A healthy winter coat keeps a horse warm and comfortable as they move through the cold winter months. This is not only important for the horse’s comfort, but it helps to regulate body temperature and protects them from wind and harsh weather conditions.
In some cases, a horse with a full and thick natural hair coat will do just fine without a blanket. But if you do choose to blanket your horse, it is important that it is a well-fitting blanket with a proper hood or neck cover to prevent the hair coat from becoming irritated and damaged. If a blanket is ill-fitting, your horse may rub against it and cause irreversible damage to the hair coat. This can leave patches of the hair coat looking dull and rough, and it will no longer have its insulating properties. If you notice this, you should remove the blanket to check for rubbing and make sure it fits properly.
Blankets are also an effective way to help your horse stay warm if they do not have access to a natural winter coat. It is also important that the blankets you use are well rated, waterproof and will keep your horse dry in case of rain or snow. If your horse is wearing a blanket, you should be sure to remove it at least once every couple of days to allow them to get some sun and to make sure they are not getting too hot or overheating.
If you are unsure whether your horse needs a blanket or not, it is a good idea to consult with a veterinarian and equine nutritionist to discuss their individual needs and body condition. In general, a horse with a full and healthy natural winter coat will not require a blanket as long as it is dry and they have access to shelter from the elements. The coat itself is insulating as it contains both shorter stiffer guard hairs and softer fluffier undercoat hairs. These hairs are controlled by muscles which allow them to stand up or lay down, creating a barrier that traps heat. This is why a horse’s hair will not melt when snow falls on it; the hairs are holding in their warmth.
Many factors can impact your horse’s ability to grow a full and healthy winter coat, including the weather, diet and genetics. However, addressing artificial lighting, routine grooming and nutritional supplementation can all help your horse develop a beautiful winter coat that will keep them warm and protected all winter long!
The key to a good winter coat is regular grooming, which stimulates the skin and hair follicles to promote growth. It is also important to use a curry comb on your horse on a daily basis. Choosing a day when it is not raining or too cold will help the curry comb to slide through the hair easily and loosen it. Then, a brush or hand comb can be used to gently separate the fur from the skin, making it easier to remove and leaving behind a clean and shiny coat!