Choosing the Right Blanket for Your Horse

Monday, October 20, 2014

With winter around the corner, horse owners should start thinking about if they need a new blanket for their horse. (Photo: Flying_Kick By Thowra_uk, via Wikimedia Commons)
With winter around the corner, horse owners should start thinking about if they need a new blanket for their horse. (Photo: Flying_Kick By Thowra_uk, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s inevitable that it’s time to start thinking winter. If you haven’t started prepping for the colder temperatures now, it’s best to start taking stock of what items you might need to purchase to make the winter weather more comfortable for you and your horse. It’s also time to do a little blanket shopping to keep your equine friend warm this winter. Here is a quick rundown to prepare you for blanket shopping.

Do You Really Need to Blanket?
The first and most important question you should ask when it comes to purchasing a blanket for your horse is do you really need one? If you’re not trying to keep a short show coat throughout the winter, and you’re planning to just turn your horse out for a few months, experts suggest it’s best to let Mother Nature handle the insulation. Blanketing your horse can flatten his coat, which causes it to lose its ability to insulate. As long as your horse has shelter from the wind and proper nutrition, they should be fine throughout the winter without a blanket. However, if the temperature dips below 10° Fahrenheit, you might want to have a blanket on hand to help with extreme chill.

What Type of Blanket Works Best?
There are three basic types of blankets you’ll encounter on your shopping excursion, and they aren’t created the same.

Turnout Blanket – Turnout blankets are designed to be waterproof and are made for use during turnout. Be sure your turnout blanket is waterproof, but breathable, so the blanket doesn’t become saturated in the snow and elements. You will find lightweight, medium weight, and heavyweight turnout blankets, so know your region’s temperature range before you buy.

Stable Blanket – Use stable blankets when your horse is staying inside the barn. These are not waterproof. 

Sheet — Sheets are considered multi-purpose. While you might mostly see them keeping horses clean and sleek in the warm-up pen, you can also use them for lightweight coverage.

Weight & Strength
Lightweight blankets are meant for use around 40° Fahrenheit, while around 10° and below require heavyweight blankets.

You’ll see many blankets described with “grams” for filling. The more grams (i.e., 400), the warmer the blanket, with a medium weight blanket being 150-250. 

The term denier describes the strength of the blanket, so if you have a horse notorious for ripping his sheet or blankets, you want to have the highest denier number—2100. Medium strength blankets are 600. 

Measuring for Blankets
Before you shop, make sure you know what size blanket you need. Have your horse stand square on a level surface and use a flexible measuring tape to measure along one side of your horse. Place the tape measure at the center point of your horse’s chest, having an assistant hold it in place (as well as the horse). Run the tape measure around the horse, keeping it in a straight line, until you get to the end of your horse’s hip. The length in inches is the size blanket you’ll need. Keep in mind that blankets are sold on even numbers, so round up if you hit an odd number. 

When you are trying on the blanket, the end of the blanket should stop just before the top of the tail—you don’t want the ends to meet on the horse’s tail that means it’s too big. Check for any potential rubbing across the horse’s withers, shoulders, and chest—it might be too tight. If the blanket drops low on the shoulder, it’s too big. Some blanket styles offer gussets and adjustable straps to help with the fit. If your blanket does, play around for the perfect fit before deciding it doesn’t fit properly. Just like a saddle pad, you don’t want the top of the blanket to fit tightly along the withers—you want to be able to slip two fingers comfortably between your horse’s withers and the blanket.

Most stores offer exchanges, as long as the blanket has only been tried on a clean horse and not worn, so be sure to know the return and exchange policies before you buy.