Horse Clothes: Yes or No

It’s that time of year … the time when all horsey Texans have this nightly conversation with themselves and each other: sheet? blanket? Well, he’s clipped, but the barn will be closed up; he’s not clipped but it’s going to be in the low 40s all night; it stays pretty warm in the barn when it’s closed up, though; I don’t know, I think I’d want a blanket right now, etc., etc., etc. …

Modeling Kensington

What is the answer? My horse isn’t clipped, but he doesn’t grow much of a coat. He always seems warmer than normal to me on any given day, cold or not. And when the barn is closed up, it does stay considerably warmer in the barn compared to outside in the wind. But when it’s wet AND cold, everything seems so much colder. Eli has really only been in Texas or Louisiana his whole life as far as I know, so I am pretty sure the 40s and 30s definitely feel cold to him. Wednesday night, it was in the 30s all night and wet — blanket weather for sure for my horse. But those other nights … when it’s in the low 50s at 9pm and I’m leaving the barn, but the low is supposed to be in the high 30s, but not until 6am … sheet? blanket? Sheet now and drive back out at 1am to throw on his blanket (I have never gone that far haha)? For what it’s worth, Eli currently has a cotton stable sheet from Kensington (favorite sheet ever) and a Rider’s stable blanket consisting of “1200 denier polypropylene shell. 400 grams poly insulation. Ripstop nylon lining.” If it is in the 20s, he wears both. He’s from Texas, not the Arctic circle.

I have seen many funny cartoons, diagrams, and flowcharts about when and when not to blanket. I read about a study from not too long ago where the researchers concluded the horses studied were capable of communicating whether or not they wanted a blanket. And I even remember Kristen from Stampy and the Brain posting a user-friendly, sensible, and logical chart that is actually helpful about when to use blankets and sheets but now I can’t find it!

How do you decide when to blanket or not? Which do you think is worse, too hot or too cold? Does your horse have a way of telling you he wants a blanket? How do you feel about turnout sheets or blankets? Trailering in sheets or blankets?

(I think/know that too hot is BAD and it would be really hard for a horse in Central Texas to get too cold. But then what is the likelihood of a horse in a blanket really getting too hot in 30-40s weather if he is in a stall at night and not running around? Temperatures in Fahrenheit in case that wasn’t obvious–when I was a kid that line “a steaming 45 degrees” from Midnight Oil was really confusing until someone explained Celsius to me, so I thought it might be best to clarify.)

24 thoughts on “Horse Clothes: Yes or No

  1. We definitely err on the side of too cold- I would much prefer my horse shiver a little instead of get sweaty under his blanket and then get even colder. He definitely carries enough weight that I don’t worry too much about him getting too frigid, especially because he spends his evening inside out of the wind. If I’m ever not sure, I just text my barn manager to see what she thinks. We rarely ship in more than a wool cooler or light sheet, just because the trailer gets so warm with multiple horses!

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  2. It definitely doesn’t get too cold here in Vegas, but we still get our fair share of “very cool” weather. The past 3 nights it’s been in the low 30s and Amber hasn’t grown much of a coat yet. I put her nylon, no filling, wind resistant blanket on because it was in the mid 50s before the temps dropped so suddenly. And it was kinda breezy. Now that the horses are on our property, if we err on the side of “a little warm” we can still take the blankets off very shortly after morning feeding. I actually err on the side of a little too warm because a few winters ago when Amber was only outside with no blanket poor thing was absolutely so stiff, even when I’d finally see her at 3 in the afternoon to ride. I try not to over blanket, though – a light cotton if it’s mid-40s since they have an “inside” stall area that blocks wind but nothing gets closed and the barn still gets plenty of air. I do tend to blanket Amber warmer though because she hasn’t grown as much fur this year as she had by last year (which I think was because we left lights on). Such a conundrum! I do think though that some horses like to be cozy and some like to be cooler – you just have to figure out which one your horse is. (Amber likes to be cozy and Whisper loves to be cooler. Whisper also looks like wooly mammoth lol)


  3. Scarlet isn’t fully clipped. I’ve never clipped him for the winter before and only did a little on his chest and neck this time. He grows a decent coat and being in SoCal, I don’t think its gotten below 50 yet. Unless it does, I’m not planning on hauling out his blanket. I’d have to add a blanket fee onto my board because it gets too warm every day to leave a blanket on him all day, even the lightest one existing. I’ve considered a rain sheet so he doesn’t have to get wet but again, SoCal. I have yet to see a rain that he couldn’t deal with.


