To ensure a horse will be comfortable outside in cold climates, they should be healthy and have a thick, dry and clean hair coat. Healthy horses develop natural winter coat as the days become shorter and temperatures become colder.

Blanketing a horse may be  necessary when no shelter is available and temperatures or wind chill drops below 5 F (-15 C). 

If a horse is blanketed, it is critical that you have a properly fitted blanket for your horse. When the blanket does not fit properly it can lead to sores and rub marks, especially along the straps. When your horses are wearing a blanket, it is important to remove the blanket daily, and inspect your horse for rub marks, and sores. Adjust the blanket accordingly to reduce any rub marks. Ensure that your horse is dry before putting a blanket on.

Another time when it may become necessary for a horse to wear a winter blanket is when the horse has had its winter coat clipped, when the horse is young or older, and when the horse hasn’t had the opportunity to acclimatize to the cold weather.

You will also need to consider the health and body condition of your horse. It is a good idea to blanket your horse during the cold weather if the body condition score of your horse is 3 or less.COZY


A horse can easily become dehydrated in the cold weather when it does not have access to fresh or unfrozen water. Horses that do not have access to water can quickly start to lose body weight and show symptoms of dehydration. Symptoms may include dry mucous membranes, sunken eyes, slow capillary refill, tucked up appearance and loss of elasticity in skin. The horse will also start reducing feed intake and may ultimately refuse to eat.

A heated water bucket, heater in water troughs, and a heated automatic watered are options to provide unfrozen water. Without heaters, make sure the ice is broken on the horse’s water supply. When you are using a submergible electric water heater in a water trough, you will need to check daily to ensure the heating element is on and there is no stray voltage.

You may find that some horses do not like the water heaters and prefer to have a fresh bucket of water offered to them.


Horses can withstand significant drops in temperature provided they have some protection from the wind and wet (rain/sleet) conditions.  Snow is tolerated much better than rain and sleet with the insulation of a healthy winter coat.  Unfortunately not much helps with keeping your horse comfortable during rainy weather or sleet.  When rain and sleet wets the hair down the insulating capacity of the coat is less effective.  Wind chills coupled with a wet coat can lead to the potential of hypothermia.  

Sheltering a horse during times of rain or sleet is the best option to keep your horse safe.  A full barn is not required to shelter your horse.  You can use for a tree line wind break, a three sided shed or an enclosed barn and stalls that may or may not be heated. 

For enclosed barns, it must be adequately ventilated to prevent respiratory issues.  Proper ventilation will help to prevent the accumulation of ammonia and mold levels.  as well as help  to reduce humidity and moisture levels.  

Considerations when using a  three sided shed with a group of horses:

  • adequate size – 12×20 feet with horses that get along
  • each additional horse needs an additiona 6×10 feet
  • the size of the horse may require less or more space
  • regular cleaning routine

Establishing a regular routine, while using the proper tools when cleaning the stalls will make winter stall maintenance an easier task. Each type of bedding has advantages and disadvantages.  The primary purpose of bedding is to absorb urine and moisture.  Other  considerations include:

  •  space available to shelter your horse
  • dust and allergies
  • waste disposal
  • availability
  • cost and effectivness