When to blanket underweight horse?

Hello, just looking fro some pointers as I believe the blanketing rules will be slightly different for my mare…
I just rescued her and she has a body condition of 2, the only issue is that we bought her at the end of summer and she colicked ending up ini the ICU losing all the weight she had finally gained.
We have all her blankets including a sheet and she has a stall with an open run which she’ll have access to all year, not necessarily inside or outside…just a mixture of both. So far she has been a hard keeper…:sigh:

My question is what blanket would you put on her at what temperature if your horse was like mine? (Please include all as I’m trying to get different opinions because I get a big mixture of them e.g., Heavy weight, medium weight, light weight, or a sheet.)

If she has a coat, I would start with at sheet, and visit the barn crispy early and see if she is warm underneath, or sweaty…

My older guy was never clipped and I never thought of a blanket for him, but someone suggested it would be “nice” – he wasn’t losing weight or anything – and you know what? He was the happiest camper.

I don’t want to rely on blankets honestly, but she’s so thin I’d like to focus on keeping her weight going up rather than making her adapt to a colder climate. She’s been in her sheet before and did fine, we really watch her with the blankets because we don’t want her to sweat and then suffer through the night but since she’s so thin blankets will be used this winter regardless.

What part of the country are you in? Does your mare already have her winter coat or is she still growing it out? The reason I ask is those two factors might make a difference in how I answered your question. :slight_smile:

I start thinking about blankets for my horse when the daytime highs are in the mid-high 50s. He’s a hard keeper and HATES being cold, plus he doesn’t grow the mammoth coat needed for harsh winters. He is outside all day and in at night. My general rules for him (temps in Fahrenheit):

50s – sheet
40s – medium
30s – medium with neck cover if not too windy/wet, heavy otherwise
20s – heavy, neck cover if windy/wet
10s – 350 g heavy with neck cover, 400g heavy with neck cover if windy/wet
Single digits below 0 to single digits above 0 – add the Baker blanket as a baselayer
Below -10 – use 300g stable blanket instead of Baker

The coldest I have ever had to dress him for was -35 actual temperature. With the windchill it was -50. IIRC he wore 300g stable blanket, 350g heavy with neck cover, and then a no-fill sheet on top of that. He lived outside at the time with 3 other horses and they all wore multiple blankets that day. It sucked.

ETA horse is a 15 y.o. OTTB that my BO calls the wussiest horse she’s ever seen (she’s not wrong), and yes, he has an entire Stanley trunk just for his clothing. And I have to sit on it to get it to close.


Start with a sheet in the 40s and see how that goes…you can fit her blankets “generously” which will allow for more airflow to lessen the chances of her over heating

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We are located in Colorado, where I’ve never experienced any state’s weather to be more bipolar than Colorado’s. She does not have her wintercoat, still pretty short and summery despite being in the 40s to 30s most nights and 50s to low 70s every day.

We’ve been doing that during the night and inspecting her during the morning. She never has any signs of any sweating and seems to be more comfortable with it on than off.

I don’t love to see a sheet on a horse with a coat. They provide no insulation and remove the horses natural ability to insulate because they mash the coat over too much of the horse’s body. If it’s going to rain and the temp is in the 50s, a waterproof sheet would be warranted. I generally blanket a skinny horse in a medium weight blanket under 45. If it drops into the teens, I add a liner or use a heavy.


Well, that makes it a bit tricky. I typically want the horse to have put on their winter coat, as blanketing them too soon can keep them from getting a good thick winter coat, which has much better insulation than a blanket. However, her colic, trip to the clinic, stress of those events and subsequent weight loss may have something to do with her coat not coming in.

I think I would put her in a baker blanket or lined sheet at night then for 35° - 45°. If it goes below 35°, I’d use a med weight blanket. Below 20° I’d go with a heavy weight, or use the med weight with the sheet on top. If its due to snow or sleet/ice, I’d make the top layer waterproof or water resistant to keep layers underneath from getting wet.

If she’s not started putting her winter coat on by now, she may not grow one this winter (or it may just be delayed). However, there are Quarter horses, TBs and other breeds I’ve known over the years that just get a very light winter coat, and are never going to have the really thick, 1" to 3" long coat that some horses get in winter. Some horses this doesn’t bother them at all and some will sit there and shiver at 45°. Since this is your first winter with your mare, you may have to experiment a bit and let her tell you what is comfortable (which I believe you already doing). :slight_smile:

Remember that blanketing (or a good thick winter coat) is only half of the equation of a horse keeping warm. Digestion & producing energy is the other half. Making sure she has free choice hay all night - if it’s just mixed grass hay, then I’d add some alfalfa (baled or compressed, whatever you have available). Just mix the alfalfa in with the other hay (compressed makes this very easy, as you can just sprinkle it all over the pile of hay).

Good luck to you and you mare.


Hard to call a horse with a BCS of 2 a “hard keeper.” Of course she seems like a hard keeper. But that’s a term that really can’t be used yet. She has been starved…but she may not be a hard keeper once she regains and has access to appropriate food.

