Spend the Winter In Ocala

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Blanket liners are a relatively new category of equine clothing. In the fairly recent past, if our horses needed added warmth because they were clipped or because of a cold snap, we just piled on an extra blanket. This could mean two or three sets of surcingles and leg straps, a heavy and complicated rearranging when the blankets were removed, and a lot of dirty blankets piling up before the end of winter.

It also could mean a lot of rubbed shoulders and hips that took a month to grow out. And because heavy blankets are difficult to launder, sometimes horse wear a dirty blanket longer than they should, leading to additional coat problems.

We’ve become more sophisticated in the last decade, and we laugh sometimes that we’re now buying “lingerie” for our horses in the winter. However, horses don’t blush — well, maybe they do at some of the wild Lycra prints — and underwear does protect their coats from rubs and often helps “groom” more shine into the coats. It keeps the horse cleaner and means less laundering of heavy blankets, since it’s easier to just wash a liner in a home machine. It also often means less bulk. With a liner next to the skin, all the horse may then need is a stable blanket over that in the barn or a turnout sheet to spend the day outside.

This mini-revolution in horse clothing came about in part because of the increased use of Lycra and fleece. Nylon and polycotton also have been incorporated into specialized liners. Manufacturers are designing some of their stable blankets to double as liners, with these materials close to the skin and a construction light enough to launder easily.

Lycra liners in particular were initially marketed toward people showing Quarter Horses. As a result, the fit often is slanted in that direction with a wider chest and barrel and shorter back. It’s a good idea that a liner be completely covered by the top layer to keep it as clean and dry as possible. A liner that is cut for a Thoroughbred/warmblood may not line up well with a blanket cut for a Quarter Horse and vice versa. It makes sense, therefore, when buying any liner to check to see if it was cut for a specific body type.

Before specialized liners with the newer materials came into use, the best liner — if one was used at all — was a cotton sheet left over from the summer. While plain cotton launders well, it will still rub the coat if placed under a heavier rug. Traditional rugs that are lined with wool or canvas also really need a liner to keep the coat looking its best.

Liners save money and time. If you already possess an inventory of stable and turnout rugs, but you need a little something more in the way of coat protection or warmth, you don’t need to buy another whole new blanket to add to the stack.

You may find that some liners work best with a manufacturer’s own line of blankets, which will match up with slots for the straps and may be hooked together as one unit. They’ll also match for size, with the liner not sticking out from the top cover. Liners, however, don’t necessarily need all the straps that a top layer does, because the top layer should hold it in place. It’s nice when a liner has a surcingle and leg straps, because it can double as a light stable blanket if need be, but to then function best as a liner these straps should be removable.

Liners with a closed front stay put especially well without extra straps, although some people don’t like fussing with a closed front. And, if the liner has smooth nylon on the outside, then the top cover may slip unless there are extra straps to attach it to the cover.

If you’re buying a liner because your present blankets cause shoulder rubs, you may also want to consider that they just don’t fit correctly. Most shoulder rubs are caused by the hip area pulling the chest back when the horse stretches down to graze. If the blanket is too short front-to-back, or if the blanket slides to the side, then the shoulders will get rubs.

Materials
Fleece adds warmth as a liner, while also breathing well and wicking any moisture from sweat away from the body. It can sometimes hold in static and roughen the hair, although it usually doesn’t rub. It will also stretch, so you should order a size down if your horse is between sizes. The quality and thickness of the fleece should be a major consideration. While fleece does pick up shavings and dirt, especially if used without a top cover, it also launders easily. It’s used as a layer by itself, can double as a dress sheet or cooler, and is used as a plush inside layer on stable blankets that have two or more layers sewn together.

