Time to pull out the blankets October 03 2009, 0 Comments

We’ve had some of our first cold nights of the season this week. Oh joy.

Time to pull out the blankets. And so begins the daily debate: what should the beast wear tonight? Horse owners put more thought into this daily decision than parents of infants choosing their first day-care provider. The process goes something like this:

“What’s the temperature going to be tonight?”

“I think it’s going to be in the low-40′s.”

“What are you going to put on Willow tonight?”

“I don’t know–either her cotton or her medium weight turnout.  What do you think?”

“Hmm..I’m not sure, let’s ask Amanda…..”


This can go on for 20-30 minutes before a decision is made. Most of us own more blankets for our horses than we do jackets for ourselves. And living in Vermont, where we have six months of winter, that’s saying something!

What are the guidelines for determining what your horse should wear? Factors to consider:

  • Is your horse body clipped?
  • If not, how furry is he?
  • How much heat does the barn retain? (Barns can be 10-20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.)
  • Your horse’s preference. Some horses are more warm-blooded than others.

Generally, when the temperature hits 50 degrees, we pull out the cotton sheets and turnout sheets. Turnout sheets for during the day when the horses are outside (obviously!) and the cotton sheets at night.

When the temperature hits 40 degrees, the mid-weight turnout stays on at night, with the cotton sheet too if the horse is body clipped.

When it’s 30 degrees and below, the heavy turnout comes out, with additional layers underneath.

Generally, our barn doesn’t get much colder than 20 degrees, but 20 degrees is COLD.

So how do you tell if your horse is warm enough? Feel his ears. If his ears are cold, he needs more clothes. Watch for shivering and check to see if his tail is clamped down.   Stick your hand underneath the blankets from the shoulder all the way down to his rib cage. If you feel sweat or think you could roast a hot dog in there, he may be too warm.

For more details on this topic, check out this article from Practical Horseman.

At our barn, one horse owner regularly prints out the 10-day forecast from The Weather Channel and hangs it up in the tack room. That way all of us have some clue about the temperature. Another idea is to call your local weather hotline and then write the nighttime temperature for the next several days on a calendar in the tackroom.

How do you decide what your horse should wear when it’s cold? Share your tips.