December 01, 2021 14 min read
The decision to use a horse blanket is a personal one. The weather, your horse’s health, age, access to shelter, as well as your riding goals can all influence your decision. If you decide to delve into the world of horse blankets, you can quickly find yourself in over your head. Luckily, we’ve put together this blog to guide you through looking at a horse blanket for sale, storing and washing your horse blanket, how to tell if it fits properly, and when you need to use one (if you do at all!).
If you’ve recently looked at horse blankets for sale, then you’re well aware: they can be expensive. The proper storage and care of your horse blanket means the difference between one that lasts for years and one that holds up for only a season. Proper blanket care and storage prevents the build up of acidic urine and manure which will wear down the blanket over time. Not to mention that your horse deserves to wear a clean blanket at the start of each season, not one that’s stiff with last year’s dirt.
To start, let’s take a look at how to store your blanket over the summer when it’s not being used for a long period of time. Always clean your horse blanket before storing it for the summer months. Otherwise manure and urine will have plenty of time to eat away at the fabric and destroy the waterproofing. Don’t put away blankets that are even slightly damp as this can lead to the formation of mold or mildew and possibly ruin the blanket.
You can buy blanket storage bags, like this one from Tough-1. However, for long-term storage most people prefer to pack them away in clear plastic bags, like the packaging for quilts or sheets. This allows you to quickly glance at the bag and see which blanket is inside and if there’s any mold or mildew forming. Other equestrians advocate for vacuum-sealed storage bags that compress the blankets and minimize the storage space they consume.
Be sure to store your clean, packaged blankets in a mouse-proof area. Some riders opt to bring the blankets inside for the summer months. The fleece or fuzzy padding at the top of the withers on blankets is perfect nesting material and mice will ruin your blankets when building their nests. Hard storage containers or tack trunks are excellent places to store your packaged blankets.
When winter rolls around and it’s time to pull your horse blanket out of storage, you’re faced with a new problem: how will you store these blankets in a spot that’s out of the way, neat, and easy to get to? If you board your horse, ask the staff if they have a specific way they prefer the blankets to be stored. Some boarding barns have a blanket rack right on the horse’s stall door for easy access.
There are two common solutions for winter horse blanket storage: blanket racks and blanket bags. There are many different types of blanket racks. Some are hanging tiered bars that swing out from the wall. The horse blankets will hang vertically from these either by the neck or the tail strap. This type of rack has many benefits, including the ability to allow air flow to every part of the blanket to speed drying after a rainy day.
Other types of blanket racks are horizontal bars that screw to the wall in front of a stall or in a tack room. These racks require the blanket to be folded and then placed over the bar. This particular method looks very neat and makes it easy for staff to quickly grab the blanket. Unfortunately, they do not allow the blanket to dry as thoroughly as the hanging bars.
Storage bags are a little more time-consuming but keep blankets organized and out of the way. Clips behind the bag attach to the bars of a stall door or hooks on the wall. Before putting your horse blanket in a storage bag, it’s important to make sure that it’s completely dry, otherwise mold and mildew could grow in the bag.
When it comes to washing, a horse blanket is just as cumbersome as a large heavy quilt-- plus ten times the amount of dirt. Some boarding barns will have an old washing machine that is designated for blankets, saddle pads, and other horse laundry. While you can use your personal washing machine at home, keep in mind that it will need a very thorough cleaning afterwards.
If you don’t want to use your personal washing machine and your barn doesn’t have a machine available, some laundromats will allow you to use their machines to wash a horse blanket. Keep in mind that this can take a big toll on their business as they’ll have to clean the machine afterwards and these heavy blankets place more wear and tear on the machine than normal clothes. It’s considered polite to call ahead first and confirm that they will allow you to wash your horse blanket in their store.
Last but not least, you can use a professional blanket cleaning service. The cost of these services vary based on the weight of the blanket, your location, and if waterproofing or repairs are also needed. Using a professional blanket service is the best way to ensure that your horse blanket gets the care it needs.
Horse blanket shopping can be overwhelming. Not only are there different grams of fill that make up the “weight of each blanket, but each brand may also have their own unique shape and cut. When looking at horse blankets for sale, stick to this motto: keep it simple. There are three essential blankets that you’ll want to have on hand.
A good waterproof rain sheet keeps your horse warm and dry on cold rainy days. Most equine hair coats are excellent at providing insulation on frigid winter nights, but if the hair is soaked all the way through it won’t be able to keep your horse warm anymore.
For horses with a thin hair coat, water will saturate the coat in a short amount of time. Other horses have a thick, almost double-layered coat that repels the water. No matter which one your horse has, they all seem to appreciate an extra layer to keep the rain off, especially when you get a combination of wind and rain.
When shopping, look for a rain sheet that is extremely durable, waterproof, and well-fitted with shoulder gussets for added freedom of movement. If you have to double layer a medium blanket and a rain sheet, the rain sheet will go on the outside, which means it gets twice the wear as your other blankets. Spend extra on your rain sheet. This is the blanket that you’ll find yourself using the most: to double layer on extra cold nights, on rainy spring days and misty fall evenings, when it’s blizzarding, sleeting, and just plain nasty outside.
