December 15, 2017

Let’s Blanket Your Horse!

Lace with blanket

Let’s Blanket Your Horse!

You are ready to blanket! You made the decision to blanket and purchased the correct ones. It’s time! My horses are usually kept blanketed due to their work schedule. My school horses often do lessons in the evening and are sweaty afterward. My students can put their blanket on and don’t need to spend hours walking them. I have one mare, Lace that needs to be shaved because she grows a very heavy coat. Lace also wears a shoulder guard to prevent blanket rubs. The kids call it her “sports bra”.

All of my horses have three blankets- a day sheet and two mid-weight stable blankets. I live in Southern California and the stalls are fully covered, so no real weather issues here. I always have extra blankets on hand in case a client’s horse breaks his blanket or it becomes too soiled to use. I blanket according to the temperature, not time of day. I often see people removing their horse’s blanket as they dash off to work in the morning. That may be fine some days, but often it’s colder when they take if off than it was when they put it on! Not the best time to be removing a blanket, don’t you think?  We check the thermometer several times each day and put blankets on or take them off when it gets to about 60 degrees. If it is a cool, rainy day the blankets may stay on all day. If the blankets are on during the day, I check them often to be sure the horses aren’t too hot. Some horse’s blankets are removed before the temperature hits 60 degrees because it’s heavier or they have a long coat. Other horses will wear their blanket  later in the day because they are shaved or the blanket is lighter weight.  This is how we conduct the Blanket Service at CRK Training Stable. If you or your barn managers aren’t doing these things, perhaps it’s time for a change.

When blanketing your horse always remember- Safety First! Make sure you can control the horse. The last thing you want is to get kicked or have the horse walk away with the blanket half on and the straps dragging under him. If you need to put on a halter and hold the horse, do it. If you need a helper, get one. There is lots of potential for both horse and handler to get hurt here. Better safe than sorry.

Next, determine if you are going to put the blanket over the horses head or not. If it’s a closed front blanket, you don’t have a choice. Over the head it goes. If it has front straps that stay closed, make sure they are buckled and adjusted for the horse.

Follow these simple steps to put a blanket on over the horses head.-

1. Hold the blanket in front of the horse like a bib. If you are holding the horse, put the lead rope through the blanket first. Then, gently and quickly slip the closed front section or chest-straps over his head.

2. Pull the blanket up onto his back and smooth it all the way to the tail.

 

Putting it in place on the back.

 

Pull it all the way back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Buckle the belly straps according to their configuration.

4. Attach the leg straps last.

 

Buckle the belly strap.

 

Buckle both leg straps from the left (near) side.

 

 If you have an open front blanket, the steps are slightly different. Here’s how-

Fold the blanket into thirds widthwise.

Gently swing the folded blanket onto the horses back like you would a saddle. Leave it folded on the horses back.  If your horse won’t tolerate a flying blanket, gently place the folded blanket on his back and adjust from there.

 

Place the folded blanket on the back.

 

Pull it far enough forward to buckle the front straps securely.

 

Buckle the front straps.

 

After the front is buckled, pull the blanket all the way back to the tail. Then continue as above.

 

Smooth the blanket into place.

 

 

 

A Note on Straps-

Blanket straps come in lots of different configurations. The straps on the blankets always seem to be some sort of elaborate puzzle designed to confuse and confound horse owners. Front straps– These straps should close the blanket completely but not be so tight as to choke the horse. Even on open front blankets, I usually leave these straps buckled and pull the blanket over the horses head.  Side Straps– The simple explanation is this: If the straps are set at an angle (like an open V), they need to be crossed under the belly. If the straps are set straight up and down ( I I ) , they don’t cross. If there is only one, you should be able to figure it out yourself. If you have a gelding or stallion be sure the straps don’t put pressure on his sheath. You don’t want him to stop urinating because the straps are preventing him from “dropping”. Leg Straps- Most blankets these days have leg straps that go around the hind legs. These straps are important because they keep the blanket from shifting. I personally prefer the type that can be detached from the blanket completely. If they break, they are easily replaced. I have even been known to use bailing twine in a pinch. I also like that they can be buckled without having to go to the off (right) side of the horse. This saves time when I have 20 horses to blanket and is much safer. Some horses really object to being blanketed. I don’t want to give them a chance to demonstrate their displeasure by landing a well placed kick as I squeeze behind them. Or pinning me to the wall while I’m reaching for a strap. Even the kind, gentle ones might be annoyed at having to leave their dinner so you can get to the other side and buckle straps. This can lead to blanketing issues that I would rather not create.  To cross or not to cross? I cross the leg straps on geldings (i.e. Left strap goes between the hind legs and attaches on the right side and vise-versa).  I don’t cross the straps on mares (Right strap goes between the hind legs and attaches on the same side). Crossing the straps keeps the blankets on better, but on mares, not crossing the straps keeps them cleaner due to the mare’s anatomy. If you have any more questions about that, call me.

