Sorting out this year?s batch of winter turnouts was no easy task. Our blankets ranged in price from high-end choices over $300 to economy models for under $100. We set out to log and monitor the performance of each. If there was a failure of materials, or if a feature stood out, we noted it.
MEASURING. Each manufacturer notes how to measure for their blanket models. The most common method is to hold a measuring tape to the center of the horse's chest. Then, keeping the tape parallel to the ground, you should measure around the side of the horse until you reach the center of the tail. That number is the size. Some folks guess at blanket size by height, such as a 16-hand warmblood will wear an 80 blanket. Maybe. But maybe not.
You need to consider your horse's build and blanket cuts. If you want something tailored and fitted, you're going to work harder on fit than someone who might like a boxy European cut like the Rambo.
Schneiders Saddlery?s Euro Fit blankets have an upright shoulder and sits high on the neck with a long drop, fitting warmbloods and most Thoroughbreds well. Their VTek pressure-free withers system is an especially good choice for older horses with bony withers/losing top line and high-withered horses.
STYLES AND BRANDS. Yes, it's tempting to go out and buy that fabulous new plaid style, but it's more important to consider the horse. He's the one that will be wearing it. Fit matters.
And we all know the major players, like Rambo, Weatherbeeta and Bucas. So, it's tempting to buy the ?best.? But, what is truly best'
Our rescue facility used many Rambo products over the years. And, indeed, the Rambo Wug was wonderful and performed beautifully. But, its price compared to other choices gave us pause. For instance, we were amazed at how similar we thought the English Riding Supply Centaur Turbo 1000 was to the Rambo Wug.
OUR FIELD TRIAL. We had a few slips and goofs during our trial, but nothing we saw made us dismiss any of the blankets as a bad choice. And some things, like loose stitching that causes a seam to immediately leak or a surcingle to come loose, should be reported immediately to the manufacturer. Defects happen. Reputable manufacturers will immediately rectify the situation. If they don't' Report it to your retailer, too, and never buy that brand again.
We were impressed with the Phlegon and Banbridge from Eous. The Banbridge, especially, has a special arched front design that replaces a traditional gusset design and allowed plenty of shoulder freedom. The darting over the hip was comfortable. We had no rubs. The materials are of good quality, and the sewing is well done.
The Rider?s International Northwind, from Dover Saddlery, stayed in place well, never shifting. We had no rubs on our body-clipped angular Thoroughbred mare. She wore it without problems in driving rain and snow.
The Ice Turtle also displayed beautiful craftsmanship and design. It fit a very large warmblood well, and its deep cut and long fall made fitting a larger horse easy. The elastic neck hugs the horse and helps keep out rain, wind and snow. With choices for fill/insulation levels, we think the Ice Turtle is a perfect choice for those that have very cold winters. We're also impressed with the elastic detachable surcingles and repair kit.
Schneiders Saddlery VTek VFree Marathon blanket is beautiful and equally well-made. We quibble with their choice of brass-plated hardware, as we prefer heavy-duty stainless steel, but we had no problems and it has a two-year warranty to back it up.
Schneiders also impressed us with their Euro Extreme. it's an awesome, tough blanket that tested well, held up beautifully and retails for under $100.
BOTTOM LINE. What it all really boils down to is fit. If you decide to purchase one of our favorite blankets and it doesn't fit perfectly, it isn?t the blanket for you. As you can see in our chart, there were excellent choices in this trial. But, now, without further ado . . .
Our top choice for a turnout blanket is the Eous Phlegon.? it's mid-priced and offered a great fit with no shifting or rubbing and it wore well.? The pretty herringbone pattern is just icing on the cake.
For Best Buy, we were amazed at the under $100 price for the Schneiders Saddlery Euro Extreme.? It has the features we love, combined with the durability we need. We're not sure how they can offer a 1680 denier blanket at this price, but we're not going to question it.
Article by Contributing Writer Beth Hyman, who operates the Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, an equine rescue facility in New York.