Blanketing a Horse when Temperatures Increase May Cause Heat Stress

January 22, 2018 (published)

In cooler weather, many of you with horses will be thinking about blanketing your horse. A study out of Sweden and Norway indicated that most horse owners lacked scientific knowledge about blanketing their horses as about one half of the respondents of the survey revealed horse owners did not understand the way the horse’s natural temperature regulation system works. Dr. Cecilie Mejdell from Norway reports at the that a blanket will obviously protect the horse from feeling cold due to adverse weather such as rain, wind and low temperatures.

The problem is the horse’s own ability to regulate temperatures is hampered by the blanket. The chilling effect from sweating and increased blood flow in the skin is reduced so the horse may suffer from heat stress when the weather is changing and there is sun radiation and high outside temperatures. So if the weather gets warm and there is no one around to remove the blanket, this can be a problem. This is typical in Texas: when it is 40⁰F in the morning, people blanket their horses and go to work, and the afternoon temperature becomes 60⁰F and the horse is still blanketed. In the study, many horse owners blanketed their horses as soon as temperatures decreased below 50⁰F. This does not mean blankets should not be used. However, they are used far too often, especially in climates like that of Texas, and should not be blanketed until the temperature is at least less than 40⁰F and as soon as the temperature rises during the day above 40⁰F, the blanket should be removed. This gives the horse the opportunity to self-regulate the temperature; we really do not want to disturb this ability when using a blanket that is not needed.

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