It’s time to take the blanket off-

To remove the blanket, remember- Safety First! Halter the horse and hold or tie as needed.

1. Unbuckle the hind leg straps first, belly straps second and the chest straps last.

 2. Fold the blanket in thirds as you move it from the tail to the withers.

3. Remove the folded blanket, either off the horses’ side or over the head.

 

To Remove: Pull the blanket up from the hip.

 

 

 

Fold it in thirds to the withers.

 

Store the folded blanket away from the horse. One of my horses thinks they make a tasty afternoon snack. Others believe they make wonderful throw rugs and lousy stall-wall hangings. Still others prefer to ignore them and hope they go away altogether. Either way, be sure your blanket is stored in a way to keep it safe and clean. With proper care, blankets can last many years making them a very worthwhile investment.  

 

How To Choose A Blanket For Your Horse

Which one do I need?

How To Choose A Blanket For Your Horse

            You made the decision. You are going to blanket your horse this winter. Now you need blankets. How do you decide which one to get?  What weight do you need? How many? There are so many different types, how do you choose? First you need to ask yourself these 6 simple questions…

  1.      Is your horse body-shaved or under lights? This horse will not have any natural winter coat and will need more protection than one that is a little fuzzy. You’ll need to use a heavy blanket or two mid-weight blankets on really cold nights. You should also plan on providing a hood or neck cover. Some very short coated horses will get blanket rubs on their shoulders or hips. This is a spot where the blanket rubs the coat causing it to be shorter, discolored and kinked.  To prevent this problem, provide a “slinky” shoulder guard or as my students call it, a “sports bra” for these horses.
  2.      What is the lowest temperature you are likely to have?  Most blankets are rated for a temperature range, so be sure to get the ones rated for your weather.  In So Cal, you probably won’t need anything heavier than a mid-weight blanket for most nights. I always have two blankets available for each horse and double up on these few below freezing nights we get. Just be sure to apply the right blanket(s) for the weather that day. Too light is better than too heavy. A horse that’s a little cold will grow a heavier coat to compensate. A too-heavy blanket will cause your horse to sweat overnight possibly compromising his health.
  3.      Why are you blanketing?  If your intent is to keep your horse’s coat in show shape, you will need many blankets- One day sheet, two mid-weight blankets, a light, day-sheet type hood and a quilted hood or neck cover. These will need to be adjusted often, sometimes several times a day as the weather changes. If you are just trying to keep the coat under control a little, two mid-weight blankets will probably suffice. If you live where it gets below freezing, add one or two heavy-weight blankets to the list.
  4.      Is your horse inside or outside?  Horses kept inside, completely out of the weather, will do well with a “stable” blanket. These blankets are usually quilted, have back seams and do not have any waterproofing.  Horses that have access to the weather will need a “turn-out” blanket. These blankets are smooth, seamless and have been treated to make them waterproof.  If your waterproof blanket has been washed, you may need to have it waterproofed again. I have often had to remove a soaked stable blanket from a horse that stood outside during a rain storm. I then have to find a replacement blanket for that horse, so be sure you buy the right type. Horses like to stand in the rain. I have heard stories from animal control agents who were called out because of horses standing in the rain. They check the premises only to find a warm, dry stall available to the soaking wet horse.   
  5.      Can you pull the blanket over your horses head easily?  If so, you can purchase a closed front blanket. These blankets do not open in the front which will keep the horse warmer and the front straps won’t ever break or be a problem. However; you can’t adjust the front so if it doesn’t fit correctly, you are stuck. Some horses object to having a blanket put over their head. If your horse is one of those, this type of blanket could be quite a challenge to put on. It’s amazing how tall a 15.1 horse can get when it’s time to put a blanket over their head! You’d think you had a giraffe in the barn! Most horses can be trained to accept this procedure; you just have to be willing and able to train your horse. You may need to contact a trainer for assistance or have them train the horse for you.
  6.      What Size Do You Buy?  You will need to measure your horse or ask a professional for help. To measure you will need someone to help you. Have someone hold the horse. Best not to tie him if you think he might react to the tape measure. (If the tape measure is a problem, use a long rope, then measure the rope.) Have your helper hold the end of tape measure on the muscle line in the center of the horse’s chest. You are then free to pull the tape straight along the side of the horse to the center of the tail. Keep the tape straight and the same distance from the ground over the entire length.  This is the measurement you need. A 76 inch horse will take a size 76 blanket. For my clients, I start by looking at their horse and making an educated guess. Then I bring out several blankets around that size and try them on the horse. It’s easy to pick the right size this way. I also use this opportunity to demonstrate how to put the blanket on and off correctly and explain some safety issues to be aware of.  

