Question: This winter I had to blanket my 27-year-old horse, Dusty, for the first time in his life, and I don’t know when to take it off. Any advice you can offer about when to stop blanketing a horse in the spring would be welcome.
Answer: A lot of older horses need a little extra help to stay warm during a rough winter, just like you did for Dusty. Still, it is important to avoid over-blanketing, and as the roller-coaster ups and downs of spring weather arrive, you will have to put the blanket on and take it off fairly often.
As a simple rule of thumb, to decide whether to blanket your horse on any given day, I like to just compare it to what I am wearing. If I need a parka to stay warm, an older horse like Dusty might need a blanket. If I can shed my own winter wear and head out with just a light jacket or sweatshirt, then I’d leave my horse’s blanket off.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, blanketing is a lot of extra work. A couple of times a day you’ll have to check that it’s still sitting correctly on the horse, and you’ll need to remove it to groom.
Of course, once we start getting consistently warm days, it’ll be time to take the blanket off and leave it off. Letting your horse get slightly chilled is not nearly as worrisome as having him sweating under a blanket on a warm day.
Melinda Freckleton, DVM, Haymarket Veterinary Service, Gainesville, Virginia
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #450, March 2015.