A Raincoat for Your Horse

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   A Raincoat for Your Horse

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Rain coats for horses come in two basic styles.  One type is designed for use in a pasture or pen so looks like a turnout sheet but is made of waterproof material.  The other type is cooler-style and covers the horse (and tack) from poll to tail.  Some cooler-style rain sheets are designed to throw over a horse tied to a trailer at a horse show and others have features that allow them to be used while riding.
Turnout Rain Sheets  In a turnout rain sheet, look for a tough, durable item - after all we are putting them on horses who have inherent, creative ways to shred, tear, and abrade horse clothing.

    I greatly prefer that rainsheet material is waterproof and breathable.  A waterproof sheet is not only made of waterproof material but all seams are taped and sealed.  A water repellent sheet might be made of either waterproof or water repellent material but if the seams are rolled and sewn but not taped and sealed, water can seep through the stitching holes.

    Cordura nylon that has been coated with urethane has been one of the main waterproof materials used for horse blankets and sheets.  An extremely tough, abrasion resistant combination, urethane coated Cordura, unfortunately is not breathable.  When you remove a non-breathable sheet or blanket from a horse, there is often a distinct sour odor that tells you that the horse's natural skin respiration has been thwarted and/or that the horse has been sweating.

    If a sheet made with a waterproof material has unsealed seams, the sheet will breathe a little bit through the stitching of the seams but the sheet will not be waterproof and rain would enter at every area of stitching.

    I feel waterproof-breathable sheets and blankets are much healthier and more comfortable for my horses.  Materials that are both waterproof and breathable are just now becoming more common because the patent has expired on Gore-Tex which was the only such material available for years.  Now waterproof materials such as Sympatex and Traid are being used as well.

    A waterproof-breathable fabric has a semi-permeable membrane which means that it keeps water out but allows moisture from normal respiration and sweat to escape through the special pores.  Skin is a perfect example of a waterproof-breathable material and I like to keep my horses' skin healthy by using skin-friendly sheet and blanket materials.

    If a sheet is too warm for the ambient temperature, no matter if it is made of the best waterproof-breathable material in the world, the horse will sweat.  Once a horse sweats fairly heavily, it will take quite a bit of time for the sweat to evaporate even through a breathable material.  I found that in general, rainsheets are for use in temperatures under 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Some should be removed at 55 while others are still comfortable for the horses at 80.

    Certain features make a turnout rain sheet work best.  A regular or high cut neck is better at keeping water from leaking into the shoulder area.  A well-fitted sheet in the neck area should act like a gasket against the environment not an open invitation to rain seepage.  I've found that a synthetic fleece wither helps prevent hair loss in the mane.

    Sheets that are cut out of one piece of material do not have a center back seam which potentially is more waterproof.  However, sheets of this type are often not very form fitting and tend to have the baggy, saggy look.  Sheets that are made of fitted pieces with a center seam, possibly shoulder panels, and having hindquarter darts have a great-looking fit, stay put and look nice, but if every single seam is not taped and sealed, there will be leakage.

    To prevent leakage around straps, I prefer low set surcingles or belly bands and hind leg straps that connect with D rings on the hem line rather than through slots in the side of the rain sheet.

    As with any item of horse clothing, I do not want a rain sheet to rub the shoulder hair off my horses so I prefer a soft material or smooth lining in the shoulder area.  However, lining a waterproof-breathable sheet with nylon greatly diminishes its breathability.

    Because turnout rain sheets are used in wet weather when a horse just loves to roll in the mud, the sheet must have areas of give.  Elastic insets in the chest and surcingle area are great.  Most important are adjustable, heavy duty elastic leg straps and I like them to have swivel snaps.  I prefer the leg straps to have swivel snaps on both ends so I can remove them easily for washing.

    Front closure should hold the front panels securely closed yet be easy for us to unfasten.  Surcingle style closures with elastic insets are my favorites.  I also like 2 buckle front because of their adjustability and I prefer they have keepers (billets) for the strap ends.  Grommet front closures, although strong, are my least favorite because they are the most time consuming to buckle and unbuckle.  I don't find it appropriate to leave them closed and pull a rainsheet over a horse's head.
Rainy weather often occurs during the spring and fall shedding season, so I like sheets that aren't difficult to maintain during the hairy period.

    And I prefer a sheet that requires normal, simple washing.  I greatly prefer sheets that can be machine washed in either an agitator or front load home sized machine with warm water on a regular cycle with regular laundry soap.  However, I am not adverse to using a special blanket wash if it will preserve my rain sheet.  Its OK if a sheet must be washed in cold but I find that some soaps or detergent won't dissolve in cold water and that some materials don't come as clean in cold.  I'd rather a sheet didn't have to be washed on a gentle cycle because sometimes that doesn't provide enough agitation to get a muddy rain sheet clean.  And, I don't like to be forced to use a front load machine (if an agitator might damage the coating) as this means I have to head to the Laundromat instead of washing the sheet in my home machine.

    Finally, I want a turnout rainsheet to be comfortable for my horses in temperatures up to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit since I would like to use them during warm spring and fall showers.

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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