The purpose of a stable blanket is just to keep the horse warm in winter. Beyond that simple job description a stable blanket should also stay put and not slip or rub. Ideally, it can enhance the horse’s coat by smoothing it down as the horse moves.
The job of a stable blanket, however, is not to keep the horse dry, since he shouldn’t go outside in it unless it’s covered by another waterproof layer. And, since the horse is not playing with pasture buddies in his stable blanket or running amok, it doesn’t have to be as tough as turnout-blanket models.
While you can easily spend over $200 for a stable blanket with lovely materials and many fine features, it isn’t necessary in order to keep your horse warm and his coat smooth. We field-tested 41 stable blankets during the past winter, ranging in price from $29.95 to $230. In that group, 12 were priced under $100 and included several fine-looking, well-fitting sturdy choices.
In considering an economy blanket, you need to decide if the blanket will cover your horse adequately. You may not be as concerned about a tail flap, high neck or leg straps as you will in a turnout rug, but you’ll want to make sure that it won’t twist when your horse lies down. It needs to be long in the sides for a horse that is clipped.
To get the right fit, measure your horse while standing square from the center of his chest, along his side, to the center of his tail. (This is the standard for measuring for a blanket. Some manufacturers use slight variations on this method. Be sure to ask what they recommend.)
Try the stable blanket on over a sheet to keep it clean. Then put hay on the ground and watch as the horse stretches down. If the blanket pulls too tightly against the hip then it’s probably too short. Most shoulder rubs are caused by a blanket that is too short and pulled taught, so look at the hip before you do the neck.
Leg straps used to never appear on stable blankets, but now they’re almost as common in the barn as in the pasture. Some blankets are designed so that they don’t need leg straps for a stabled horse, but most owners like the security of knowing the blanket won’t twist.
One of the most worrisome choices concerns the type of leg straps and whether you prefer straps that are attached to the blanket or removable. We generally prefer elastic, removable straps because if a horse does get caught in them, then they are easy to release. Removable, elastic leg straps will also break if the horse gets caught, and they’ll usually do so without tearing the blanket.
If you use more than one blanket layer, you don’t want several sets of leg straps, so it’s useful to be able to remove the straps from the layer that’s not on top. Also, if one breaks it can be replaced by snapping in a new strap rather than with a trip to the blanket repairman — if you’re even lucky enough to have someone who does that in your area.
On the other hand, straps should not hang down so far that a horse could get its leg caught. If attached leg straps are adjusted properly, they shouldn’t be a hazard. One recent innovation in removable leg straps is to have a loop, rather than a snap, at one end and attached with a half hitch. It means less hardware around your horse’s legs and is less expensive to replace if broken.
Stable blankets come in a variety of fronts, although most in the economy range have two simple front buckles.
Some blankets have a closed front, which has the advantage of stability. They’re easy to get on if the horse is untied by dropping the bulk of the blanket to the ground, holding the neck front in your hand with the lining facing the horse, and then slipping it over the horse’s head. The blanket can then be easily raised up the horse’s side. If your horse must be tied or cross-tied in order to be blanketed, you may find a closed-front blanket a major nuisance.
Stable blankets usually come in three layers: a shell, insulation and lining. A nylon lining will polish the horse’s coat, while a cotton or kersey lining may rub more and hold more shedding hair but also breathes better. If the blanket doesn’t fit well, however, a nylon lining will also tend to slip more.
Actually, we recommend you layer a sheet beneath the stable blanket. It can be laundered easily and your horse will always have clean fabric next to his hide. Then you won’t need to clean your blanket as often — and may not have to buy two stable blankets (a main one and a backup for washing times). We realize, however, that many horsemen don’t want to bother with extra layers or prefer smooth nylon to condition their horses’ coats.
The amount of insulation will determine the blanket’s warmth. In the case of fiberfill, more than 300 gms will be usually be warm enough for lower winter temperatures, while less than 300 gms will be fine for moderate temperatures, depending on whether your horse is clipped and whether the barn is left open. Of course, lots of fiberfill insulation, while light, is also very bulky and can be difficult to handle.
Breathability is a major topic in regard to blankets. There are, however, no industry-set standards for breathability, so technically any manufacturer can say his blanket is breathable if he wants.