  4. such a huge question every year. i’ve kinda come to the conclusion that there are many right answers and very very few wrong answers. i’ve seen a lot of ppl make blanketing choices wildly different from my own and have yet to see a horse actually die or get sick from said choices (tho i acknowledge that’s possible). mostly, for my own sanity, i try to choose a system that makes sense to me and that seems to keep my horse comfortable, and then stick consistently to that system throughout the season.

    the system itself might change from year to year – like charlie this year is different from charlie last year fresh off the track. different this year bc the blanketing changing services offered at my new eventing barn are VASTLY different from the services at last year’s cushy hj barn. and naturally the system is insanely different from isabel at any time (she was made of tuffer stuff lol). so ya know, i just try to adapt as is needed and realistic.


  5. This is such a harder question to answer in Texas than it was in Montana! I have an oldy that gets cold much easier now than he did in his younger years so he often gets blanketed when no one else does. I’m trying to keep the horse I show from getting too hairy so he is second to get a blanket when the temps drop. The other 2 or hot heads so I worry less about them, but temps in the 30s get stable blankets for everyone or turnout sheets if they are turned out. I keep lights on in my barn at night so they don’t get super hairy, but it helps me avoid clipping. My sweet horse husband is pretty good about taking blankets off in the mornings when they get turned out (he has turnout duty because he leaves for work later than me), but he did turn Sterling out in his Baker stable blanket last week and it was a 70 degree day (after a low 40’s night). I was a bit perturbed.


  6. Have you tried going to the barn at 6am to see if he seems cold? My husband’s horse hated being blanketed and would often rip his blanket off at night so we though he just didn’t need a blanket. Then we showed up really early one morning (before a show? I can’t remember why we were there early) to find him shivering. So now he gets blanketed more and he has gotten much better about being blanketed. On the other hand, my horse is warm even when it’s cold out and he only has a sheet on. So I think some of the blanketing thing is dependent on the horse.


    • I have been to the barn that early before … and I don’t remember ever seeing Eli shiver. He did seem chilly last night so I swapped out his sheet for his blanket and it was low 40s/high 30s all night. The time I struggle with it is when it’s below 50 but above 40–sheet? blanket? It is frustrating to rely on a forecast that could be off.


  7. My horses live out (with in/out stalls, but choose to be out most of the time) and I’m in Canada (where it gets c-c-c-c-cold)! My two older mares get blanketed if it’s going down below 0C (32F). The pony grows a coat like a woolly mammoth and would kill me if I put a blanket on her. Agree with most of the others – better to be a little too cold than a little too hot, for sure. They’re much better at keeping themselves warm than we give them credit for 😉


    • Horses do a great job of keeping themselves warm! And if they have access to hay overnight I think that helps a lot, too. BUT admittedly, I am pretty sure my horse and I would both be popsicles in Canada.


  8. Remus heaviest blanket (and we are in the North East in PA) is 200 grams. My favorite blanket (I NEED To get a replacement :() Was a 100 gram he wore it all the time in the winter. But he normally wears a no fill sheet OR the 100 gram. I think he only wore his weatherbeeta 3 times last winter (That is the one with 200 gram fill). Now..ahem. Remus is umm..well insulated from the inside? So he doesnt need much. BUT I do put a sheet on at least if it is going to be wet and cold. Wet seems to bring out the worse in him and he does start shivering. Our horses in the barn are usually pretty toasty so I usually only have a sheet on him. My rule of thumb usually: over 50 no sheet unless it is wet 30-49 sheet unless windy or wet then light blanket. under 30 blanket. And as long as they seem happy enough with the clothes on. I love reading all the different ways people blanket!


    • Yeah, it’s been interesting to see how people blanket different horses differently. Eli has actually been the first horse I’ve had that I have trouble deciding how to blanket. Two other ottbs I had definitely wanted blankets below 50, and a fat fuzzy qh didn’t need one unless it was freezing, similar to the well-insulated Remus 😉. Eli is a weird mix of that.

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  9. I tend to believe that horses are much better at regulating their body temps than we think and I agree with others that would rather have horses be a titch cold than hot. Of the 6 horses I know really well, three have runs (so they go in and out all day) and wear no clothes. The other 3 live in the barn and only go out for a few hours in the mornings when the temps aren’t SUPER cold (usually above 10-15 including wind chill) — those horses are trace or full body clipped and wear sheets most of the winter with the occasional medium weight.


  10. I weirdly don’t obsess too much about blanketing (I say weirdly because I do obsess about so much!). If it’s low 50’s or below Rio get’s a sheet (he has a mesh BoT so it is breathable). He is fully clipped, like zero hair at all. If the low is 40 or less he gets a medium weight blanket (SP Ultimate brand). 20s or below he gets both. Seems to always work well for him!


    • I never obsessed about it until Eli! My other horses made it pretty obvious if they wanted a sheet or a blanket or nothing. Eli just seems unreasonably warm all of the time (not that he is uncomfortable, I think he just has a lot of body heat going for him) So I mostly go for the sheet if it’s in the 40s but sometimes I wonder if he even needs that. He is not clipped, so this is part of my problem …


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