As days grow shorter and temperatures drop, it's time to evaluate what blankets your horse needs. With a huge range of options available, deciding what you need can be confusing. Here's a handy guide to help you find the right fit, size and weight to meet your horse's individual needs.
Insulation is a layer of synthetic fibers between the inner and outer blanket materials. Often referred to as fiberfill or polyfill, this layer traps warmed air in the spaces between fibers. Here's how fill translates to blanket weight:
To blanket or not to blanket? Below is a starting point for deciding how to blanket your horse based on temperature. These recommendations don't factor in wind chill or precipitation, so adjust accordingly, particularly for horses who are turned out. Keep in mind that layers such as blanket liners, stable sheets and blankets of various weights can be substituted to achieve equal protection and insulation.
Also remember you want to keep your horse warm, but you don't want him to sweat, which is worse than being a little cold. Some blanket materials, when soaked with sweat, cause the moisture to evaporate from your horse's skin faster than his body is able to warm it, causing his skin temperature to decrease and eventually chilling his body.
Find His Size
1. Set up your horse so he's standing square on a level surface, either in crossties or held by a friend.
2. Using a cloth tape measure, hold the end of the tape in the center of your horse's chest, even with the widest part of his shoulder (see Photo A).
3. Holding the tape parallel to the floor, bring it around his shoulder, along the side of his body, going as far as you can reach. Mark where the tape ends with your finger and note the measurement in inches. Then move the start of the tape to your finger and repeat the process. Continue measuring until you get to the edge of his tail bone (see Photo B). Add all of your measurements. This will be the size blanket your horse needs.
Stable blankets and sheets and fitted coolers generally come in traditional or "American" sizing (2-inch increments, more contoured fit, shorter drop) while turnouts are usually in European sizing (3-inch increments, higher neck, more belly coverage). If your horse's measurement falls between sizes, choose the next size up.
One caveat is that blanket manufacturers have different sizing recommendations. Some companies suggest measuring from the center of the chest to the center of the tail or from the center of the chest to the point of buttocks. Other companies require you to subtract a certain number from the actual measurement. Check individual manufacturers' Web sites for measurement and fitting recommendations.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.