    Hold the tape in the center of the chest.

 

Finish at the middle of the tail

Keep the tape straight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it- The In’s and Outs of blankets. I trust this has given you a better understanding of blanket types and what you need to keep your horse warm, comfy and healthy this winter season. I hope you enjoyed this article and welcome your comments. Please feel free to share with anyone you know that may benefit from this information. Happy shopping!

 

To Blanket or Not To Blanket?

It’s Blanket Season!

By Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg
Published in The Instructor (Fall 2011)

            Ok, I know that as I write this, its 100 degrees outside and blankets are the furthest thing from your mind. But… It’s BLANKET SEASON! This small fact was made abundantly clear today when I went to my local tack shop. I held the door for someone carrying 6 freshly washed blankets. Yep, it’s that time of year again…Blanket Season!

            Why do people in Southern California blanket their horses? I mean really? We don’t get snow or sleet or freezing weather. Heck, most days it’s really nice here. That’s why people move here, for the warm winters. The horses won’t suffer without a blanket. Especially if they have a shelter to keep them dry and protected from the wind. They will grow a nice, warm, fuzzy winter coat to keep them toasty. Horses also possess the ability to make each and every hair stand up or lie down to adjust the amount of insulation the coat provides. Pretty cool! With the natural winter coat, you don’t have to worry about putting it on and taking it off. Horses in the wild do just fine without a blanket, why does my horse need one? Blankets cost money and take up time that I don’t have to spare. Besides keeping the horse warm, what does putting on a blanket really do? 

What Blankets Do (And Don’t Do).

Blankets DO prevent your horse from growing as thick a winter coat. A blanket won’t keep him from getting a winter coat altogether, it will just keep it shorter. He will still get a full coat on his head and neck, unless you add a hood or neck cover. A shorter coat helps keep the horse cool during workouts. Let’s just imagine you are going for a run on a cold winter evening. You put on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, two pairs of sweat pants, two pairs of socks and a jacket. It’s a cold night so everything is fine, at first. Now you have been running for awhile and you’re starting to sweat a little. You decide to take off a layer or two so you don’t get overheated. Good idea! Now you can continue your workout in comfort. When you’re done running, you cool down and start adding the layers back on so you don’t get chilled. Or you go into your nice warm house. Either way, you can manipulate your clothing or environment to your best interest.

But your horse can’t. He can’t take off a layer of hair because he is working now. All he can do to cool off is sweat. So sweat he does. Lots and lots of sweat. Now your horse is soaking wet. Like he just went through a car wash kind of wet. All that long, fuzzy, warm winter coat held in all that sweat.  When you are finished working him you take off his tack. He is cool, but still very wet, plus now he’s going to be cold. He can’t add a nice dry jacket or go in the house. You have to do that for him. You have to put on his cooler (you do have one, right?) and spend loads of time walking him until he is dry. Then you need to brush off all that dried sweat so his coat isn’t matted down. If you leave the hair matted down, he can’t stay warm. Remember that part about horses lifting each hair? That can’t happen if it’s matted down with sweat & dirt.  Hopefully, you love to spend time with your horse and will do all this before you put him away.

