Why is keeping my horse blanket-free a better idea?
Our Blanketing Policy
Blanketing robs a horse of his natural ability to control and effectively regulate his internal temperature.
Most horses with properly functioning immune systems and of average weight and health can successfully be blanket free all winter.
Aged or Immune compromised animals or those who have physical disabilities or are of low body weight should be left blanket free UNLESS we have a period of bad weather with sub zero wind chills or a combination of soaking precipitation and cold winds.
This combination can be dangerous for an aged or health compromised horse, and under these conditions a blanket should be provided, but removed as soon as the weather event has passed and more health favorable conditions exist. Normally within 24 to 36 hours.
Horses are cold weather animals, and as such, tolerate the cold better than the heat.
The reason for this is their highly efficient system of thermoregulation. There are tiny muscles associated with each and every piece of hair on your horse's body, from the large "guard" hairs that make up the outer coat, to the smaller hairs of the inner coat. These muscles can raise the hairs, through a process called pilo-erection .This allows more air to become trapped between the hairs thus increasing their insulation value. A process that is similar to the way a goose down comforter is so warm by the way air is trapped and warmed between the loft of the feathers.
In cold weather, through muscular action the hair is lifted to create a thermal blanket. In hot weather, through muscular action again, the blood vessels dilate near the surface to allow the body to cool. They can even raise the hairs and point them in the direction of a breeze to cool down.
Like any other muscle in the body, the muscles that control the hair follicles, even though they are very small, must be "exercised" or they will atrophy. When the artificial blanket is removed and the horse is taken out on a cold day, the thermoregulation system is essentially shut down, and having no way of warming himself, the core body temperature is lowered . It is vital that a horse be able to maintain an internal body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When internal temperatures are allowed to fall below or rise above that healthy range, it often leads to the horse becoming "unwell", succumbing to sickness, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Giving your horse a basic shelter (he may or may not avail himself of it, but he knows best what he needs and when), and the freedom to move and interact with other horses to keep warm, as well as free, unlimited access to forage and you'll find you have one fluffy-coated happy horse!