The preference in horses for wearing blankets
Using blankets for horses is common in large parts of Europe. Even though horses are well adapted to withstand cold temperatures.
In a previous study, a method was developed where horses use symbols to communicate their preferences. By touching a symbol with their nose, horses told their handler if they wanted to be blanketed or not. The aim of the study was to gain information about horses their own preferences for wearing or not wearing a blanket under different weather conditions throughout the year.
Twenty-three trained horses were used in this study. If, when and what kind of blanket the horses wore depended on their owner’s routine. On a test day a horse was led to a test area, where it could choose from two symbols: no change, or a blanket off/ blanket on symbol depending on if the horse was blanketed. After choosing the horse was moved to its paddock and not allowed to be handled for the next hour.
The results show that most horses preferred to be blanketed at temperatures below -10°C, not considering other weather factors. With increasing temperature, the preference for keeping a blanket on decreased and above 10°C most horses and above 20°C all horses preferred to remove the blanket in all tests. Furthermore, sunshine decreased to probability for wanting to wear a blanket and more rain or wind increased the probability for wanting to wear a blanket.
Link to the article about training horses to use symbols to communicate: Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate
Expert opinion by Anouk van Breukelen
This study provides foundation for useful guidelines, however differences between individual horses are also observed. Therefore, it is always important to look at horses as individuals to provide optimal care.
> From: Mejdell et al., Applied Animal Behaviour Science 212 (2019) 52-57. All rights reserved to Elsevier B.V.. Click here for the online summary.