Research Update: Winter Blanketing Practices

Minimal research has evaluated the effects of winter blanketing on horse health and welfare. As a result, winter blanketing is a highly debated practice within the horse community. Researchers in the Midwest aimed to develop a better understanding of blanketing practices and beliefs of horse owners in North America.

The researchers developed a survey that consisted of 33 questions regarding demographics, usage of winter blankets, and participant beliefs on use or nonuse of winter blankets. The survey was available online from December 1, 2020 to January 5, 2021 and yielded 1,450 complete responses.

Overall, 54 percent of respondents reported blanketing the majority of their horses during winter. While 68 percent of respondents resided in the Midwest, geographical region did not affect the frequency of blanket usage. However, riding discipline, years of horse ownership, number of horses owned and management (e.g., access to shelter or forage) did impact blanket usage.

The most common reason for blanketing was exposure to rain, sleet, or snow (85 percent) followed by exposure to wind (58 percent). In contrast, access to shelter (50 percent) was the most common reason for not blanketing. Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that scientific research on winter blanketing would help horse owners and managers with decision-making when considering blanketing.

The results of this survey provide valuable information on blanketing practices in North America and can help direct future research and education efforts. For more information on this research, view the abstract published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Sciences. 

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