Once you’ve taken a hard look at your horse’s level of wintertime activity and local climate, as well as taken into account if he’s clipped, it’s time to decide what (if any) blankets you’ll use to keep him comfortable this winter.
Before you begin shopping, you will need to understand a few key terms:
Fill: refers to the “stuffing” in a blanket and is traditionally made of polyester. It’s measured in grams and is designed to keep a horse warm.
Denier: refers to the outer covering of a blanket. It measures the coarseness of the blanket fiber; the higher the denier, the tougher the blanket.
Closed Front: must be put on and removed over a horse’s head. There are no closures at the chest to adjust fit.
Open Front: the blanket does not need to be taken off over a horse’s head. They traditionally have clip-and-dee closures or two straps to adjust the fit of the neck of the blanket.
Bellyband: a wide band of fabric used in place of straps to keep a blanket secure.
Belly Straps: straps of nylon are designed to keep the blanket from shifting. If they are set at an angle on the blanket, they are designed to be crossed; if not, they are meant to be pulled straight under a horse’s belly.
Leg Straps: straps that are helpful to prevent horses from removing their blankets; they should be crossed.
High Neck: traditionally found in turnout blankets, this cut sits higher on the horse’s neck to prevent water from entering the blanket.
Neck Covers: traditionally fabric that covers the horse all the way to the poll; some are removable.
Tail Flap: found on turnout blankets, designed to keep wind, rain and snow from blowing under a horse’s blanket.
Gussets: located in the shoulder area, these provide freedom of movement. The higher the gusset begins on the blanket, the more mobility it provides.
Understanding your Options
Blankets fall into two main categories: turnout blankets and stable blankets.
A turnout blanket is designed for just that: outdoor play. Turnout blankets are made of a durable fabric (measured in denier) and are designed to allow for a wide range of motion from the horse; they usually include things like gussets and darts. Turnout blankets are waterproof.
Turnout blankets come in a variety of weights, including medium- and heavy-weight.
A medium-weight turnout typically has 180 to 200 grams of fill and is used when temperatures are between 25 and 35 degrees F. A heavy-weight turnout usually offers 300 to 440 grams of fill and is designed for the coldest weather or for fully clipped horses.
A turnout sheet (also called lightweight sheets by some manufacturers) has no additional fill to keep a horse warm; it’s designed to keep the horse dry and mud-free. A turnout sheet may have a nylon lining to keep your horse’s hair coat slick, or it might have a net fabric designed to increase fabric breathability.
Blankets designed for indoor-only use are called stable blankets. A stable blanket is not waterproof; a horse should never be turned out in a stable blanket if there is a threat of inclement weather.
For weather that stays between 35 and 50 degrees F, a stabled horse will need only a light sheet, traditionally made of nylon or a cotton blend. For cooler weather, stable blankets are labeled as medium- and heavy-weight as well, with fill being comparable to turnout blankets.
If you do decide to blanket your horse this season, be sure to regularly check for rubs and pressure points under any blanket you use. Here’s to a comfortable and cozy winter season for you and your horse!