How do you know if your horse is growing "enough" of a winter coat?

How do you know if your horse is growing “enough” of a coat to keep warm on their own?

How long does a horse’s winter coat take to grow in fully (how late in the fall until they have their full winter coat)?

I have a healthy 7 year old holsteiner mare who is living as a companion horse this year. The past few years, while in work, she has been trace clipped and blanketed. This year we haven’t blanketed her yet, but I’m worried that she won’t grow enough of a winter coat to go without blankets this winter, since she is used to being blanketed in previous years (and, I am not sure how to tell if she is growing “enough” coat to go without blankets!). Right now she does have some winter fuzz coming in, but so far it looks like she has less than her buddy.

We’re in the northeast, & she is stalled at night and then out 6am-6pm whatever the weather, but has access to her stall at all times.

I searched and found lots of information about blanketing/not blanketing, but nothing specifically about assessing the quality of a winter coat. Thanks in advance for help!

my hubby’s horse seems thinly coated to me, but DH does not rush to coat him. He claims if the horse’s ears are cold, then the horse is cold. DH also watches the temps and tends to put light weight blankets and/or sheets on and take them off.
horse seems to thrive.

maybe keep a sheet so if it rains and she goes out, she can stay dry? getting a horse to dry after getting soaked is difficult, it is easier to keep them dry in the first place. then once it stops raining, remove the sheet.

Some of the horses in my barn grow 5 inches of hair and some only grow two. We only blanket the ones that we clip, the ones that look cold on very cold days, or the very old ones that need help keeping weight on. I’d watch her for signs of being cold in the morning, shivering, or weight loss.

If winter gets here and horse is shivering, he didn’t grow enough coat and should probably have a blanket :wink:

IME blanketing has less to do with it tHan location or genetics. My old horse was blanketed every year his whole life but he was still so hairy he had to be clipped by the beginning of October. Many horses in this area don’t get their full coats until Thanksgiving.

This :yes:

The amount of coat you see doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether that coat is good enough for that horse in that environment.

Mine as maybe about mid-way in their coat growth right now. It’s coming in quickly now. In the last week or so, they went from having recently gotten that very dark look to their new coat, to being pretty velvety in look and feel. But I know they still have a ways to go, roughly double what they have now.

If you don’t see them shivering, don’t find them losing weight, they are warm enough.

Beyond that, see if anyone looks unusually stiff or slow going in the morning. If they do they may be warm enough to survive, maybe not even lose weight, overnight, but not warm enough to keep their muscles happy.

The most important thing to remember, IMHO, is just because you might have to blanket, say, tonight, because of dropping temperatures (cold fronts are moving through, some places might get unseasonably cold tonight), doesn’t mean you’ll have to continue blanketing, or even blanket in another month under the same weather conditions. Take it day by day

We have had as many as 50+ in given winters. TBs all shapes and sizes. There are always some that don’t seem to get as thick a coat as others. As others have said we just monitor come full winter and address as needed. All of ours are just starting to grow winter coats. We never blanket on the odd very chilly early fall nights. I feel it is important for them to acclimate. No different then myself. Will have to wear a coat next month come January a sweater will do me just fine.

Over the years with having a large population I have found very few horses by and large needed to be blanketed on a regular bases. We only blanket for extreme weather conditions. The majority of horses do much better in winter then they do in summer.

Of course what is being done with them dictates things. IMO the worst thing people do and I see it all the time is getting lazy about not removing a blanket on sunny days, regardless of temps. A dark blanket on a sunny day even with low temps gets extremely hot and sweaty. IMO screws up a horse’s ability to “self regulate”. Anyone that likes winter hiking and or mountaineering knows sweating is to be avoided at all costs.

I am sure your research has told you that if you choose to blanket daily you must do so pretty much the whole winter depending on location.

As long as she has access to shelter and adequate roughage she should be fine.

Probably a good idea to increase the amount of hay your horse gets during the winter, especially if you aren’t blanketing. Hay has a pretty high HI value, so it’s good to keep the ponies warm.

Like others have mentioned, instead of looking at coat quality, keep an eye on how she seems to be coping. Shivering is obviously a bad sign, as is losing weight. Also if she feels chilly to the touch (especially around the ears, or between the back legs) it might be a sign she’s too cold.

