Does My Horse Need a Blanket?
Your horse needs a blanket because the natural oils and dirt that keep him warm in the wild are removed each time you curry or vacuum. Then, when you clip your horse, say "so long" to that additional layer of warm hair. Since most stables are not heated, it's essential that you compensate for what's been taken away in the form of a blanket, which has two purposes: The outer layer of the stable blanket is for protection, the inner, is for warmth.
If your horse goes outside in very cold weather, you'll need a turnout blanket for that scenario, too. If you can afford two different blankets, great, but if not, choose a turnout model that can also be used both indoors and out. An outdoor blanket should allow more freedom of movement, countering energetic bucks, rolls and kicks. The look and feel of turnout blankets are generally tougher overall to withstand the general wear and tear.
What Size Blanket Does My Horse Need?
Need help measuring your horse for a blanket? It's really simple. Tape measure in hand, measure from the middle of the chest to the tail, along the side. If your horse measures, for example, a 78, buy that size. If you think you'd like to buy the next larger size, just to be safe, why not check with the manufacturer to make sure that you're not going to purchase a garment that will be too loose? They're all different.
Nina Howie of Miller's cautions about surcingles: "They don't secure the blanket to the horse the way a girth secures a saddle to the horse's back. Surcingles equalize the weight of the blanket over the horse's back, to prevent displacement by wind or activity. Tighten surcingles with approximately a hand's width fitting comfortably between the horse's belly and the surcingle, tight enough to prevent getting a hoof caught when the horse plays or rolls.
"Leg straps should not be so tight as to cause friction nor placed dangerously low near the hocks. Miller's recommends looping around each other between the legs and snapping back on the same side, not diagonally crossing. Tests show this helps avoid rubbing."
To Wash or Not to Wash?
Follow your manufacturer's directions, and besides, if you've ever washed your blanket at home, you know that the resultant residue of hair and dirt in your washer takes two more cycles just to clean the machine...and then there's that penetrating odor of wet horsehair.
Nina Howie of Miller's says, sure, it's fine to wash her blankets, but "we recommend that you use commercial front-loading machines. Otherwise, agitators can damage linings and insulations." She's a proponent of the detergent, Ivory Snow: "The stronger the detergent, the more likely you'll degenerate the blanket's protective coating." She recommends dry cleaning only for more traditional wool blankets or coolers, "those that you buy for show or for layering
Horseware Ireland's Jenny Pratt is flexible: "You can machine wash if you follow instructions and use a special cleaner. But, perhaps it's better to spend $20 to get the blanket professionally cleaned."
Many local blanket repair services will gladly pick up your blanket from the barn and handle the housekeeping details.
For more information about the blankets featured in this Dressage
Today article, contact:
Bucas of Ireland: (from the U.S.) 011 353 21 4312200; Web site www.bucas.com
Classic Cover-ups: (610) 932-9400; Web site www.classiccover-ups.com
Kelly Equestrian/Hug Coverings: (866) 484-3487; Web site www.blanketnet.com
Horseware ireland: (800) TURNOUT; Web site www.horseware.com
Miller's Harness Company: (800) 553-7655; Web site www.millerharness.com
Sleazy Sleepwear for Horses: (800) 356-2799; Web site www.ss4horses.com
Toklat: (888) 4-TOKLAT; Web site www.toklat.com
Weatherbeeta: (877) 927-4337; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Wrangler: (800) 331-9421; www.profchoice.com
W'underwear: (800) 733-0919; Web site www.wunderwear.com
Read more about what's new in blankets in the September 2002 issue of Dressage Today