I would probably blanket her overnight with a lightly filled blanket if it’s <50 and move to a medium weight as the weather drops. The more important thing, as mentioned already is to make sure she’s not sweaty underneath.

You may not need a heavy weight at all, if she has the option to get out of the wind. My TB mare wears a blanket once it’s <40F at night, and <25F during the day, or so…but we very rarely need to move beyond a medium weight. But it’s good to have one in case.

I agree with the post above that blanketing will keep her from spending energy to stay warm - but ample hay will be just as important. 24/7 hay would be ideal, and yes to adding alfalfa for weight gain as well.

Currently she is on 50/50 grass hay and alfalfa thanks to the BO, we provide extra grass hay. Tonight it will be raining and in the 30s so I’m considering a medium weight (waterproof obviously for the rain) thanks for the advice.

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I think that sounds ideal. Unlikely she will be too warm if she’s just standing around and eating. But double check in the am and adjust as necessary.

Good luck.

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I had a horse who lost weight and needed to regain it at this time of year. He was not a hard keeper and did not generally need much in the way of blankets. BUT he was not only trying to gain weight, he was missing his usual natural insulation that missing weight would have provided.

I would blanket your horse. She can’t gain weight when she’s spending the food energy keeping warm. I would worry about what she’ll need for her healthy weight when she gets there. This year I’d be worrying about what she needs now.

I’d be keeping a blanket on as long as she isn’t too warm. She will be able to adjust to colder temperatures in about two weeks once she has her weight back on. When she reaches proper weight, even if it’s January, you can lighten her blankets a little bit and allow her to adjust. But if she’s a two now it won’t hurt to blanket her a bit heavier for the full winter and allow her to adjust and show you what she needs next fall.

With my horse I went to a 150g quilt under his rainsheet when he would normally be in just the rainsheet. He was wearing the rainsheet at higher and drier temperatures than normal. Normal rainsheet on point being 10C with rain. And he hadn’t dropped as much as it sounds like your mare has.

Do you have a starting point blanket/temperature guide that you used for a previous horse? A good starting point for your new mare is going one step heavier with the blanket for each temperature point. Then adjust from there. I did that for my younger horse who gets colder more easily. It is a trial and error process but one night a bit cold or warm isn’t a disaster.


I absolutely agree with Red Horses. Last year I brought my 6 year old OTTB (decently hard keeper) from OK to upstate NY in August and she did grow a decent coat that fall, but despite my best efforts she was a bit underweight due to travel, etc. Obeying people’s advice, I waited in the fall to let her grow a coat, then blanketed rather aggressively (checking to make sure she was not overheating, of course). She was never seen to shiver, and seemed warm enough, but despite these efforts and as much quality hay (and a lot of concentrate besides) she still lost a bit more weight before gaining it back beautifully this summer. In retrospect, her metabolism must have kicked in to “high gear” so to speak, and that was why she seemed plenty warm all winter, but still dropped some more weight. I guess my point is that despite one’s best efforts, you might not see the weight gain you are looking for during the winter, despite blanketing, feeding strategies, etc. until the weather warms up. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to blanket underweight/hard keeper horses heavier than their easy-keeper, fluffy companions!

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IMEX thin horses not only have a hard time staying warm, but also can get too hot quickly as well. My hard keeper OTTB was blanketed for N California winters with the following rules:

Change blanket 2-3x a day (!) - with a skinny horse you might have to in the short term.

Always try to blanket for the average high in the day, avg low at night. In other words, if I was out in the morning and it was 45 degrees I don’t blanket for 45. I won’t be back till 6pm and the temps will reach 70 at 12pm, so he gets what’s needed for 70: no blanket.

Better to be a little too cold than too hot. Being too hot is hard on the metabolism.

As as others have said, a belly full of hay and shelter from wind and rain are very much a game changer in staying warm. Ensure teeth and deworming are up to date too.

My guy wore:
65 up: nothing
55-65: sheet
45-55: 100g
below 45: mid weight. Never gets much below freezing here.

If rain, add neck cover to above, or go up a blanket weight.

Remember you can stable bandage a horse in severely cold weather to help warm them too.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for blankets if/when they are necessary, but I think its hard to ask that kind of advise online. Its regional for sure, but also very dependent on the individual. (all three of mine are very different)

What I have learned though, is that stoking their fires internally goes a long way in creating heat. If you are able, keeping grass hay in front of your horse and water at all times is paramount. A lot of heat is created in the hind gut in the digestion process.

Lack of fat on yours will make her thresholds for cold much lower than a fitter/fatter horse. If you are trying to add/keep weight, I’d blanket more and sooner as long as she isn’t sweating. Wind, humidity, changes in barometric pressures are all going to factor in.

I’d just make sure you have several weights of blankets available so you can be flexible to her needs. a fleece liner is also nice if she is damp. I put my liner in, wait an hour, then come take the liner out. Horse is usually dry and stays toasty.

Watch out for enclosing her in a stall - assuming that is an option. In some cases, the extra dust and higher humidity can really cause you problems. Just make sure there is plenty of ventilation. Good luck!