CHOOSING THE CORRECT SIZE OF BLANKET
The fit of your blanket is extremely important in order to ensure the comfort of your horse and to prevent rubbing and slippage.
The most important measurement to take into account is the length of the blanket required. This is measured as the distance from the centre of the chest to the rear of the quarters where you expect the blanket to finish.
It is also important to consider the build of your horse. A horse with a very big or stocky build will more than likely require a blanket larger than his length would indicate. Similarly, a finely built horse may require a size smaller.
Taking these two factors into consideration will ensure that you are able to choose the best possible fit of blanket for your horse and thereby make sure that he is as comfortable as possible. It is important to also take into account that your horse will probably require one size larger for his turnout blanket than for his stable blanket.
Most blankets are sized in two-inch or three-inch increments. This measurement refers to the distance from the centre of the chest to the rear of the quarters where you expect the blanket to finish.
FITTING YOUR BLANKET
There are several things that you should look for to ensure that your blanket fits your horse well and comfortably.
The withers - it is essential that the blanket fit well up the neck and beyond the withers - to ensure that excessive pressure is not put either on the point of shoulder or directly on or behind the wither. A well fitting blanket should lie about 2-4 inches in front of the withers.
The shoulders - the outside edge of the blanket should lie well in front of the shoulder to allow for free movement. Look for a blanket fits extremely well around the neck. With a well fitting blanket, the top strap of the front fastening should be about in line with the point of shoulder. If this strap lies much above the point of shoulder, your horse's freedom to graze will be restricted. If the strap lies much below the point of shoulder, undue pressure will be put on his shoulders, which may cause rubbing.
Several blanket makers are now incorporating a new front closure system where the top strap instead of being horizontal is at an angle and lies along the groove between the horse's shoulder and neck. This "V" formation transfers the pressure above the point of shoulder, which lies between the straps. This maximises the freedom of movement of the horse and also prevents rain from entering the front of the blanket.
The rump - 3 to 5 darts (depending on the type of the blanket) should be in place around the rear of the blanket to facilitate a snug fit over the rump. The end of the blanket, where the tail flap is attached, should finish just as the tail starts.
The belly - the blanket should be cut deep enough so that the belly is not visible under the blanket!
Look for turn-out blankets with cross-surcingles which provide a simple, effective non-slip design. The need for leg straps has vanished, and horses are now a lot more comfortable and safe in their turnout blankets.
The cross surcingles should be fitted so that they hang about 4 inches under the horse's belly. If they are fitted too tight, undue strain will be put on the blanket. If fitted too loose, the ability of the blanket to remain secure may be compromised.
It is important to check the tautness of the cross surcingles after a new blanket has been worn for a day or so. The blanket will inevitably "settle" onto the shape of your horse, and so adjustments may need to be made.
The Fillet string - it is essential that the fillet string is attached and fitted under the horse's tail on all Turnout blankets. This is vital to ensure that it is not possible for the back of the blanket to be blown forward in severe wind. Should the fillet string break, we advise that a piece of cord or similar material such as baling twine be used as a temporary or permanent replacement.
CARE OF TURNOUT BLANKETS
Your turnout blanket will last longer and be more comfortable for your horse if it is cleaned and maintained properly. One thorough annual cleaning after the winter season should be sufficient, before the blanket is put away for the summer.
Many blankets makers now use nylon linings, which have many advantages over traditional, cotton linings. Cotton linings have a tendancy to cause friction and are therefore more likely to rub a sensitive horse than are nylon linings. Cotton linings also tend to retain moisture, which can allow the growth of mould and a deterioration of the fabric. Nylon linings are more hygienic, last longer, do not deteriorate and therefore require less maintenance than cotton lined blankets. You should therefore find that it will need to be washed less frequently than a cotton lined blanket.
SELECTING YOUR HORSE'S WINTER BLANKET
Search for a turn-out blanket that is fully waterproof yet breathable, a recent posibility thanks to applying human clothing technology to horse outerwear. It is important to remember that excessive washing, too high temperatures and harsh detergents will compromise the waterproofing of your turnout blanket. It is therefore vital that the following guidelines are strictly followed.
Firstly remove excess dirt from the outside with a stiff brush or hose the blanket down.
Use only cool temperatures. The blanket should be washed on a delicate machine cycle or by hand on a cool wash (max. temperature 30???? C).
Use only very mild soap. Look for environmentally friendly, phosphate free products for use on synthetic fabrics. This mild wash will quickly and effectively remove dirt and grime while not reducing the waterproofing of your blanket. Bleach or detergents will often damage the waterproofing.
Rinse the blanket thoroughly, drip dry and do not tumble dry.
Store the completely dried blanket in a dry area. Containers such as large tin trunks, strong plastic bags or drums make great blanket "bins". Alternatively, the blanket can be hung up on a blanket rack, which will ensure that it remains aired and dry.
Article courtesy of Horseware Ireland.