To blanket or not to blanket?

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Little Wolf Ranch

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First, some background info. All my horses big and small have their own stalls and are in their stalls anytime we have any weather that isn't sunshine (thunderstorms, snow, rain, ice, etc.) and I live in the upstate of SC about 35 miles from the mountains.

We usually have 1 to 3 snow storms and are known for cold and rainy winter days, most of the worst weather being in January and February. I do not clip any of the horses until spring, and all are kept inside until the bad weather passes. I like to leave mine out as much as possible and the only time any of them are in their stalls are during bad weather.

This isn't about any of the minis, but many of you on here have elderly horses and I feel the need to gather your opinions on this issue with my 21 year old quarter horse gelding.

He has his own 12 x 12 stall however it is in a 3 sided shelter that is fully enclosed on three sides with a 12 foot metal gate on the open side as his stall door. The whole run in is 12 x 24, the other half is where his pasture mate stays and is set up the same way. He doesn't grow a nice thick winter coat but it isn't skimpy either, somewhere in between.

My question being, he has a medium weight blanket but should I go ahead and get him a heavy weight blanket as well? Or should i not blanket him at all since he is locked up in his stall? Hes always lived outside 24/7 and will freak out on me if i close in the stall anymore than it already is. It does however keep all the rain etc out with the way it is placed on the property. I always provide him with 3 daily meals and as much hay as i can get him to eat, he is not skinny or overweight and is in overall good health besides having some minor arthritis that seems to be making him a bit stiff once the cool weather hits.

I'm just wanting to make sure he stays plenty warm through the winter so he stays at good weight.

On a side note, does anyone have any suggestions for arthritis/joint supplements? My vet says he isn't bad at all but said a joint supplement wouldn't hurt either.
 
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Ashley

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Do not blanket unless he is showing signs that he is cold. I never blanked my healthy big horses. MY two bigs that did get blankets were at the time 31 and 29. The 33 year old would be in a blanket from about this time until late spring every year until he was put down at age 35ish.
 

chandab

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I only blanket when they seem to need it, which isn't too often around here, except when someone isn't feeling well.

I've used Corta-Flx pellets for arthritis with some success, but mine are pasture puffs, so it might not be enough for a horse in work. The farrier did notice that when my half-Arab gelding was on them he moved more freely and was more flexible during trims.
 

shorthorsemom

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No Blankets here. They do a nice job fluffing up their hair to keep warm. I blanketed a biggie horse I had one winter. Once I started I had to keep it up because she didn't get as much hair. It was a pain to always keep checking the blanket. It got torn, it got dirty, it rubbed a spot on her neck and if it was cold and hot temp extremes you had to keep taking it on and off and if it was off she rolled in mud and required a full grooming before putting the blanket on again, and still got the blanket super dirty on the inside even though I had a sheet under the turn out coat. Nope, I will take my furry Yaks in the winter vs blanketing. I do not show and I do not clip so we here do not need it. Really depends on what you want to do. The only other horse I blanketed was a gelding I purchased that had been shipped up from down south and he did not have enough hair for our winters. I bought a super nice wetherbeeta blanket for big bucks. He still made a mess out of it, but it was nicer than the blankets when I had my mare. cheers
 

jeanniecogan

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we moved from bay area (calif) to roswell, new mexico, the weather went awful one night our first winter there. everyone was blanketed but for some reason i had to go to the barn. my arab, DANSIR, was shivering. really shivering. i found him another blanket and put that on him, walked him around for a while and then walked him up to the house where i got some hot water and made him a bran mash. he finally stopped shivering. i put him in his stall and went into the house.

my horses , mini or big, have been blanketed ever since, it is worth the extra work to have peace of mind. last winter i asked my daughter in law to give my mini Charlie a minimal trim so i could drive him in the winter, she shaved him, even his face. i was soooo worried about him. we had a real cold winter (ofcourse) , he ended up with 3 blankets and a hood on alllll winter. was so glad i had the blankets.

it;s just my opinion, but i am a big believer in blanketing.
 

Jean_B

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If your horse has a healthy full coat, blanketing will only make him colder as it destroys the natural "lift" which creates air insulation. There are numerous articles out there on this topic. I live in northwest Wisconsin. My horses are outside 24/7 but are able to come in - free choice. They rarely come inside, but are often walking snowdrifts. And healthy.
 

