trick to check if your horse is comfortable is to place your hand under their blanket near their withers. Does it feel cool or too warm?  If so, you can adjust your blanketing needs accordingly.

Maintaining Your Horse’s Blanket

Grooming your horse daily will help avoid dirt and build-up on the inside of your horse’s blanket. Horseware Ireland’s blankets feature an antibacterial, anti-static, shine-enhancing polyester lining to help keep your horse’s coat healthy through the winter months.

Frequently check your blanket for rips or tears. If you notice a small tear, you can use a repair kit to patch the tear to maximize the blanket’s longevity.

Washing

It’s important to closely follow your blanket’s washing instructions to maintain its waterproofness.  Here are some tips for washing:

  • Gently brush off any dirt or mud
  • Hose off the turnout (do not use a power washer) 
  • Use a wash formulated for blankets e.g. Rambo Eco Wash
  • Hang the blanket to naturally drip dry
  • If using a washing machine, wash on a cool setting
  • Store the blanket in a cool, dry area, preferably in a breathable storage bag
  • Avoid exposing the blanket to heat or UV

To learn more blanketing tips, check out Horseware Ireland’s three-part Blanketing Guide series: Breaking Down the Blanket, Factors Influencing Your Horse’s Blanketing Needs, and Keeping Your Horse Comfortable.


Press release From AQHA Event Sponsor Horseware Ireland

About the Author

Press Release

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This news article is a press release received by the organization or person noted above. Press releases from recognized horse health companies and individuals are frequently posted on EquiMed as a service to our visitors. Please contact the author of the press release directly for additional information.

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