As the winter chill sets in, you might be wondering how you can keep your horse warm in the winter.
Though you probably start to bundle yourself up by mid-autumn, your horse is unlikely to need help staying warm until later in the year.
Horses are efficient at maintaining their body temperature as the outside temperatures drop. Most develop a winter coat that traps body heat and resists moisture. Their winter coat continues to grow in until the winter solstice, near the end of December.
For healthy horses, there is usually no need to use a blanket until after the winter solstice, when the winter coat begins to fall out and the summer coat starts to come in. Blanketing too soon can impede your horse's natural adaptations, such as their ability to grow out their winter coat.
Some horses do need a blanket earlier in the year.
Very young and very old horses may not develop a thick winter coat, may not build up enough body fat, and may have more trouble maintaining their body temperature.
If your horse has been clipped, they may need a blanket. It's best to keep your horse unclipped to grow out their winter coat, but this may not be ideal if your horse must be clipped for showing or for grooming purposes.
A horse that has been imported from an area with a warm climate during the winter season may not have had time to develop their winter coat.
Severe winter weather can bring a chill to healthy horses with thick winter coats, too. When the outside temperature drops below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or the wind chill is at or under 5 degrees, a blanket can be useful.
Make sure your horse has 24-hour access to quality hay all winter long. The muscles needed to chew and digest hay generate body heat. Horses need about 25% higher energy intake in cold winter months.
You'll also want to make sure your horse develops and maintains a layer of healthy body fat for insulation. A supplement like The Missing Link Equine Well Blend Skin & Coat Formula provides calories and boosts your horse's immunity.
Excessive sweating can dampen your horse's winter coat and hinder their ability to stay warm.
Make sure to dry your horse off if they sweat during exercise. Also watch for sweating if your horse is blanketed, in a stable with limited ventilation, or if you have multiple horses sharing body heat in an enclosed space.
Winter rain and sleet can also make your horse too wet to stay warm. You may want to put a coat or blanket on your horse when they're turned out if you're expecting wet precipitation. Snow, however, is usually not a problem.