A true waterproof/breathable blanket has sealed seams and stitching and the outer shell fabric is coated with a membrane that repels water, stops wind and allows moisture and vapor from sweat to pass out. These blankets are quite expensive and are usually reserved for turnout.
This doesn’t mean, however, that a stable blanket can’t be breathable. Blankets with a lot of fiberfill have a layer that keeps the shell away from the horse’s body, allows airflow and doesn’t hold moisture. If your horse doesn’t have sun shining into his stall or he doesn’t move around a lot in his stall, this construction should be enough to keep sweat from building in the blanket when the temperature goes up. True breathability is more important in a turnout rug that gets direct sun or is worn by a horse than runs around a lot. Try breathing though the lining before you buy the blanket. If you can’t, then that blanket choice should be reserved for the lowest temperatures when the horse won’t sweat.
We have listed here all the blankets priced by their manufacturers $100 and under. Next month we will look at stable blankets priced over $100.
Dover Rider’s International 24159
MSRP and Sizes: $69.80, 48”-78”; $79.90, 80”-84”.
Materials: Nylon shell, 300 gm polyfill, nylon lining.
Colors: Green with burgundy trim, navy/hunter, navy/burgundy.
Features: Two-buckle front with keepers and Velcro, two bias surcingles, detachable nylon leg straps with front loop, tail flap, withers fleece.
Comments: Fit well. Did not slip when straps were adjusted carefully. Kept horse warm did OK on breathability.
Eisers Perth Australian
MSRP and Sizes: $69.95, 60”-84”.
Materials: Nylon Shell, 200 gm fiberfill, poly/cotton lining.
Colors: Forest with maroon trim, navy/forest.
Features: Diamond quilting, two front buckles, bias surcingles, tail flap, withers fleece, unattached elastic leg straps.
Comments: Size was OK. Slipped and rubbed a bit. Long sides for large horse. Kept horse warm and did OK on breathability. Showed some wear on stitching.
Fox Mountain 2-809
MSRP and Sizes: $75, 68-84”.
Materials: Canvas shell, kersey insulation/lining.
Colors: Gold with brown trim.
Features: Two front buckles, one surcingle, two attached reinforced leg straps.
Comments. Fit small and is short on sides. Did not slip but did rub horse. Did OK on warmth and breathability. No tail flap. Brush to clean.
Fox Mountain 2-5000
MSRP and Sizes: $29.95,68-84”.
Materials: Poly/cotton shell, kersey insulation/lining.< BR>Colors: Red, blue, black, green with black trim.
Features: One front strap, two surcingles.
Comments: Short back and sides, slipped some and rubbed. Kept horse warm and did OK on breathability. No leg straps or tail flap. Brush to clean.
Libertyville Saddle Shop Thermomaster Waterford
MSRP and Sizes: $87.75, 68-84”. Optional leg straps, $7.50/pair.
Materials: Woven poly fiber shell, 16 oz. poly filling, polyester lining.
Colors: Plum plaid, burgundy plaid.
Features: Two front buckles, low bias surcingles with elastic inserts, withers fleece, long sides, high-cut neck, leg-strap Ds (straps not included).
Comments: Fine fit, did not slip or rub despite lack of leg straps. Very warm. Breathable. No tail flap.
Mayatex Quilted Nylon HB5000
MSRP and Sizes: $100, 76/80”, 80/82”.
Materials: Nylon shell, 15 mm poly fiberfill, black cotton lining.
Colors: Black with red trim.
Features: Two front buckles, bias surcingles, attached nylon leg straps, withers fleece, tail flap, waterproof.
Comments: Fit well and didn’t slip but did rub test horse a bit. OK for moderate temperatures and fine for breathability. Sizing not precise, but that’s not a concern since it’s not fitted. Showed some wear on outside.
Mayatex Quilted Polyester HB 4000
MSRP and Sizes: $60, 76/80”, 80/82”.
Materials: Polyester shell, 15 mm foam filling, cotton lining.
Colors: Black with green trim, green/black, navy/burgundy.
Features: Two front buckles, bias surcingles, attached nylon leg straps, withers fleece, tail flap.