Lycra is wonderful to prevent rubs and to slick down a coat. However, it must fit well. We found that if any Lycra product, no matter how well-made, ran a little large, then it slipped out of place. Lycra needs to stretch to stay put. It’s better to order a size down than a size up. Lycra is an ideal liner in warmer climates because it doesn’t add much warmth. It also comes in some spectacular colors and prints. Because of its light weight, it’s easy to launder. Lycra doesn’t work well if the covering blanket is lined with wool/wool-blend because they will pull against each other.

Polycotton has the advantage over straight cotton in that it is smoother against the coat, while still being easy to launder. It may still roughen the coat sometimes, as can plain cotton. A heavier, brushed-type poly-cotton or a smooth polycotton are less likely to disturb the coat. Polycotton is often used as the inner layer on a multi-layer blanket or on the outer portion of a multi-layer liner because a covering blanket shouldn’t slip on it.

Nylon usually isn’t used as a layer by itself because it isn’t stiff enough but is sewn or quilted onto polyfill or even fleece. It works great next to the skin to smooth the coat and is used as the entire inner portion of a multi-layer blanket or just on the shoulders to prevent rubs. However, it doesn’t always breathe as well as some of the other choices.

Thickness is crucial. A lighter thickness keeps down both bulk and price, but the tradeoff is in durability. Most nylon used on the outside of a blanket should be 600-denier or heavier to prevent tears. A 420-denier is OK on a stable rug if the horse isn’t too hard on his blankets. A 70-denier thickness is OK against the skin because it won’t get snagged.

We divided the liners we used in our barn all last winter into three categories, which are in our charts: Liners for the full body that provide warmth in addition to helping save coats; full-body liners that save coats without additional warmth; and coat-saving shoulder guards/hoods. We wanted these liners to protect the coat, stay in place under a cover layer of some sort, be uncomplicated to use, and be easy to launder.

In the first category, we characterized them as mid or heavyweight, which would be a notch down from what they would be if used alone. For example, a liner that is m idweight would probably be lightweight if used alone; a liner that is heavyweight would be midweight if used alone. Putting a cover over it of any type increases its insulating ability, which is why using a liner instead of another full blanket will increase warmth while decreasing bulk.

Bottom Line
The Schneider’s Ocala blanket was the most useful liner with warmth. It was a good value at $69.95, considering its quality, which also made it our Best Buy. It is durable, provides good coat protection and is easy to launder. As a bonus, it can double as a stable blanket.

There were several choices in the category of warmth/coat protection that ran a close second and would suit specific needs depending on the budget and warmth needed. For fleece, we liked Glover’s $73 polar liner best.

We found that fit is desperately important in liners that are made from lighter material and thus don’t provide warmth, especially if they are made from Lycra. When the material is light, even the best-quality ones will rub or slip if they don’t fit perfectly. When they fit, all the ones we tried worked well. However, we particularly liked the Schneider’s cotton sheet, the Schneider’s Shoulder Slicker and the Sleazy Sleepwear shoulder guard, which didn’t stick out and was the most “under” of the underwear we tried.

Also With This Article
Click here to view "Make Your Liner Work For You."
Click here to view "Full-Body Liners With Warmth."
Click here to view "Full-Body Liners Without Additional Warmth."
Click here to view "Facing Up to Closed Fronts."
Click here to view "Lycra Shoulder Guards/Hoods."

Contact your local tack store or: BMB, 888/262-8225, www.bmbtack.com; Classic Cover-Ups, 610/932-9400, www.classiccover-ups.com; Dover, 800/989-1500, www.doversaddlery.com; Glover Equine Products, 800/565-6646, www.gloverequine.com; Horseware Ireland, 800/887-6688, www.horseware.com; Jack’s 740/335-5121, www.jacksmfg.com; Kensington, 909/469-1240, www.kensingtonhorseproducts.com; Miller’s/Eisers, 252/940-4000, www.millerharness.com; Schneider’s, 800/553-7655, www.sstack.com; Sleazy Sleep-wear, 800/356-2799, www.ss4horses.com; Toklat Originals, 888/486-5528, www.toklat.com; Weatherbeeta, 877/927-4337.