All around the United States, equestrians are starting to wake up to frost on their car windshield and covering the last of the summer grass. In some areas, snow is already touching down. Are your horse blankets up for the task of keeping your horse dry and comfortable all winter long? Keep reading for a few tips and tricks on how to know if your horse blankets are good for another winter or if it’s time to purchase some replacement winter horse blankets.
It’s important to start the year with clean blankets. Ideally, you would have cleaned your horse blankets prior to storing them for the summer. This is because the dirt, manure, and urine that builds up on your horse blanket while it’s in use causes the fabric, stitching, and waterproof coating to deteriorate over time. Plus, any moisture trapped in this dirty environment will quickly turn to mold. The last thing you want is to take your horse blankets out of summer storage and find that they’re too moldy to use on your horse!
If you weren’t able to get them cleaned prior to winter, it’s not too late to get them cleaned now. A professional blanket cleaner will have your winter horse blankets looking brand new. If needed, most blanket cleaning services can also re-waterproof your blankets.
Keep in mind that this time of year tends to be a busy period for blanket cleaning services and it may take them some time to get your horse blankets back to you. If there aren’t any blanket cleaners near you, you can learn how to clean them yourself here.
It’s important to ensure your horse blankets are waterproof prior to the first rainy days of the year. If your horse is stuck in the rain or snow in a wet blanket, they’ll quickly become cold and miserable.
It’s easy to check if your horse blankets are waterproof, or at least water-repellent. Start by hanging your turnout blanket on a railing or post. Use a sponge, sprayer, or hose to wet down the exterior of the blanket. Don’t soak them, but try to mimic a rainy day. Check the underside of the blanket after 15 to 30 minutes to evaluate whether any of the water has soaked through to the other side. A small amount of moisture or dampness is normal. If the wood underneath your horse blanket is wet, then your blanket is no longer waterproof.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to evaluate your horse blankets for wear and tear. After removing them from storage, spread them out on the floor and look closely to spot any signs of damage. Mice and moths are notorious for breaking into your storage bins and eating away at your blankets. Check the sheepskin wither padding particularly closely, as mice believe this material is perfect for their nests.
Look for tears in the fabric of the exterior shell. Any tear will need professional patching, as the integrity of the blanket and its ability to repel water will be compromised. Check all of the seams closely, as loose or separated seams will greatly decrease the durability of your blanket. All of your snaps should work smoothly and efficiently. If they feel stuck or stiff, a little WD-40 now will save you a lot of trouble on a cold winter day.
It’s very important to look closely at the leg and tail straps of your blanket. Any straps that are worn or coming loose could break while your horse is wearing the blanket. This situation can be very dangerous, as the loose straps could tangle around your horse’s legs, or spook them into running away and further damaging the blanket or injuring themselves.
Luckily, some straps, like the tail cord, are easy to replace. Simply unhook both ends of the tail strap from the D-rings of the blanket and replace it with a new tail cord, like this one. The Horseware Ireland Wipe Clean Tail Cord is an especially great replacement as the elasticated PVC-covered cord is flexible and easy to clean.
Evaluate your horse blanket collection carefully and try to think ahead. Are you clipping your horse this winter or leaving them unclipped? If you’re going to clip your horse, you’ll need a lightweight, medium weight, heavy weight, and at least one blanket with a neck. If you’re leaving your horse unclipped and they grow a coat like a wooly mammoth, you’ll probably just need a sheet or lightweight blanket on the occasion that it rains or snows. Keep in mind that the blankets you’ll need vary greatly based on your individual horse.
Buying your winter horse blankets in the fall is a smart move. Many tack stores have pre-season sales of last year’s models. If you wait and discover that you really do need another horse blanket in the middle of winter, stock may be low.
The Shires Tempest Lite Combo is the perfect option for your standard lightweight blanket. For most horses in most areas of the United States, your lightweight horse blanket is the one you’ll be using the most, as it can be layered on top of other blankets for extra warmth. The Tempest Lite is up to the task as it has a fully lined 600 denier ripstop outer shell complete with the ShireTex durable water repellent finish. Adjustable chest straps and surcingles give you some freedom to customize the fit. The attached neck adds extra protection from the elements and makes it the ideal layering piece for your other heavier blankets, especially if they don't have neck attachments of their own.
One of the newest brands we’ve started to carry, the Horseware Ireland Rambo Turnout features a surefit neck design with a V-front closure to give your horse optimal freedom of movement to graze. This medium-weight blanket features 200 grams of thermobonded fiberfill to keep your horse warm on most winter nights. If your horse likes to play rough in the pasture, the 1680 denier outer shell will present a tough challenge for your horse to rip. The shine-enhancing, anti-static, and antibacterial lining is the icing on the cake.
Do you live in an area of the world where winters are long and brutally cold? If that sounds like your hometown, you need the Amigo Bravo 12 Plus. This heavyweight blanket is packed with 400 grams of fiberfill that’s designed to keep your horse warm on even the coldest night. The leg arches maintain freedom of movement while still allowing the rug to stay secure under the belly for additional coverage. Reflective strips add increased visibility, so you’ll be able to easily spot your horse on a dark night.
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