December 18, 2017

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!