Blankets and Blanketing

Editor's Note: This excerpt is from Chapter 7 of Care & Management of Horses by Heather Smith Thomas. The book is available from .

Most outdoor horses are better off without blankets, but a blanket can help keep a horse comfortable when trailering, during a severe winter storm, or when a horse is sick and having trouble staying warm. A clipped horse will need a blanket in cold weather.

Some synthetic blanket materials are warmer and more weather resistant than wool. Some have lightweight insulating filler material between an inner and outer shell. The outer shell is usually waterproof and windproof. Some synthetic blankets are more durable than cotton or wool and light enough to not press down on the horse's hair, enabling it to keep its insulating quality.

It can be tricky keeping a horse at the right temperature when using blankets, especially if weather is erratic. If he sweats and gets wet, he may chill later when night temperature drops and he is still wet under the blanket. Don't blanket him for turnout in the cold early morning and leave the blanket on all day if it gets warm in the afternoon. You might want a heavy blanket for cold nights and a light one for daytime.

Whatever blanket you use, make sure it fits. A blanket too large or loose may slip under his belly; a blanket too small or tight will rub. A high-withered horse may develop skin irritation or an infected sore where it rubs his withers. Sewing a band of soft cotton around the shoulder edge of the blanket reduces the rubbing. When putting on a blanket, put it well forward and slide it back into place so it won't ruffle the hair the wrong way.

It's best if you don't have to use the same blanket on more than one horse; there's less risk of spreading skin problems from one horse to another. If your horse constantly gets his blanket muddy or dirty, use one that can be washed easily. Most blankets can be washed in cold water with soap and disinfectant, then thoroughly rinsed so there's no soap left in them.

About the Author

Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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