Jean_B

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Check out the glucosomine with chondroitin supplements available from most horse supply places (United Vet Equine comes to mind).
 

Little Wolf Ranch

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I guess I am being a worry wart over my old man. Hes had a hard time maintaining weight so I have him on a diet per my vets recommendations, frequent floating and on a strict deworming program.

So the stall should be enough for him? I know if I leave him out with the option to go in the stall, he won't. He will stand just outside of it shivering to death unless I actually lock him in it.
 

Minimor

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If he is warm enough in the stall then he will be fine without a blanket. If he is still cold, even in the stall, he will let you know--if he is shivering, and standing around hunched up and looking miserable, then it is time to add a blanket. I have one pony mare that has to be blanketed on the coldest days, even when she has a shed to get in out of the wind. She grows what seems to be a decent winter coat, but she just cannot stand the cold. So--there are usually at least a few days each winter where she has to have her blanket on.

With an older horse that has trouble keeping weight on, sometimes even if he doesn't seem especially cold a blanket is a good idea--the horse uses so much energy to keep warm that he has nothing left to keep his weight up. Blanketed--his feed goes into maintaining his weight. LIkewise a horse with some arthritic issues may be much more comfortable blanketed, even if he doesn't seem 'cold' as such.

Here our "cold" is 30 and 40 below; my blankets are 600 denier with 240 gram fill--they have been sufficient for keeping my pony warm and comfortable. Kensington has a heavier blanket now, 1200 denier with 300 gram fill....and I am eyeing those and thinking that when I have a few bucks to spare I will have to buy a couple of them. Last winter, when it was so bitterly cold for so long, I would have liked to have a heavier blanket to use on my pony a few nights.
 

AngC

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Not a blanket aficionado here... Personally, I think that if people leave them alone, horses are capable of growing their own protection.

Of course it's a different climate here; for us, rain is an issue. Nicky did get about a 1-inch bit of rainrot on one of his spots, year before last.

Nicky gets shavings in his stall with straw on top (total depth of shavings/straw is about 1.5 foot when we make his bed.) I don't know when a horse starts showing arthritis symptoms, but Nicky hasn't yet. Even if he did, I'd wonder whether a blanket would work to do anything beneficial. Heck, I think I'm developing arthritis symptoms, and I really don't think blanketing me would help much with that.
 

Kendra

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I'm not into blanketing either, but if I had an older horse who was having difficulty keeping weight on in the winter, despite a proper diet (ie - senior feed), then I would certainly consider a blanket. If he doesn't have to use all his energy to keep warm, he can use it for weight gain instead.
 

Minimor

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AngC, just so you know...MOST horses are capable of growing a coat sufficient to keep them warm in whatever. Lunate they live in. However--there are always exceptions. In a herd of 40 I have one pony that for whatever reason cannot be warm and comfortable in our coldest weather. She is 8, grows a decent coat (more than some, less than others) but in spite of that--she is miserable in cold weather. EXTREMELY miserable, last winter I am not sure she would have survived the winter if she wasn't blanketed. As I have said before, when she gets cold she just huddled up and won't move, won't eat or even drink--no idea why she feels the cold so bad but she does. It sure isn't because she was always blanketed and not left alone to grow a winter coat. She was never blanketed until one winter when she started showing that she cannot cope with winter on her own.

It saddens mE that a number of people are absolutely opposed to blankets, and would let one horse in the herd suffer just because the rest of the herd is fine au natural and therefore that one animal must be okay too. And apparently there ARE a number of people who take that view, judging by some FB discussions on the subject.

People need to watch their horses and learn to recognize what the horse does or does not need to be comfortable, happy and healthy.
 
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Miniv

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We don't blanket EXCEPT under certain circumstances....So much is common sense and paying attention to your horse.

Regular blanketing can inhibit a horse's hair growth. It also messes with their coat's natural insulation.

A horse's natural coat has two layers...a softer inner one and a coarse outer one. They each have a purpose. A blanket

doesn't allow air to settle between the two layers and provide insulation.

If a horse has been clipped and the two layers haven't grown back sufficiently when a cold snap happens we blanket,

but just for that short period.

