SmartPak Monday Morning Feed: Blanketing and Coat Growth

Winter is here in full force. So even though it may be a bit late for some of us, there is much to consider for next year when it comes to blanketing our horses. Here’s what Dr. Lydia Gray has to say about blanketing horses and coat growth.

In this excerpt from the February 2020 episode of Ask the Vet, SmartPaker Dan and Dr. Lydia Gray tackle a question about blanketing a horse and what effect that has on the growth of the horse’s coat. Dr. Gray talks about the main trigger for a horse’s hair to grow, the role weather and seasons play, and whether or not blanketing has an effect on the growth of hair. The answer may surprise you!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the video:

DAN: “Does blanketing impede winter-coat growth?”

DR. LYDIA GRAY: That’s a good question, and we’re in winter now, so it’s very appropriate, although it’s too late to do anything, but for next winter — the primary thing that influences coat growth is the light in the photo period. And so as daylight gets shorter, then that’s the signal to the coat to grow and the winter coat to grow.

And we have these things — the summer and the winter solstice and then the spring and the fall equinox. And they’re important because the summer solstice — happens in June — is the longest day of the year.

DAN: Yeah, my favorite day.

DR. LYDIA GRAY: And so after that, the days begin to get shorter. And then my horse, right away, starts throwing away his summer coat and building the winter coat. And you don’t see the winter coat until — it takes about two months or so after the signal is received in the body for the first hairs to sort of poke through the skin. But about September, about the fall equinox, my horse is looking pretty good because he got rid of his bleached-out summer coat, and he has this new brand new really dark rich bay winter coat.

But then we have some warm days in September and October, and he’s like, “Ooh, toasty.” But then the same thing happens in the winter solstice — so the shortest day of the year, the end of December. The days begin to get longer, and then the horses start shedding their winter coat, which is more noticeable because it’s longer, but it’s more hairs. And then in about two months, their summer hairs are peeking through, and that’s the spring equinox. And then the cycle begins again.

So her question was blanketing. So if photo period is the trigger, blanketing would be the modifier. So it is possible to begin putting blankets on your horses when the temperature begins to decrease. It depends where you are, too. So it could be 60, could be 50, could be 40. Depends where you are.

And say to the horse’s body — I know you’ve been signaled to change coats from summer and winter, but don’t put your full winter down thing on. Just put your light-winter jacket on. That’s what the blanket is trying to tell them. And to some extent, that is possible if you’re diligent in having them wear the blanket.

To get all the information, watch the video, or read the full transcript here.