Generally speaking, it’s much better for horses to be too cold than too hot.

How thick is the horse’s coat? Are the hairs fine or are they coarse? Did your horse shed out recently? Does the horse choose to stand in the stable when the temps go down?

Look the horse over when you think it’s going to be cold. Are the hairs standing on end, or are they flat? If they’re flat, the horse probably isn’t that cold. Look at the spine, is it picked up? Is the tail clamped down tight? If yes, the horse is probably cold. My horse won’t visibly shiver unless he is very cold, but based on how tense he looks, I know how much to blanket.

Some horses don’t grow good coats (especially if they didn’t visibly shed their summer coat). If you ride the horse often, it will be grateful to have a blanket if only so it can relax her spine and not stay so tense all the time when the weather gets cold.

Thank you everyone! For those of you who only blanket when it is very cold or in extreme weather conditions, are you using medium weights or heavy weights? I would think heavy weight given that kind of weather, but would that be too much for a horse with a winter coat as well? (I’ve had spent many years blanketing clipped horses, but this is new to me.)

I’m generally in the “a coated horse will be fine naked” camp, but I did wind up blanketing the skinny gelding I picked up last year. He didn’t have much of a coat and I didn’t want him shivering off any more calories.

He wore a medium for most of the winter. When it dropped below zero during the day, he wore a heavy. He was never naked unless we had one of those lovely, sunny, 60 deg days.

I would think a medium would be perfectly adequate for a horse that just needs a little more during the really cold spells and is naked for the rest of the season.

I’d also rather go a little light on the blanket rather than too heavy. Too heavy, they’ll sweat…and the last thing you want when it’s really bitter cold is to deal with a wet horse and a wet blanket. Ick. A little light, you can always layer underneath if needed.

Medium weight for 90% of the few blanketing times.

The other 10% is divided probably fairly evenly between a “heavy” sheet, which is an 80gm sheet, and the medium blanket plus that sheet on top.

The dual jammies is for situations that are just either abnormally cold for us, such as single digits, or 20’s and blowing precipitation, though if it gets blowing too hard, especially if it’s sleet or pelleted snow, I usually bring them in, as I hate having that crap hit their face all the time.

I don’t think it’s possible to know, this early in the season, how much coat is “enough.” I do like the idea of having a rainsheet on hand for those really miserable rainy windy days around here, especially if there isn’t a lot of shelter. But of course there are many New England horses who do just fine without anything at all. SO much depends on the horse, how it’s being kept, etc.

My mare just doesn’t grow much winter coat, just gets a little plushy, though she’s getting a little more this year. She rarely needs clipping, and if she does, just the underside of her neck and her chest. She does have arthritis in a number of joints, so she gets blanketed more than I probably would with other horses.

My filly’s breeder, who is in Michigan (brrrr) rarely has to blanket any of her horses, no matter how cold it gets, except for the babies or training horses who need to be clipped. Hers are YAKS in the winter!

Both are Morgans, though not too similar in breeding. Most Morgans of my acquaintance do the YAK thing in the winter.

“Enough” depends on the individual horse.
I rarely blanket unless temps drop well into Minus-F or there’s an extended period of heavy wet snow or icy rain.
Light, powdery snow that piles up on their backs does not worry me - means they are keeping the heat in.

My 14yo Hackney Pony becomes a wooly mammoth - I can sink my fingers up to the knuckle in his coat.

20yo WB (bred, born & raised/lived in FL-type weather for his first 15yrs) has spent the last 5 winters with me in the Midwest. His idea of a full Winter coat is laughable. He never gets far beyond the plushy stage, but stays warm.

Both are out 24/7 with access to stalls if they want.
They rarely “want”.

I check both for warmth - ear tips, belly, brisket - feed extra hay & blanket if they seem to be getting soaked to the skin on their backs.
Blankets come off as soon as they are dry beneath them.

I use medium weight blankets with 200g fill.
Pony’s blanket is the SmartPak Thinsulate one. Great, lightweight yet warm & has stood up to 5yrs of abuse.


I one that grows very little coat and gets blanketed about once every two years.

I have another that grows a nice thick coat, and need blanketing much more frequently