Selecting a Horse Blanket

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Dear Cherry Hill:

  I know it is still summer, but I am starting to look at blankets. The thing about buying them is, the farmhands where I ride don't change blankets on horses. (i.e. take off indoor winter blanket to put on outdoor to turn them out). I live about 15 min. away but I might not be able to get out there everyday to change his blankets! So should I buy one cool weather and one winter blanket for both indoors AND out or an indoor and outdoor for both seasons and see what the farmhands do? I can't ask them because they don't speak English well. Thanks!    Dani


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Hi Dani,

  Like you, I am a plan-ahead type of person, so to me, it is not too early to be thinking about buying winter blankets. Thinking ahead like this is the key to seamless stable management.  I applaud your sense of planning!

  Through my magazine article writing, I have been fortunate to be able to test first hand 90% of all blankets on the market so my comments are based on years of using blankets in stall, pen turnout and pasture turnout situations.  I've drawn some very specific conclusions which I'd like to share with you in hopes they will help you in your blanket purchasing decisions.

  As you know, when you turn a horse out for exercise in the winter, it is ideal to change from a stable blanket (which is often warmer, not waterproof, and not as resistant to rolling, rubbing, and running as a turnout blanket is) to a turnout blanket which is designed to repel weather and take horse abuse.  Often horseowners are at work at precisely the time of day when this blanket change should take place (during the heat of the day when the horses are turned out) so you are not alone in your predicament.

  It is far safer for your horse's health to blanket too lightly than too heavily.  By heavily, I mean too warmly.  Especially in the management situation you describe, where you don't know if and when the horse's blankets WILL be changed, be sure you do not choose blankets that are too warm.  If a horse wears a heavy blanket at night and then is turned out in it and exercises in the sun (even if the temperature is cold), he will likely sweat.  If the blanket is too thick and heavy or is not made of breathable materials, the sweat will not be able to escape so the horse will then stand around wet, cold and clammy - a perfect invitation to illness.  This you want to avoid at all costs.  But I suspect you are already aware of that and that is why you asked your question in the first place.  That leads to the next point.

  Focus your selection on waterproof, breathable blankets.  If you choose only ONE winter blanket for your horse, choose a midweight waterproof breathable blanket.  Your horse could likely wear it in the stall and for turnout without the problems associated with heating, sweating and chilling.

  I think you are from a part of the country where the winters can be cold indeed, something like the weather we have here.  So, if I were to outline the ideal wardrobe for your horse it would be:  

fly sheet for summer
lightweight waterproof/breathable sheet for fall (and spring)

midweight waterproof/breathable insulated blanket for winter
 

(optional) extra layer (should be breathable but not waterproof) to put under the WB blanket for below zero weather (can leave in place whether the horse is indoors or out)  

  One final option I'd like to mention to you is that you could purchase a winter stable blanket for your horse (one that is not waterproof) and use the waterproof/breathable sheet over the top of it for turnout.  As you say, you don't know if the stable workers will do this for you, so this might not be an option, but it is a way of having a stable blanket do double duty and protecting the stable blanket and horse during turnout.

  Be sure to visit my Horse Information Roundup where I have several articles posted on horse clothing including several on winter blankets and care.

 

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