Comments: Fit OK but long through back and short on sides. Slipped a bit and did rub test horse. Foam lining makes it rather stiff to handle. Kept horse warm and was breathable. Sizing is not as precise as on other blankets, but since it’s not fitted, this isn’t a concern.
Miller’s Everest Base Camp
MSRP and Sizes: $94.95, 48”-84”.
Material: Nylon shell, 300 gm polyfill, nylon lining.
Colors: Navy with green trim, black/green, green/navy, wine/navy.
Features: Two front buckles with keepers, channel quilting, bias surcingles, withers fleece, removable nylon leg straps with loop end and swivel snaps, ID label, removable tail flap, matching hood and replacement tail flap available.
Comments: Fit well but did rub test horse a bit. Kept horse warm. Acceptable breathability. Laundered well.
Schneiders Adjusta-Fit Westcoast
MSRP and Sizes: $79.95, 60”-84”.
Materials: Nylon shell, 240 gm fiberfill, nylon lining.
Colors: Navy, burgundy, green.
Features: Deep V closed front, adjustable shoulders with D-ring and Velcro (this can also lift neck opening ahead of withers), cutback neck, one low reinforced surcingle, attached reinforced wide nylon leg straps, matching hood available.
Comments: Fit well. Did not slip. Adjustable shoulder allows one blanket to fit a range of sizes and types so is versatile. Performed OK on warmth and breathability. No tail flap.
MSRP and Sizes: $69.95, 48”-84”.
Materials: Nylon shell, 300 gm polyfill, white cotton lining.
Colors: Green with navy trim, wine/navy, navy/navy, not all colors come in all sizes.
Features: Two front buckles with keepers, two bias surcingles, detachable leg straps with loop end, tail flap, withers fleece.
Comments: Size ran small, with short surcingles. Kept horse warm and did OK on breathability. Laundered well.
MSRP and Sizes: $99.95, 60”-87”
Materials: Nylon shell, 450gm polyfill, black nylon lining.
Colors: Green with wine trim, navy/red, wine/navy.
Features: White piping. Two front buckles with keepers, two bias surcingles with elastic inserts, detachable elastic leg straps with swivel snaps, tail flap, withers fleece.
Comments: Size ran large with long sides for bigger horse. Shorter neck cut, so did not slip behind withers. Slipped to side but didn’t rub. Slick lining. Kept horse warm and did OK on breathability.
Whitman Mfg. Meriweather 6201
MSRP and Sizes: $69.95, 46”-84”.
Materials: Nylon shell, 200 gm polyfill, poly/cotton lining.
Colors: Navy with gray trim, burgundy/black, green/navy.
Features: Diamond quilting, two front buckles, removable leg straps with loop end, bias surcingles, removable tail flap, withers fleece, matching hood available.
Comments: Fit well and did not slip or rub. Kept horse warm and did OK on breathability. Black lining held shedding hair.
Every blanket in this test will keep your horse warm for the winter. And every blanket finished our one-season field test in acceptable shape for a second year. Therefore, as always, we recommend you choose the blanket that best suits your horse, your style preferences and your budget. We have chosen the blankets we believe offer the most for the money.
Our top choice is Libertyville’s Thermomaster Waterford. This is a fine-looking blanket that is long in the sides, fits and wears beautifully. However, at $96 (with optional leg straps), it’s at the top of the price range in this group of economically priced stable blankets.
Close runner-up and the best choice if you like closed-front blankets is the Schneiders Adjusta-Fit Westcoast. We find it comparable in quality to more expensive stable blankets yet it costs $79.95. We were impressed by its versatility, fit and wear. We especially liked the adjustable shoulder, which makes it fit a wider range of horses, but we do wish that the leg straps were removable.
The Best Buy is the Dover Rider’s International 24151. It has the open front and detachable leg straps we like and performed well when adjusted properly. This blanket is a solid choice for the money.
Contact your local tack shop or: Dover 800/989-1500; Eisers 800/526-6987; Fox Mountain 704/484-3836; Libertyville Saddle Shop 800/872-3353; Mayatex 800/527-2358; Miller’s 800/553-7655; Schneiders 800/365-1311; Valley Vet 800/356-1005; Weatherbeeta USA 732/650-0025; Whitman 888/253-0852.