We recommend taking a look at the 5/A Baker Turnout Sheet. Available in their signature plaid, the outer shell is made of 1500-denier ripstop fabric that can stand up to even the most playful colts. A smooth inner lining prevents rubs and adds shine to your horse’s coat. Waterproof, but also breathable, it allows any water vapor from a sweaty horse to evaporate through the blanket membrane.
Next up is the medium blanket. A medium winter horse blanket has between 200 and 300 grams of polyfill, which will keep your horse warm through the majority of cold weather. Most horse owners use this blanket when it’s between 25 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but this depends on the individual horse as well as the forecast and current weather conditions.
It’s important that every blanket you buy can handle moisture- even if it’s not raining or snowing, a winter pasture is bound to be muddy and we all know horses love to roll in the mud.
A medium blanket is incredibly versatile compared to a heavy weight or rain sheet. Rain sheets have no fill and are not a good choice for when the weather is particularly cold. If you use a heavy weight blanket when it’s too warm, you run the risk of your horse sweating and overheating, making them uncomfortable and possibly even colicky.
Check out the TuffRider Optimum Medium Weight Hi Neck horse blanket. It has a durable 1680-denier triple weave fabric. Cutting edge technology in the form of the Thermo Manager lining keeps your horse warm without added weight, allowing them more freedom of movement. The reflective trim makes it easy to find your horse on cold winter nights and the rich Tawny Port color looks beautiful-- at least until your horse rolls in the mud! Memory foam wither relief increases comfort.
Windy and rainy nights require head to toe protection for some horses. Otherwise you might find your horse in the rain with wet shoulders as the water can drip down their neck and roll underneath the blanket. A neck cover prevents this from happening as it directs rain and moisture on top of the blanket, instead of underneath. Don’t buy a whole new blanket with an attached neck- a medium weight blanket with a detachable neck is more versatile.
Take a look at the TuffRider Comfy Medium Weight Horse Blanket with Detachable Neck. The ripstop waterproof and breathable outer shell stands up to wear and tear. Removable/adjustable leg straps, shoulder gussets, and a detachable neck allow you to customize the fit of the blanket. Available in turquoise, navy, or purple, your horse is sure to look good in the paddock.
You might be surprised to see a second medium weight horse blanket on our list instead of a heavyweight blanket. The majority of horses tend not to wear or need a heavy weight blanket in the United States, unless you live in a particularly cold northern region, like New England, or have a thin-skinned and clipped horse.
However, evaluate your horse’s individual situation before you decide to forego the heavyweight blanket. A clipped horse with no winter coat in the middle of winter in Maine or Michigan will definitely need the extra warmth!
Horse blankets can fit very differently based on the brand and style. One blanket may be the right size but the wrong cut which creates gaps at the shoulder or tightness over the withers. In order to keep your horse comfortable, prevent rubs, and find the perfect blanket you have to understand if your turnout blanket fits correctly.
To check the fit of your horse’s blanket, drape it over your horse’s back so that it hangs evenly on both sides. Before you close any of the buckles or adjust any of the straps, you need to check the four main points of contact: the withers, shoulder, stifle, and tailbone.
Start by looking at the drop of the blanket. Your horse’s blanket should fall just below your horse’s stifle or elbow. A blanket that has too long of a drop will make your horse look like he’s wearing a bed sheet and, more importantly, restrict his movement. If it’s too short, your horse’s belly will be unprotected. The drop of the blanket should be well above the knee and a few inches below the stifle.
Take a look at the point of your horse’s shoulder. A front closure that falls at the point of the shoulder ensures your horse has ample room for grazing and won’t jam the buckles into his throat. After closing the blanket, check the shoulder area for any gaps. A properly fitted blanket closely follows the contours of the neck and shoulder.
The third point of contact is at the withers where the blanket hangs off the back of your horse’s neck and shoulder. If it’s too tight it will cause rubs, hair loss, and pain. You should be able to easily slide your hand along the withers. If it’s too snug and pressing down into your horse’s neck, you’ll need a bigger blanket or a different cut.
Last but not least, stand in a safe position at the rear of your horse and examine the tail flap. The seam of the tail flap should fall along your horse’s dock. If the seam is hanging below the dock and onto the tailbone, the blanket is too big. But if it’s sitting back on the rump and you can easily see the tail and thighs, the blanket is too small and won’t protect your horse.
Look for blankets with buckles that are low on the chest. High set buckles can’t accommodate a low neck and will cause issues with the fit of the blanket. Buy a horse blanket that has a v-shape or contoured neck.
Stock horse breeds like Quarter Horses and Paints tend to have big beefy shoulders that allow them to chase down cattle and work on a ranch. However, it can be difficult to find a horse blanket that will accommodate these large shoulders without causing rubs. Look for a broader fit with built-in shoulder protection and an adjustable chest closure. If your horse has both a low-set neck and a large shoulder, look for a blanket that has a wide neck opening and is cut at a sloped angle.
