With winter weather approaching fast, you may be wondering, should I blanket my horse? Now, the blanket debate is huge in the horse industry, but as any professional horseman will tell you, there are benefits to both and the decision should be made based on several factors. This article will help you understand those factors so you can decide for yourself!
To decide whether or not to blanket your horse, you should develop your horse’s profile by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does my horse grow a winter coat?
- Why? If you have ever been around different breeds of horses, you have seen that each breed can grow a different coat thickness. For example, some draft horses can grow thick woolly coats as opposed to some Thoroughbreds who can’t grow any hair. If your horse doesn’t grow a coat, you will want to blanket them as temperatures drop.
- How old is my horse?
- Why? Older horses are known for losing body condition faster than their younger counterparts. Our older horses have worked hard their entire lives. Wouldn’t you want to minimize the stress they have in winter months? If your horse is older and doesn’t maintain their body condition well throughout the winter, use your judgment to match the appropriate blanket to your horse.
- What body condition does my horse have? (Example – easy keeper, fat and happy, needs groceries, etc)
- Why? Even if your horse is young, they can still be skinny. If you are trying to put considerable amount of weight on a horse over winter, blanketing them will allow their body to focus on gaining weight instead of trying to keep warm.
- Where does my horse live?
- Why? Let’s face it, there are certain scenarios where blanketing your horse is unrealistic. If your horse gets turned out for months at a time, blanketing them would be hazardous for the reason that it could get caught up in a tree or brush. If a human is not there to supervise the horse daily, wearing a blanket could severely hurt the horse. Now if you board your horse or have them at home, you can easily change out blankets as the temperatures change.
- How much does my horse work in the winter?
- Why? If your horse has a heavy training schedule in the winter, having a fluffy winter coat can cause him to overheat during workouts. Blanketing early in the season can prevent a thick coat from growing allowing him to remain cooler during your rides!
- Is my horse clipped?
- Why? Many people intentionally clip their horses to make winter riding easier. If you clip your horse, you will definitely want to keep your horse blanketed against the elements because they will not have their natural coat to keep them warm.
So if you decided that you want to blanket you horse, which blanket do you need? Did you know that there are 3 basic types?
- Turnout Sheet / Blanket – This blanket is waterproof and can be put on the horse when he or she is in the field to protect them from the elements. Many people will only purchase turnouts to save the hassle of changing blankets when they get in the barn and leave their horse’s turnout on in the stall which is completely safe. It is important to remember, however, that the temperature in the barn may be warmer than it is outside, so please be sure to check to make sure your horse won’t overheat.
- Stable Sheet / Blanket – This blanket is NOT waterproof and should only be worn in the stable, trailering, or anywhere the horse will not get wet.
- Cooler – This blanket is NOT waterproof but is used directly after a workout or a bath in cooler weather. A cooler is designed to keep your horse’s body temperature in while allowing the moisture and water to escape through evaporation.
Another important question to ask yourself is what weight blanket do you need?
When shopping for a winter blanket, you will notice that there are different fill weights that range from no fill / 0 grams for sheets and up to 450 grams for extra heavyweight blankets. To determine which blanket fill you need, consider what is the lowest temperature your horse will be exposed to. The below chart should be helpful in figuring out which type of blanket you will need to purchase. If you live in warmer climate, for example, you may never need a 350-450 gram blanket, however, if you are in a colder climate, you may need a light, medium and heavyweight blanket to be interchangeable as the weather warms up and cools down! Like horses, you can never have too many blankets!
Keep in mind that these questions are based on the knowledge that you have of your horse and their surroundings and are just a starting point to help you make a well-informed decision.
If you’re still confused on which blanket to use at which time, there are great easy-to-use phone apps such as the blanketing app from SmartPak, found in the apple or android store to help you figure out which weight blanket to put on your horse based on the factors mentioned in this article- the location of the horse, the current and low temperatures in the area, the horse’s age, body composition, clipped vs non-clipped, etc. Go ahead and check it out!
Do you know what size blanket your horse wears?
Measuring your horse is extremely easy. Using a soft tape measure or string, measure from the center of your horse’s chest and take the tape measure or string around the barrel of your horse’s body to end at the center of the tail. Make sure that the tape or string is lying flat and is pulled taut around your horse’s body. Once you have the tape measure at the center of your horse’s tail, you have your measurement! For more information on how to measure your horse for a blanket, check out our how to measure article!
If we haven’t lost you yet and you’re still reading this article, congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming a blanketing expert! There are 3 more questions that you should ask yourself before you buy that next blanket for your horse:
- Is my horse destructive?
- Why? Let’s face it, having a horse that plays in the field with his buddies is fun to watch for a few minutes, but you have never felt pure anguish until you watch that same lovable horse grab hold of its blanket and completely shred it to pieces. On every blanket in the store, there is a measurement on the packaging called denier. The denier count reflects how tightly woven and tough the material is. The denier count can generally range from 420 denier to 1200 denier. If your horse is a blanket shredder or a hard player, purchasing a blanket with the highest denier count will save you countless of trips to the store and will be easier to repair if ripped. Blankets such as the Weaver Leather turnouts have ripstop material, which means that if a horse does rip the blanket, the weaving of the material will prevent the rip from getting larger.
- What features / look do I want my blanket to have?
- Why? Now that you have narrowed down what size, type, weight and denier count your blanket needs to be, you can finally research the fun things like cool colors, patterns, reflective stripes for visibility at night, wither padding for comfort and more!
- What is my budget?
- Why? Having a budget is understandable. With turnout blankets ranging from $50.00 to well over $400.00 it can be hard to determine which ones to buy. The answer to this question is completely up to you, however, just like buying a car; you get what you pay for. It is never a good idea to compromise on quality for the price, which is why Weaver Leather manufactures high quality blankets at an affordable price.
We love our horses and we want them to stay safe and warm in the winter. Our hope is that you use the information in this article as a guide to help you make a more informed decision when purchasing your next blanket. If you are still unsure or need additional guidance, we recommend that you refer to your local trainer, experienced friend or industry expert for tips. Let’s face it; we are all learning new things every day when it comes to horses, what better way is there than to consult a mentor or expert? We partner with a great team of industry experts from Stacy Westfall, Ken McNabb, Richard Winters & more! Feel free to check out our website for great videos on quality winter blankets and more.
Written by Brittany Stover, Equine Marketing Associate at Weaver Leather