Winter is here and you may be thinking it’s time to go shopping for some new winter clothes – clothes for your horse, that is. Shopping for horse clothing can be a challenge with so many options available. There are stable blankets and turnout blankets of varying weights and styles. What will be appropriate for your horse’s needs? Let’s get down to basics and try to simplify the process of outfitting your horse.
First, understand the difference between a sheet and a blanket. A sheet has no fill or insulation, and is the horse’s version of a windbreaker. It will keep the chilly winds and precipitation off your horse, but does not offer any additional insulation. A blanket, however, is more like an actual winter coat. They are offered with a wide variety of materials and insulation weights, and are more suitable for the cold temperatures of winter.
There are two types of winter blankets: turnout blankets and stable blankets. Turnout blankets are designed for horses that either live outside, or get turned out regularly. They are waterproof and will keep your horse protected from elements like rain, sleet and snow, as well as providing warmth. In addition to being waterproof, they are also breathable to allow for airflow that will hold your horse’s body heat, and at the same time, protect him from getting too warm and sweating underneath. A stable blanket is not waterproof, although it is definitely breathable. It is designed to be used in the stable or while trailering your horse, but not when the horse will be exposed to precipitation or wet, muddy pastures. Horses who live inside and have their blankets removed for turnout do very well with just a stable blanket for warmth in their stall during the cold winter months. Stable blankets are also great for layering. You can put a turnout sheet over a stable blanket for turnout, and your horse will stay warm and dry. In extreme cold temperatures, you can even layer a stable blanket under a turnout blanket for extra warmth.
Deciding what clothing your horse needs is often tricky. Too often we tend to think that if we need to put on a jacket, so does our horse. But this is not the case. What we feel like when the temperature is 70 degrees is how your horse feels when it is about 40 degrees. Did you ever wonder why your horse gets so playful and full of energy in the early Spring or late Fall? They feel great – the temperature is just right for them! Horses are naturally adapted to deal with cold temperatures, if they have shelter from wind, and plenty of hay and fresh water available to them. Especially if they are turned out where they have the ability to move around and play, many horses can thrive in a winter wonderland! Horses that grow good, thick coats and are not clipped often can go without a blanket most of the time. On the other hand, if your horse spends most of its time in a stall in an unheated barn and its ability to move around is limited, or if it has a hard time maintaining weight through the colder months, does not grow a good thick winter coat, or is clipped during the winter, blanketing is most likely to be necessary.
Purchasing a blanket for your horse
Once you have decided that your horse needs an extra layer of clothing, here are some considerations for purchasing a blanket that will serve the needs of both you and your horse.
- Fit – Measure from the center of the horse’s chest, around the side, to the center of the tail. This is the only measurement that will give you the proper fit. In choosing the appropriate size, remember that blanket sizes include measurements from one size up to the next size. The height or breed of your horse will not offer much help at all in selecting the proper size and if the blanket is too large or too small it will not offer the proper protection.
- Weight – There are many different weights to choose from, and it is typically expressed in grams of polyfill insulation. A blanket with 100 to 180 grams of polyfill is considered a lightweight blanket. Use a lightweight blanket when the temperature goes up to around 50 degrees during the day, but drops to the 20’s overnight. A midweight blanket is typically 200 – 250 grams. This weight is a great “middle of the road” choice, and a very popular option for many horses in our area. A heavyweight blanket is typically 300 grams or more. These are good for extremely cold temperatures, or for horses that are fully body clipped.
- Exterior fabric – When shopping for a blanket you will notice options such as 600D or 1200D. The “D” refers to the denier of the fabric, or how many threads per square inch. Typically, the higher the denier, the tougher the exterior of blanket. A quiet horse that is turned out by itself may do just fine with a 600D blanket, but if your horse plays rough with other horses, rubs on the fence or stall walls, you may want to choose a higher denier blanket.
When you visit our store for your horse’s winter clothing, you will find that the different styles come with many different features. Some are sized in 2 inch increments, and some in 3 inch increments. Some of the brands we carry are Baker, Big D, Ovation, Turtle Neck, and Weatherbeeta to name a few. Our staff is always happy to assist you in finding a blanket that fits your horse and suits your needs.