If you’re a horse person with a Facebook account with other horse people on your friends list, I’m fairly certain that you must have, at some point, had that one person share the anti-blanketing post. You know the one. Generally, it shows a fluffy, fat, happy horse hanging out in the snow with a snow covered winter coat, looking pleased and happy. The article the photo is attached to generally goes on to say things like “this is the way it is in the wild!” and “horses are MADE for the cold” and lists a whole novel’s worth of reasons as to why blankets are the devil and why horses should never, under any circumstances, wear a blanket if their owners care about them.
While some of these articles do make some decent points that hold some truth, the general premise of them is incredibly close minded and fails to recognize a number of reasons why people would opt to blanket. Thus, the great blanket debate ignites unnecessary internet drama over something that quite literally should only be looked at on an individual basis. So, here is to hoping some of the anti-blanket individuals come across this post and perhaps reconsider their words when yelling into the darkness about their hatred for a glorified quilt.
One of the funniest things about the whole focus on the blanket debate is that I see it more talked about than the fact that horses are ridden and worked in the hottest points of the day during the summer when they’re far less able to handle heat. I see it more talked about than the importance of adequate shade and cooling stations, in particularly hot areas, during the summer. I see it more drilled into people’s heads as they start learning about horses and riding them than the idea that horses are poorly equipped for the heat and to exercise caution during work in the summer… Why is there such a focus on something that quite literally never negatively effects horses except maybe in the circumstance where negligent owners leave blankets on when it is too warm for them?
First thing’s first, you have to consider the climate where you live. Cold, dry areas are generally easier for horses to manage over the winter without a blanket. Snow doesn’t dampen their hair nor is there anywhere near the same risk of skin issues like rain scald that come with constant dampness. Second, you need to consider your horse’s winter coat. Some horses literally do not grow a proper winter coat. Ever owned a thin skinned Thoroughbred? Some of them may grow fabulous winter coats that could give a yak a run for their money but a lot of us are not so lucky to own a winter prepared Thoroughbred. You see, many of these horses either do not grow a winter coat or grow the most pathetically short winter coat that oddly resembles the services that a toddler-run barber shop would put out. These horses are also generally hard to keep weight on, even in perfect conditions, let alone if we were to throw them out into the arctic completely naked. For that reason, many people blanket their horses. Thin skinned, sensitive horses prone to skin disorders, losing weight or who simply do not grow a winter coat will more often than not at least require a rain sheet over the winter. Over time, as these horses grow used to the elements in their area, they may grow a better coat that allows them to deal with the winter more effectively without a blanket, but it certainly doesn’t make their owners negligent or helicopter parents to cater to their high maintenance childrens’ needs.
Another point regarding the great blanket debate is that those promoting it have clearly never had a clipped horse. Sure, your yak may look nice and toasty out in the snow, but have you tried cooling it out after a workout? I’m guessing not, or you’d realize that the dampness of their sweat is something that is more likely to freeze before it dries… I guarantee you that being damp in the winter is a lot more uncomfortable than wearing a wet blanket. Many horse owners opt to clip in order to keep their horses in work through the winter. Not everyone takes the winter off and not everyone is a hobbyist rider who doesn’t have a set workout schedule, some horses are worked hard year round. Clipping, in this case, is the kindest thing to do for your horse when it comes to working through the winter. And, well, if you do not blanket after clipping… you’re a real jerk. So, you best be blanketing your clipped ponies, no wonder what Bonnie with the fat winter steed with a braidable coat says to you.
I’m Canadian. Now, before all of you reading this nod knowingly and imagine polar bears, igloos and snow mobiles, I’ll stop you. I live on the west coast of British Columbia, aka where all of the weakest Canadians hide out. You see, winter, in the Canadian sense, is not really a thing here. In fact, it just rains most of the time. Go into the interior of BC or go one province over to Alberta and you’ll feel like you’ve been teleported into the land of Frozen, with singing snowmen and an ice queen. Not here, though. Even still, my horses are blanketed. Why, you may ask? Well, it is a rainforest here. It has been raining, downpours, for the last week straight. I haven’t seen the sky in ages. Hope is dwindling… jokes aside, but rain scald is a real problem here. As are damp, trembling ponies in our “almost freezing, but imma rain anyways” weather. My auction pony came from Alberta and has a winter coat like a polar bear. I left him naked through some of the wettest weeks due to being unable to get a blanket on him at the time and he developed HUGE disgusting puss-filled balls of rain scald that I later had to clean and put cream on, much to his dismay. They left some lovely bald patches, too. Guess who is wearing a blanket now? Simon, the polar bear pony.
This is why an individual take on blanketing is so needed. Sure, Shirley-Anne from Saskatchewan may look at you with condescension when you tell her you blanket your horses, but she clearly doesn’t realize that your OTTB is nothing like her Fjord who looks ready to go to Winterfell and battle the white walkers. Sure, some people may look at my fat, puff ball of a pony and laugh at his teeny little Bucas blanket while he stands in 1 Celcius “heat” (because real Canadians apparently think it isn’t cold until it’s 20 below) but I guarantee he is a lot happier living a life that doesn’t involve me picking off puss filled scabs and slathering him in Hibitane.
So, next time someone gives you a hard time about blanketing your horse, kindly remind them that your horse is a special type of pansy.