In our climate rain sheets are incredibly useful! For those who don’t know, I live on Vancouver Island in what is technically a rain forest. For example, today we are expected to get 50mm of rain. It is also supposed to be mild at 15 degrees. This is ideal conditions to have a rain sheet on your horse.
Why do I blanket? Horses are not meant to live in rainforests. The wet isn’t the best for their skin or their hooves. If left wet and unable to dry it can lead to issues such as rain rot, mud fever, thrush, and hoof abscesses. If we wanted to keep our horses natural, we wouldn’t keep them on the west coast but more in the prairies where they can thrive easier. Blanketing during the winter, along with lots of brushing, is one of the best ways to keep your horse’s skin healthy. (Of course, including proper nutrition too!) A well-fitting rain sheet will keep your horse comfortable and dry if they don’t love to stay inside their stall/shelter during rainy wet days.
One myth with rain sheets is they keep your horse warm. The rain sheets job is to keep your horse dry, but since rain sheets are just a shell with no fill, they do not provide any warmth. On cold winter days, they will actually simply flatten your horse’s coat and make it harder for them to keep warm.
“On a chilly winter day, it's natural for your horse's coat to seem a bit "puffier" than normal. When he gets chilled, the hypothalamus, the primary control center for thermoregulation located deep within the brain, triggers the contraction of the smooth muscle that attaches to the lowest point of each hair follicle. As a result, each hair straightens up and stands on end. This extra fluffy coat creates a large insulating pocket of air right next to the skin. The same reaction, called piloerection, is what causes goose bumps in humans.
Keep all of this in mind if you decide to blanket your horse this winter. A lightweight blanket will simply press the hair down and eliminate the coat's ability to hold and heat air, without adding any warmth. Either opt for a heavier blanket or, if your horse's natural winter coat is thick, leave him without a blanket as long as he has adequate shelter.
A fluffy coat is not to be confused with one that is "staring," however. Horses who are suffering from a systemic illness can have a coat that appears to stand on end. This is caused by poor circulation and a lack of oils in the skin, resulting in dandruff and scurf. If your horse has a staring coat, call your veterinarian.“
- EQUUS issue 424.
This is why I personally recommend having two blankets for your horse in our climate. One rain sheet and one with fill for the cold months and winter storms. My personal favorite blankets are from Horseware Ireland. The Rambo and Rhino blankets are perfect for our climate due to how waterproof and breathable they are. With their liner system it is possible to get a good rain sheet outer blanket then add a liner on the cold days.
Need help finding a blanket? Send me a message! I will help point you in the right direction 😊