Researchers Study Owners’ Blanketing, Clipping Knowledge

Half the owners didn’t understand equine thermoregulation, including horses’ bodily response to clipping and blanketing.

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You blanket, or you don’t blanket. You clip, or you don’t clip. As a horse owner, it’s your choice. But do you know the reasons behind your choice? Science-based reasons? A recent study of Scandinavian riders showed that, generally, owners lacked the scientific knowledge for good blanketing and clipping practices.

In their survey of 4,122 Swedish and 2,075 Norwegian handlers, scientists found that about half the respondents didn’t appear to understand the way a horse’s natural temperature regulation system works. This included a horse’s bodily response to clipping and blanketing, as well as its ability to dissipate heat and recover from exercise.

“A blanket will obviously protect the horse from feeling cold due to adverse weather as rain, wind, and very low temperatures,” said Cecilie M. Mejdell, PhD, of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute’s Department for Health Surveillance, in Oslo. “The problem is that the horse’ own ability to regulate body temperature is hampered by the blanket. The chilling effect from sweating and increased blood flow in the skin is reduced, so the horse may suffer from heat stress when the weather is changing and there’s sun radiation or high ambient temperature.

“So, if nobody is there to take the blanket off or change to a less insulated blanket when weather changes to the better, there might be a welfare problem,” Mejdell continued

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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