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Will Blanketing Prevent Winter Coat Growth and What Blanket Should I Use?

A Readers Asks: Avoiding a Winter Coat and What Blankets Are Best

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Horse in the Rain

Rainy or windy weather can chill your horse. If it is going to be out for long periods of time a blanket might be a good idea.

2007 K. Blocksdorf
A reader writes:
"I have an eleven year old Quarter Horse X Thoroughbred and I live in Arlington, Texas. (DFW area) It is getting chilly around here and Snapple tends to grow a thick winter coat which is a hassle in the spring. What type of blanket should I use? Should it be a stable or turn out blanket? "

We notice as early as late August that horses start shedding their short summer coats. They do this in response to the amount of daylight. As the daylight hours shorten, the horse begins to grow a longer coat. The best way to prevent this is to keep him under controlled lighting. This is done with show horses to control their hair coat growth and broodmares to regulate their breeding cycles.

The next-best way to prevent your horse from getting a thick coat is to make sure he is well fed. A very hungry horse will be a cold horse, and the body's response is to grow a thicker coat to compensate. Feed your horse lots of good-quality hay in the winter, and supplement with concentrates and mineral.

For a healthy well fed horse a blanket may help somewhat. A sturdy turn-out blanket can help protect your horse from chilly drafts and damp weather. It may not be as helpful for preventing a long coat as cold is not the only factor governing the hair growth cycle. A lot has to do with the amount of sunlight he's exposed to.

Generally a stable blanket is not considered as safe for wearing in the pasture as a turn-out blanket or rug. Stable blankets often lack the leg straps, and extra belly straps that prevent the blanket from shifting as your horse moves around outside. They are not waterproof, and that could leave your horse wearing a soggy blanket if it rains. This is counterproductive as it means the hair will be flattened and lose the natural loft that would keep your horse warm. Use your stable blankets indoors and a turn-out rug outdoors.

If your horse has already started to hair up for winter, you can stall the process or reverse it by keeping him indoors under controlled lighting. A study from the Texas A&M University suggests that sixteen hours of artificial and natural light are needed to keep hair short throughout the year. This can mean a lot of stall time for your horse. That's not always the best for your horse's mind or body. You'll have to balance the pros and cons of long stable time and installing light timers and fixtures against your plans and goals for your horse.

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