High withers are often rubbed by the average horse blanket. If your horse has high withers, choose a blanket that offers pressure relief in the form of additional padding or a shaped wither area. A combo or high neck will prevent gapping at the neck for horses with high withers. A high neck blanket also takes pressure off the withers and distributes the weight of the blanket over a greater area.
Blankets tend to cause rubs at the point of the hip and on the shoulders of horses that are a bit “curvier” than average. One solution is to choose a horse blanket with adjustable chest closures, as they give your horse a little extra room in the chest without extending the length of the whole blanket. Remember, big horses require larger shoulder gussets.
Not all of our horses are blessed with a full figure. Some breeds can have a dainty and narrow build, also known as being “slab-sided.” You can tell you have a narrow horse by evaluating the fit of your blanket. Common problems for slab-sided horses include a horse blanket that fits lengthwise, but hangs off the sides, gaps at the neck, and is all around too wide. When looking at horse blankets for sale, see if you can find ones with an adjustable neck, leg straps, and surcingles.
To blanket or not to blanket is perhaps one of the most debated aspects of horse ownership, next to the barefoot or shod debate. It can be tough for beginner horse owners to look out their window on a cold rainy day and see their horse standing morosely out in the rain. But the reality is that some horses do not need blankets, while others need all three layers. It’s important to understand your individual horse, the weather, environment, and other factors in your area that will contribute to your horse blanket decision.
Some breeds of horse are more sensitive than others. For example, Thoroughbreds and Arabians are colloquially called “thin-skinned,” which means more sensitive and hot-blooded. While there is no scientific research to back this up, these breeds of horses do not grow as thick of a winter coat on average.
On the other hand, you have breeds of horses known as “thick-skinned.” These include northern breeds of horse, such as Percherons, Fjords, Icelandic Horses, and Haflingers, which all grow thicker, woolier coats that are well-developed to withstand the cold climes of their ancestral lands.
If you own or care for a breed of thin-skinned horse, you’ll find yourself looking at horse blankets for sale quite a lot. You’ll need a variety of blankets for all weather conditions. On the other hand, if you’re looking for horse blankets for a draft horse, you may only need one rain sheet to keep the hair from getting wet on a cold drizzly day.
The seasons have a big impact on your blanketing decision. Most equestrians retire blankets altogether for the summer months and bring them back out in the fall. Frigid winter temperatures will probably require a blanket, but the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) are more difficult.
In the fall, your horse will be working on growing a winter coat and won’t have as much hair as they would in January. For example, you’ll need a blanket on a 40 degree October night, whereas in January, 40 degrees may feel balmy.
On cold winter nights, your horse will often appear woolier than usual. When it's cold out, the horse’s hair coat stands up to create air pockets that act as extra insulation. If the hair coat gets wet, it can no longer puff up and trap body heat. A horse that’s soaked to the skin can become very cold very quickly.
Be sure to consider what the weather is doing when choosing a horse blanket. If you see snow piling up on your horse’s back and resting on top of the hair-- that means your horse’s coat is doing a good job. But on a rainy cold night, throw a waterproof rain sheet on your horse to keep them nice and dry or bring them inside to a stall.
Closely evaluate your horse’s general health and body score before looking at a horse blanket for sale. For example, an older horse that has a hard time maintaining their weight will need to be blanketed more often and more heavily than a healthy, easy-keeper horse. Foals and weanlings are more fragile than adult horses and will need more blankets.
Learn how to score your horse’s body condition on a scale of one to eight. A horse with a body condition score of one is emaciated with ribs, spine, and neck standing out with no fatty tissue whatsoever. On the other hand, an extremely overweight horse with a crease down their back and no ribs visible will have a score of eight. Aim to keep your horse around five or six.
Your horse’s living conditions will have a big impact on whether or not you use a horse blanket. Exposure to the elements, including rain, wind, snow, thunderstorms, etc. should play a big role in your decision. A horse on 24/7 turnout with moderate shelter will be more likely to require a horse blanket than one that lives in a barn or has access to a stall. You may still have to blanket a horse that lives inside, but a heavy horse blanket is probably not required.
Consider carefully before clipping your horse. An unclipped horse with a full winter coat can overheat quickly during exercise and will take a long time to dry off. But the tradeoff is that you won’t have to blanket as heavily, if at all, and your horse will be more comfortable outside in the pasture.
But if you do decide to clip your horse, you’ll be able to ride more, cool down faster, and keep your horse comfortable during exercise. The catch is that your horse will need to have some very warm horse blankets on hand for cold days and nights.
In some environments, horses that are clipped have to be kept inside and sometimes require multiple layers of horse blankets. This can be an added expense when looking at a horse blanket for sale. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to blanket a clipped horse, err on the side of caution and blanket more heavily than you would a horse with a winter coat.
Check out this humorous take on horse blankets from Auburn University
Shop a variety of horse blankets for sale all in one place at Breeches.com. We focus on quality and affordability with blanketing solutions for every horse and almost every equestrian’s budget. We’re proud to present brands like TuffRider, Baker, and Horze. With a wide variety of weights, styles, and fits, we have the perfect blanket for your horse.
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