Choosing the Best Blanket for Your Horse
Although it’s still fairly warm and sunny for most of NC right now, old man winter could be just around the corner, so it’s not too early to start thinking about finding the right blanket for your horse. There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a blanket for your horse.
Will the blanket be used in the barn or for turn-out?
Is inclement weather a common problem where you live?
Has the horse been clipped or left to grow a coat for the winter?
There are three main types of blankets when looking to select a blanket for your horse. There are horse sheets, which are light-weight and provide little additional warmth. These are usually used for protection from the sun and to keep dust off of your horse. Since they are light weight they are also not as durable as some of the other options. These are best used during warm weather.
Another option is a stable blanket. These are heavier weight than the horse sheets so they provide a good bit of additional warmth but are not usually made of waterproof or particularly durable material, so they can actually soak up the rain or snow, making your horse colder than if they had on no blanket. These blankets are made to be used on horses while they are housed inside a stall or barn.
The last option is a turnout blanket. These are usually a similar weight to the stable blanket but are made of a thick, durable, waterproof material that makes them ideal for horses that are outdoors, especially during very cold or wet weather.
All of the styles come in different weight options, usually light, medium and heavy, all having varying thickness, therefore providing varying degrees of warmth. You should choose the weight based on the climate in which you and your horses live. Whether your horse is clipped or has grown a winter coat will also factor into which weight you choose. Most horses that are able to grow their winter coat do not need a blanket, but if you prefer to put one on them, a lighter weight one would be best. Horses that are clipped for showing or other reasons may need a heavier weight depending on how cold it gets where you live.
There are also options in the durability or “denier” of the blanket. A very light strength sheet would have a denier of 210 versus a super heavy strength turnout blanket with a denier of 2100. You should choose your denier based on how often your horse will be wearing the blanket and for what purposes. A horse that needs to be covered at show events just to keep dust off and may only have the blanket on for a couple of hours would be fine with a lower denier, whereas a horse that is wearing the blanket for most of the day out in a pasture where he may roll around or rub against fencing would need a much higher denier.
Fitting the blanket to your horse is the last step in selecting the right blanket. Most standard blankets will fit from the shoulder to the tail and will cover the horse’s entire body. They can have closed or open fronts and typically have a strap around the girth and back leg straps to keep the blanket in place. To measure your horse, use a soft measuring tape such as a tailors measuring tape. You should take your measurements slowly to make sure your horse does not spook from the new item touching them. It’s also a good idea to have someone help you, so that one person can hold one end of the tape while the other person can accurately measure your horse. Take the measuring tape and hold one end of the tape right at the middle point of your horses’ chest and then slowly run the tape along the side of his body, coming all the way to the middle part of his tail. In order to get a precise measurement, you’ll need to make sure that you are running a straight line across the middle length of his body and that you are not holding the measuring tape too high up or down too low. You should measure in inches since this is the number used to find the right size. If the measurement you get falls on a size that is not offered by blanket companies, then you can round the number up to the next size offered. Standard size blankets range from 64 inches for small ponies to 90 inches for large draft horses, so carefully measuring your horse is the key to selecting a well fitted blanket that will give him complete coverage. Generally speaking, an average size horse will most likely measure somewhere between 74 and 78 inches.
If you have any questions on how to choose the right blanket for your horse your local tack shop should be able to help you, or you can always contact your local livestock extension agent.