If a horse is ill we would blanket and/or provide a heat lamp.

If a horse is shivering we would blanket and/or provide a heat lamp.

When in doubt as to a horse's comfort, I check up inside their "armpits" (where their leg connects to their body).

If it feels warm and they aren't shivering, I don't blanket.

And remember, a horse's "comfort zone" is lower than our own. They are happiest between 30F. up to 65F.

Minimor said it just above: "People need to watch their horses and learn to recognize what the horse does or does not need to be comfortable, happy and healthy. "
 

jandjmc

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My horses always have wind breaks, cover, warm water, plenty of hay and the ability to move. Horses that are closed up in stalls can't move around to generate heat. Even my seniors are left in a turnout with access to exercise and shelter. It's good for horses to go into winter with a little extra weight, so I make sure that they are "fed up" gradually, not fat but well covered. If a bad storm is coming in, I increase access to hay, warmed water and shelter but never closed in. Minis with a full hair coat don't need a blanket. I've had minis with a light dusting on snow on their backs for more than a week. They were wearing so much insulation that it never melts! Also, if you blanket there is always the problem of when to take them off and if you will be home to do it when it needs to get done! I hate to see horses standing when it is plenty warm and their owners haven't taken the blankets off. When the blanket is removed, all the loft is gone from the hair coat.
 

AngC

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Minimor...

I sure wish I could get the quote thing to work. ...not sure what I'm doing wrong with that.

Or course, various circumstances should dictate, but I'm pretty much opposed to blanketing right now. (I admit that I could come sniveling back in a week and ask how to blanket.) But for right now it doesn't make sense to me. IF you don't shave; IF you let their coats grow, etc. etc. (By the way, I'm vehemently opposed to shaving for the simple reason that I spent the first few months with Nicky's bad shave-job, agonizing over the skin rash he was developing and making worse by rubbing.)

When I had to make a decision about blankets, I looked around at what other people were doing around here with their full-size horses. I stopped short of jumping the fence (trespassing) to figure out how their horses defecated. (I've since seen one near the fence and their particular "gusset" arrangement doesn't work too well, and the horse craps on it.) I've seen too many "big" horses around here, out in the rain, and the blankets stay on day-after-day.I also Google-ed and read about blanket galls. Plus, I factored in about a million other things like how to keep the horse inside the blanket (for example, Baby learned how to rip Velcro open when she was just a couple weeks old when I wasn't paying attention and she ripped open the closures on my cover-alls; she seems to love the sound of Velcro separating; it took some time to teach her to keep a fly mask on, after that mistake on my part.)

So perhaps, I haven't made a correct decision at this point. If I had a huge herd of horses (40 seems huge to me) I would probably revisit the idea or maybe when Nicky gets older I'll have to go there. But for right now, I just haven't seen enough evidence that I should stuff my measly herd of 3 into blankies.
 

Minimor

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Snork. If you acquire a herd of 40 you better hope you don't find they all need blanketing for some reason. Why? Because you would have to be wealthy enough to buy at least 2 blankets per horse, and then have time to be changing them out every day or two. I couldn't cope....if everyone here needed blanketing....I would be out of horses. I work, I do not have time to change 10 blankets every night and another 10 every morning.

I don't honestly know what kind of blankets you see people using--mine have tail flaps that lift up very nicely when the horse lifts its tail to go poo. No issue there.
 

jeanniecogan

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Common sense , what is that? Minimor has it right. i do believe that my arab would have at least been sick, if not dead if i hadn't helped him. Again I say that Minimor has it right.
 

Little Wolf Ranch

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Just wanted to remind everyone this is regarding a 21 yo quarter horse gelding who doesn't grow a nice thick winter coat and has mild arthritis. Thanks guys ;)
 

chandab

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With my arthritic senior half-Arab gelding, often all he needed was blanketing over night when it was coldest; during the day usually no blanket so he could kick up his heels or get in a good roll if he wanted without the blanket. If weather really sucked, then he sometimes had to wear a blanket all the time for those times.
 

Miniv

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Sorry....I'm back...:D Yep...Common sense.

What also needs to be pointed out is HAY. To help keep our horses warm in cold temps - one of the most important

things is INCREASING THEIR HAY.

Okay...that's all.... I say that so much that I feel like I'm nagging.
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