Let’s face it, Savannah winters are often laughable compared to other parts of the country. The temperatures rarely dip below 20 F in the evening and stay in the 50s and 60s most of the winter. There have even been 80 degree temps here which put a strain on horses with thick winter coats though the temperatures may easily drop below 30 the next day.
So how do you deal with the changing weather conditions in Savannah and how do you know when to blanket, when the temperatures at the barn are in the 50s when you leave at night and in the low 30s when you wake in the mornings?
Just as with people, it pays to layer. Most Savannah natives have two blankets for their horses or a liner, a sheet and a blanket. If your horse is unclipped and in good health and has a thick coat, keeping the coat groomed and fluffed may be all the protection your horse needs, especially if the weather is dry and the horse has shelter from the wind.
Outdoor horses need to have a waterproof blanket, rated to 30 degrees (that means it will keep a horse warm in 30 degree weather and help to provide extra warmth if the weather grows colder). A wet blanket or a dry blanket tossed on a wet horse, can cause heat loss. A dirty blanket or a clean blanket on a dirty horse, can cause sores and hair loss.
Clipped horses may need to be blanketed when the temperatures dip below 60. A light blanket may be used in temperatures from 45- 65 and a heavier padded blanket for temperatures below 40.
It’s important to keep your blankets clean and cross the straps under the belly to keep the blanket from rolling, making sure no straps are hanging loose for the horse to put a foot through.
Do not use a thin sheet in temperatures below 40. Research has shown that a horse’s natural coat will fluff up in colder weather helping to protect the horse, but tossing on a thin sheet will flatten out the natural coat, actually making a horse colder over time.
If you are uncertain about the temperature for the evening, you are probably safe just making sure the stall is clean and has plenty of bedding and your horse has a little extra hay. The more fat and hair a horse has on it, the better protection against the cold, but a dirty or wet coat will prevent to coat from insulating the horse properly, so always make sure your horse is clean and dry and if in doubt, don’t beat yourself up over your horse freezing in the night. They have a thicker hide, more hair and a higher body temperature and do better in cold weather than we do!
Chances are, if you feel cold and can’t stop shaking even with a mid weight jacket on, your horse will appreciate having a mid-weight blanket tossed on for the evening, and remember even the fluffiest, thickest coated horse can get chilled if wet and dirty, so take the effort to groom them and provide shelter from the rain.