Blankets DO keep your horse clean. A clean horse is much easier to groom, thus saving time each day. Blanketing your horse every day will also get them used to wearing clothes. This can come in handy if you ever need to blanket due to illness or injury.

Blankets DO save time.  Remember the scenario I talked about earlier? The one about the horse that went through the car wash? A blanket can help! First the blanketed horse won’t have as heavy a coat to begin with. That means he won’t sweat as much. After you have finished working and cooling him out he might still be a little damp, but not soaked. You can put a blanket on a damp, cool horse and put them away. The blanket will keep him warm until his coat is dry. The blanket will also rub the coat as the horse moves around, helping it to dry. After the coat has dried, the blanket can rub it and help remove the dried sweat just as brushing might. The next time you remove the blanket, your horse will look better than when you put the blanket on.

Blankets DO get smelly, tangled and messy.Horses sleep lying down. On the ground. I know that’s a surprise to most non-horsey types, but it’s just a fact. Because horses sleep on the ground, their blankets will get dirty. Just the fact that a horse is wearing the blanket will make it dirty and smelly. Horses do have a certain aroma to them. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it will rub off on the blanket. Some horses are capable of Houdini-like escape acts to get their blankets off. Once off, those offending blankets must be ripped, torn or made umm… shall we say …“unclean”. 

Lace makes a statement about blankets.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, Horse/Houdini doesn’t quite get it right and gets trapped in the blanket or hood. I have rescued many of these unsuccessful types from their efforts. Often, just the blanket is the casualty, sometimes it’s the horse. Either way, you will need to keep a spare on hand just in case. And hope your horse doesn’t hurt himself.

Lace is only steps away from a problem!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping all those things in mind, should you blanket your horse(s) this year? How do you know? Here are some things to determine if you should blanket or not.

1. Do you ride your horse often at night? Yes- A blanket might be necessary to keep the chill off if he is sweaty from work. Also, a blanket will keep his coat shorter and prevent some heavy sweating in the first place.  No– If you have plenty of time to ride during the day, he will probably be dry before the chill of night sets in and causes a problem.

2. Are you concerned with your horse’s appearance? Do you show your horse year round?  Yes– Then you should not only consider a blanket, but lights as well. A blanket and hood will keep your horse looking great and in show shape year round.  No– If a shaggy coat isn’t a problem, consider leaving your horse without a blanket this year. He’ll get fuzzy, but it’s kinda cute, isn’t it?

3. Is your horse body shaved?  Yes– If you have removed your horses’ winter coat, you must replace it with a blanket. You might need more than one to adjust for different weather. No– He will grow enough coat to take care of his own needs.

4. Can you properly manage the blankets or pay someone to do it for you? Yes– You have the time to remove and put on blankets when the outside air temperature is 60-65 degrees every day. This means you don’t just put it on at night and take if off as you dash off to work in the morning. Often early morning temperatures are colder than evening temps. Taking it off when it is still really cold is worse than not putting it on at all. Or leaving it on as the day warms up will cause your horse to sweat under it. Both are far from ideal. Perhaps your barn manager will do this for you for a fee. They are often in the best position to do this as they are at the barn all day. No– If you are unable to dedicate the time to properly manage the blankets daily it might be best to forgo the blanket. Let your horse get a heavy coat and regulate their body temperature themselves.

5. Can you afford the cost? Yes– You have the means to purchase at least 2 blankets for each horse. You can have the blankets repaired and washed in a timely manner. Blankets can cost $200.00 or more. Repairs and washing can easily reach the cost of the blanket over a season or two. Understand that blankets should be washed every 30 days if your horse is wearing it every night. Neither you nor your barn manager will like putting on blankets that can stand up by themselves!  If you are paying someone to manage your blankets, that cost needs to be figured in as well. No– Buy one blanket to keep on hand for emergencies. You can use it as a cooler also.

So that’s the scoop on blanketing your horse. I hope this helps you make the proper decision for you and your furry friends this winter. These 100 degree days will soon be just a memory, so plan ahead. 

We welcome comments and questions. Please feel free to leave us a message.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful. …Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!