Let’s Talk Horse Blankets

The last few days have quickly reminded us that winter is coming.  As we prepare for colder weather, it’s time to start thinking about our horse blankets.  Maybe you invested last winter and your blankets are still in great shape.  If so, lucky you!  It’s always a good idea to give blankets a wash before you store them, but in case you didn’t, there’s still time.  You wouldn’t want to wear dirty pajamas, and neither do our horses.  If you’re washing your blankets, make sure not to try it in your home washer (unless you’re lucky enough to have a high capacity, commercial grade washer).  Horse blankets are too heavy and big to be successfully cleaned in a typical household washer (sheets and coolers are usually lighter and are ok at home).  Before you throw your dirty, hair-filled blanket in the machine, use a shedding blade to remove as much hair as you can from the lining (trust me, it’s worth the effort).  If the outside of the blanket has a lot of caked on mud or manure, you can hose it down to get as much off as possible before the machine.  Most blankets are pretty hi-tech so you should use a blanket wash.  You can buy one at your local tack shop (check out our Sponsors page) or online.  If you don’t have access to a blanket wash, use a soap designed for delicates.  And don’t use fabric softener – it isn’t good for a blanket’s wicking properties.  Once the blanket has gone through the high capacity washer at the laundromat, make sure you clean any residual hair out of the machine.  I like to lay my blankets out on the lawn to dry, but you can also hang them over the fence or on the stall door.  You want to make sure they’re completely dry before you fold them up and store them in the tack room or trailer because you don’t want them molding!

If your horse’s neighbor used your blanket for a snack last winter, or you have one of those horses who takes it as a personal mission to see how much damage they can do to their blanket, you might be in the market for a new winter blanket.  Here’s what you need to know before you buy a new one.  Horse blankets come in three basic types: stable blankets, turnout blankets, and sheets.

  • Stable Blankets:  Stable Blankets are designed to keep horses warm in a stall or stable situation.  If you live in a cold climate and your horse spends most of the time indoors, a stable blanket may be the best choice for you. Stable blankets are also a good choice for winter shipping, and are an excellent choice for body clipped horses that are stalled.  (Remember, in most climates, a body clipped horse should be kept covered) The important thing to remember about stable blankets is that they are generally NOT waterproof.  A stable blanket that is used outdoors in the rain or snow can act like a sponge, soak up water, and actually make your horse colder.
  • Turnout Blankets:  Turnout Blankets are designed to withstand the rigors of  pasture turnout- both in terms of weather and horse play!  These hardy blankets are generally waterproof, breathable, and made of tough fabrics (and can withstand your hungry stable neighbor). If you can only have one blanket for your horse, a good turnout is probably the best choice.  Just because it is made to be used outdoors, doesn’t mean it can’t double as a stable blanket!
  • Horse Sheets:  Horse Sheets are multi-purpose cover-ups that are used anytime you need lightweight coverage for you horse. Sheets can be used in the summer when you want to keep the dust off, or to prevent sun fading, or in a stall situation when you want your horse clean, but don’t need the warmth of a stable blanket. If you show, a sheet is critical for keeping your horse clean and ready for the ring. Some sheets are hardy enough for turnout, but beware, many a horse owner has gone to catch up their horse to find them wearing the taters of a lovely sheet!

One thing to consider is the turnout blanket’s outer shell. That outer shell’s resistance to tears (and snacks) is known as “denier.” The higher the denier, the thicker the thread and the stronger the material.

  • 210 Denier – Very Light Strength
  • 420 Denier – Light Strength
  • 600 Denier – Medium Strength
  • 1200 Denier – Heavy Strength
  • 1680 Denier – Extra Heavy Strength
  • 2100 Denier – Super Heavy Strength

Now that you’ve decided on the kind of blanket you need, how do you know what weight to buy?  The amount of fill in the blanket determines how warm it will be. The fill can be either Polyfill or Fiberfill and is measured in grams. The higher the weight number, the warmer the blanket will be. Figuring out what weight you need depends on your horse’s environment and the condition of your horse’s coat. Besides the climate, also keep in mind if your horse grows a light or heavy coat, is body clipped mid-winter, is turned out with or without shelter, or kept in a barn. These are all factors in determining which blanket fill to choose.  Here’s a “cheat sheet” for you:

  • 100 gram fill – light warmth
  • 150 gram fill – light/medium warmth
  • 200 gram fill – medium warmth
  • 250 gram fill – medium/heavy warmth
  • 300 gram fill – heavy warmth
  • 400 gram fill – extra heavy warmth

Well, that’s all fine and good, but what does that mean from a temperature standpoint? (chart from Horse.com)

Temperature Horse with Natural Coat Horse that is Body Clipped
50-60 Degrees Sheet Light Blanket (100g)
40-50 Degrees Light Blanket (100g) Light/Medium Blanket (150g-250g)
30-40 Degrees Light/Medium Blanket (150g-250g) Medium/Heavy Blanket (200-300g)
20-30 Degrees Medium/Heavy Blanket (200-300g) Heavy(300-400g) or Medium (200-300g) with Blanket Liner
Below 20 Degrees Heavy (300-400g) Heavy (300-400g) with Blanket Liner

The last piece of the puzzle is size.  If you have an old blanket that fits well, just buy that size.  Most blankets have a tag in the chest that tells you the size.  If you need to measure, it’s a lot easier if you have a friend or barn-mate help you (unless you have REALLY long arms).  You will need a flexible tape measure to make the job easier and more accurate. First, start by standing your horse as square as possible on a flat, even surface. Place the tape measure at the center of the horse’s chest, over the high point of the shoulder. With the tape measure held in place on the chest, run it alongside the horse’s body until you reach the rear of the hind leg (the side of the butt before you wrap around the curve towards the tail). For the most accurate measurement, keep the tape as straight as possible along the side of the body without following the contours of the horse’s body. If the length falls on a size not offered by the blanket company, then simply round up to the next available size being offered.

As with most things, the more bells and whistles, the higher the fill, and the higher the denier – the more the blanket costs.  However, it’s better to buy one blanket that will last you a number of years and be just what you need then to buy an inferior product you have to replace yearly because even an inexpensive blanket isn’t cheap!  Your local tack store owner or online customer service representative is a good resource to answer whatever questions you may have and help you determine the right style and features for you and your horse.

Information taken from: horse.com and equestriancollections.com

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