Quarter sheets get their name because they cover the horse’s hindquarters. They’re also sometimes called exercise blankets, or riding blankets, or exercise rugs. The purpose of these blankets is to keep the horse warm as he works in cold weather. While riding, quarter sheets can help halt overly fast muscle cooling, which can lead to muscle cramps.??
Quarter sheets aren’t really made for use during serious work and training, however. They’re primarily for the time in between rounds at a show or in between work sessions during a lesson, when horses can get cooled too fast. Quarter sheets fit with a saddle, and some permit a rider to keep his or her legs warm when riding, as they drape over the rider’s legs.
Clipped and blanketed horses are the primary candidates for quarter sheets. If your horse is stall-boarded and blanketed during turnout, he may benefit from a quarter sheet as he warms up and cools down. A horse on pasture board with a natural coat will probably find a quarter sheet too warm, although he may appreciate it on an especially cold day, or if he gets too sweaty during a hard workout and needs some coverage as he cools down.
Sizing really varies from quarter sheet to quarter sheet. Some, like the sheets from KR’s Customs and Saratoga Horseworks, come in sizes like a blanket, so if your horse wears a 76 blanket, for example, that is also his quarter-sheet size. ??Quarter sheets from Schneiders, however, come in Average and Large, and BMB and Glover Equine have just one size. We found the one-size-fits-all quarter sheets to be fine — they really did seem to fit almost all horses (if not ponies) nicely. But if your horse is extra large or small, you may do better with a sized quarter sheet.
How each quarter sheet fits depends on its pattern, but some quarter sheets cling more, while others are loose. With the looser ones (usually the more traditional cuts, like the KR’s Customs one), a tail loop helps keep it in place. The looser ones don’t work as well for schooling at speed because of how they flap around, possibly scaring horses and almost definitely annoying them.
On the other hand, the snugger, more modern quarter sheets can inhibit larger movements during a schooling session. Quarter sheets shouldn’t be used while jumping, as the loose ones will flap annoyingly, and the tighter fitting ones will not allow the horse to use his full range of motion.
Standard quarter sheets are a basic rectangular sheet that goes under the horse’s saddle. Others have a cut-out design and fastener. Some of these sheets can be used under the saddle, too, or used over the saddle and the rider’s legs.????????????????
You may have to do some experimenting to see how to don your horse’s cut-out quarter sheet, but this suggestion from BMB works for most of the sheets we tried: Lay the quarter sheet over the rump. Then put the tail strap under the horse’s tail to secure it in place. The rider mounts, then pulls the quarter sheet around her legs and waist. A side note: We found that some horses don’t love that longer Velcro fastener sound required to fasten a quarter sheet. Before you put it on your horse, rip it a couple of times to get him used to the noise.
It’s nice to be able to remove the quarter sheet without getting off your horse, which you can do with sheets like Saratoga Horseworks 7007.
You put the saddle pad and saddle on as you normally do, then place the quarter sheet behind the saddle with Velcro open so a flap drapes on each side. Then you take the flap and place it under the flap of the saddle, bringing the Velcro piece up towards the withers. Do this on both sides, with the Velcro in front. When removing, undo Velcro, lift up leg and pull up your flap, like you would if you were tightening your girth. Then pull the flap out from under saddle flap. Do this on each side and the quarter sheet will come off without dismounting.
For the traditionalist, the KR’s Customs BlackRose sheet is a beautiful wool quarter sheet with the dressier looks of a cooler. Wool naturally offers slow cooling, so your horse won’t get chilled, as it keeps body heat in, and muscles loose. Some people like the weight of wool because it means that the quarter sheet is less likely to flap around as you school your horse. It’s heavy but warm and cozy. A wool quarter sheet also appears elegant at a show between classes.
And if you want to outfit a show team with quarter sheets, we really like BMB’s Eco-Fleece Riding Warmer. BMB offers four colors and 14 colors of piping to demonstrate team or barn spirit, or to offer as a prize. Other companies also offer custom options on sheets, including KR’s Customs.
When all was said and done, the quarter sheet we were the most impressed with was the 7005W from Saratoga Horseworks. If you live in a really cold climate, the Saratoga Horseworks quarter sheet with Windhibitor is the sheet for you. Because of its heavier weight, it has the drape of wool without being quite as heavy as other sheets.
The Windhibitor lining makes an enormous difference. If you have ever worn a polarfleece jacket without a shell, and the wind kicks up, you have felt the chill through your warm top. Windhibitor prevents this phenomenon.
This quarter sheet could be the difference between riding and scurrying back to the barn on a blustery day. Even with all these cold-weather credentials, our testers never complained that the sheet was too warm or made a horse sweat while it was on. Polarfleece does allow hair and shavings to stick to it easily, but we found that brushing with a soft grooming brush removes those things easily.
The Best Buy of this trial was the Hip Hugger from Glover Equine. At $38, it’s economical and could be the perfect quarter sheet for someone who simply doesn’t need one all that often. It would allow a harsh wind through, so it’s not perfect for a really miserable and windy day, but for almost any other time, your horse would be happy in this quarter sheet.
If you live in a wet climate and are looking for something less expensive to help in rainy, cold weather, check out Schneiders Saddlery’s Exercise Rug. It’s a bit bulky, but it’s also waterproof and breathable, and costs only $59.95.