How do we keep our horse warm in winter? A great question, first, it’s useful to know that horses have an innate ability to withstand cold and wind.
To blanket or not to blanket is a good question. Blanketing a horse has both positive and negative considerations. One of the positive aspects to blanketing a horse is to keep a short-haired show coat, thus decreasing your body clipping time if you are showing your horse during the colder months. Blankets also are used in muddy and rainy weather to keep your outside horse clean and dry, ready for you to ride. For those horses living in extremely cold situations, a blanket can provide the added warmth needed–especially when protective shelter is not available in a turnout pasture or paddock. Additionally, when a horse is moved from a warm climate to a much cooler climate, a blanket can help the horse become acclimated to his or her new environment.
The negative, blankets also can be detrimental because a blanket prevents the horse’s hairs from standing up (their natural defense against cold weather), and using too light a blanket will actually cause the horse to get chilled, blankets can compromise their insulating properties.
Unless you are showing your horse, blanketing your horse is a personal decision. The blanket will give your horse added warmth, but in return will decrease your horse’s natural winter hair growth. Therefore, once you have started to blanket your horse for the winter, you must continue throughout the winter until the warmer winds of spring begin to blow.
Feed and nutrition are also factors. A horse generates body heat through digestive activity.
Feeding them hay helps to keep them warm. Heat is produced through the digestion of feed and can be useful in helping a horse maintain body temperature in cold winter weather. The greatest amount of heat is released when microbes in the gut digest high-fiber feeds such as hay. This process occurs in the cecum and large colon. High-fiber feeds produce more heat during digestion than low-fiber feeds. Thus, digestion of hay will result in the release of more heat.
At the end of the day it’s a personal choice, just be sure to do your homework and base your choice on what’s best for our furry friends.