A topic that I often hear being discussed among horse people is whether or not to blanket and if you decide to blanket, does the weather call for a sheet, midweight, or heavyweight blanket? Does your horse need a hood or neck cover, and what style and type of blanket is really best? In this post, I want to do more than tell you about what blanket brands I recommend and why. I’ll get into that, but first I want to just share my thoughts on blanketing in general.
This is how I handle blanketing with my own personal horses. They both live outside 24/7 with access to a large run-in shelter and free-choice hay. I don’t show or compete, and I don’t ride hard over the winter, so clipping is not necessary. My warmblood mare, Molly, gets quite wooly by about October, so she only wears a blanket if it is cold and raining, snowing, or sleeting. My other mare, Nell, does not grow as thick of a coat, so she wears a blanket when the temps drop below 20F. I use a midweight turnout blanket for both my girls.
The truth is most horses are fine on even the coldest of days if they have been allowed to grow a thick wooly coat and have the genetics to do so. However, that is not to say that there are not times where blanketing is useful and necessary. Horses that have trouble keeping weight on can benefit from a blanket, because the extra warmth will conserve calories they otherwise would have used creating body heat. Also, if a horse is clipped, acclimated to a warmer climate, or accustomed to being inside a barn during colder weather, than blanketing is absolutely necessary to keep the horse comfortable and healthy. In these circumstances, where a horse is going to be blanketed heavily all winter, you want to have several different weights of blanket so that you can adjust them depending on temperature (just as you wear a jacket when it’s in the 50s and a coat when it’s in the 20s). A neck cover or hood is needed if you keep your horse body clipped.
Here is a quick rundown of the different types of blankets you will see in the tack store.
Turnout Blanket – a heavier made type of blanket that is designed to stay in place as your horse runs and jumps in the field, also made with more durable materials to resist ripping.
Stable Blanket – these blankets are designed to be worn in the barn. The fabric used will often tear easily and these blankets don’t provide much freedom of movement, or protection from the elements
Coolers – these are usually made out of fleece or knit material and their purpose is to keep a hot or sweaty horse warm as they gradually cool down, or keep a wet horse warm as he dries off. Coolers allow moisture to wick through the material, so a sweaty or just bathed horse can dry off while wearing one.
Sheet – can be a stable or turnout design, but a sheet has no poly filling, no “insulation”
Light, Medium, and Heavy weights – this indicates the amount of fill or insulation in the blanket. The actual amount will vary depending on the brand.
Now let's discuss another important part of blanketing your horse – correct sizing of the blanket. Too small and your horse will be uncomfortable and end up with rubbed shoulders and rubs at the base of the neck from grazing, too large and your horse could get hung up in the straps of the blanket or be more likely to get it caught on something – a big safety concern. Here is how to propery measure for blanket size – start at the center of the horse's chest and measure back going over the widest point of the shoulder, along the horse's side, to the point of the buttocks, about a foot below where the tail meets the body. If your horse's measurement is in between blanket sizes go with the larger size.
Just like most other horse products, there are oodles of blanket manufactures. This is one more case where, generally speaking, you pay for what you get. After owning a multitude of different blankets for my own horses as well as observing how my boarder’s blankets held up, I recommend spending the money for a good blanket. The quality blankets that I bought have lasted years, needing only minor, if any, repairs. The cheap blankets were ripped to shreds within one season. The worse offender for literally ripping to shreds are the Tough-1 brand blankets. They are cheap and come in cool colors but one snag and they’re done. I literally through three away last winter that had been brand new at the beginning of the season.
My top two picks for blankets: Horsewear and Weather beeta. Horsewear’s Rambo turnout is basically the Cadillac of blankets. It is, in my opinion, the best designed, best fitting, least likely to rub, longest lasting, and easiest to put on blanket. You’ll pay for the quality but these blankets just last forever.
Second in line is Weatherbeeta’s Original or Freestyle turnout. Also long lasting and a great overall blanket but the design is just not quite that of the Rambo.
There are also many other blanket brands out there that are good, just take a close look at the quality and don’t be afraid to pay for the better blanket. It will save you money in the long run when you don’t have to buy another one next year!
I want to hear from you in the comments! When do you blanket your horse? Do you have any blanket brands you use and recommend?
Photo courtesy of Dover Saddlery