Hartmann, E., Bøe, K. E., Jørgensen, G. H. M., Mejdell, C. M., & Dahlborn, K. (2017). Management of horses with focus on blanketing and clipping practices reported by members of the Swedish and Norwegian equestrian community1. J Anim Sci, 95(3), 1104–1117.
Abstract: Limited information is available on the extent to which blankets are used on horses and the owners' reasoning behind clipping the horse's coat. Research on the effects of those practices on horse welfare is scarce but results indicate that blanketing and clipping may not be necessary from the horse's perspective and can interfere with the horse's thermoregulatory capacities. Therefore, this survey collected robust, quantitative data on the housing routines and management of horses with focus on blanketing and clipping practices as reported by members of the Swedish and Norwegian equestrian community. Horse owners were approached via an online survey, which was distributed to equestrian organizations and social media. Data from 4,122 Swedish and 2,075 Norwegian respondents were collected, of which 91 and 84% of respondents, respectively, reported using blankets on horses during turnout. Almost all respondents owning warmblood riding horses used blankets outdoors (97% in Sweden and 96% in Norway) whereas owners with Icelandic horses and coldblood riding horses used blankets significantly less (P < 0.05). Blankets were mainly used during rainy, cold, or windy weather conditions and in ambient temperatures of 10°C and below. The horse's coat was clipped by 67% of respondents in Sweden and 35% of Norwegian respondents whereby owners with warmblood horses and horses primarily used for dressage and competition reported clipping the coat most frequently. In contrast to scientific results indicating that recovery time after exercise increases with blankets and that clipped horses have a greater heat loss capacity, only around 50% of respondents agreed to these statements. This indicates that evidence-based information on all aspects of blanketing and clipping has not yet been widely distributed in practice. More research is encouraged, specifically looking at the effect of blankets on sweaty horses being turned out after intense physical exercise and the effect of blankets on social interactions such as mutual grooming. Future efforts should be tailored to disseminate knowledge more efficiently, which can ultimately stimulate thoughtful decision-making by horse owners concerning the use of blankets and clipping the horse's coat.