Cold season is fast approaching! Are you and your horse ready? If you’ve never owned a horse, never blanketed before or just need to brush up, we are here to help make purchasing the right blanket easier! Read below to learn about the key factors you need to consider when choosing whether to blanket or not, the main components of a blanket, how to measure your horse for a blanket and the brands we carry and recommend.
When to Blanket Your Horse
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding when to blanket your horse or not and what weight of blanket you should be using. Some horses are happier and perfectly fine to go without, but there are many situations where a blanket may be appropriate. Everyone you ask is going to have different opinions on blanketing, but there are many key factors you need to consider. What's right for one horse won’t be right for all horses, and at the end of the day, you know your horse best. To help with this, we have laid out some basic guidelines, but these are by no means the official rules on blanketing, just educated suggestions!
Temperature and moisture: Temperature can be one of the easiest factors to ascertain that plays a role in your blanketing decisions. While it is very important, don’t forget to look at all of the factors we list out as well! Most horses are very comfortable until temperatures go below 30-40℉, as long as there is no moisture or wind. Horses with thicker coats, that are in good health, may even be comfortable without blanketing until temperatures dip below 20℉.
On top of checking the temperature, it is important to check for moisture and windchill in the forecast. If substantial rain or snow is expected, you may need multiple layers, or may even need to switch out blankets, to prevent moisture from soaking through. Once moisture seeps through the blanket, it is no longer doing it’s job and can actually make it harder for your horse to keep warm. This is true also if the horse is wet prior to blanketing. The blanket will lock in moisture as well as it locks it out, making it more challenging for the horse to regulate its temperature. Thus, you should ensure your horse is nice and dry prior to blanketing.
Wind chill can also affect the temperature and a horse's ability to stay warm. In general use the chart below as a reference for blanketing but make sure to consider all the key factors highlighted.
Shelter: The amount of access a horse has to shelter should be one of your first considerations. This will vary whether they are housed indoors or outdoors. Horses that are inside will need less blanketing since they are less likely to be exposed to the elements. Horses that have access to a good shelter, where they can get out of the elements, may also need less blanketing. Horses that have little to no shelter are most likely to need blankets to help keep them comfortable when facing the elements.
Access to food and water: Horse’s need food to be able to help regulate their body temperature. Their bodies ferment roughage in the hindgut, which creates heat that helps maintain their core temperature. If your horse does not have easy or regular access to hay they may have a tougher time keeping warm. Many people feed more over the winter, and especially during inclement weather. This will aid in heat regulation and give horses a chance to add more fat to their stores to assist with insulation. A layer of fat and a thick winter coat are a horse's natural line of defense against the cold.\
Body condition, coat, age and acclimation: All of these will play a role in your horse's ability to keep themselves warm, so should be factored into your blanketing decisions. Older or sick horses have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature, and may need extra help from blankets to keep warm. The same is true for skinny horses that do not have much body fat. Another component to consider is the state of your horse’s coat. Has your horse grown a winter coat yet? Are they clipped? Is this their first winter after moving from a different state? These are all things that should be considered. If your horse is not prepared for the weather, whether it lacks fat stores, a proper coat, or has not been acclimated to the weather of the area they are in, then it is very likely that they will need heavier blanketing.
Temperature (Degrees Fahrenheit)
No blanket or no-fill blanket
Light - medium weight blanket
Medium - heavyweight blanket
20℉ and below
Heavyweight blanket or layers
When in doubt, air on the side of less, check your horse for signs that they are cold, and check under blankets often to make sure your horse isn’t sweating.
If you are not able to check on or change your blankets often, go without or stick with a blanket that is lightweight, so that your horse doesn't become overheated and sweaty. In general, horses need a lighter or no blanket during the day and a heavier blanket at night when temperatures drop.
When choosing to blanket, make sure to choose blankets that are clean, dry and in good repair. If the blankets are compromised they may not work properly or may cause a safety concern. It is also important to give your horse time without a blanket, if possible, to let them get some fresh air. Blankets can get itchy and uncomfortable if let on for long periods of time, just like if you wore the same sweater day after day.
It is best to be prepared. So even if you don’t normally blanket or only occasionally, make sure to have a blanket or two on hand in case the weather gets extra bad or circumstances change. It never hurts to have a few options, including a no-fill waterproof sheet for keeping your horse dry and a heavyweight blanket for if the temperature drops below 10℉.
How to measure your horse for a blanket
To figure out what size blanket your horse needs, you will need a long measuring tape or a long rope or string to measure later. Place the end of the string in the center of your horse's chest (where the neck meets the body), pull the string over the widest part of your horse's shoulder, along the body and end at the horse's tail, 10” below the trailhead. This will give you your measurement. Different brands come in different sizes but usually go in increments of 2-3 inches, so you may have to add an inch or two to get an actual blanket size (example: 78”, 81”, 84” are common blanket sizes). You may also want to check the manufacturer's suggestions on how their blankets fit, such as if they run narrow in the chest or if they have a different sizing chart.
When you put your blanket on your horse it should be snug, but not rubbing or pinching anywhere, and there should not be a lot of movement or space in the tail or neck area. A standard drop blanket should cover all of your horse's barrel, ending just below the elbow and stifle. Blankets with longer drops may have more length to them, but always make sure the blanket is not too long where it limits movement. The neck should be well fitted but not pulling or rubbing. The top of the front closure should line up with the point of your horse's shoulder and the neckline should lay flat without pulling. At the withers you should be able to slide one hand between the blanket and your horses withers. The surcingles should cross over your horses belly and should be snug enough that a foot cannot get caught. The leg straps, if applicable, should be tight enough that they cannot slide off or get caught, but loose enough to not rub or inhibit movement, the tail flay should fully cover your horse's tail dock, and the tail cord or strap should not lift or pull on the tail.
Common Blanketing Terminology & Parts
Denier refers to a unit of measurement of linear density of textile fiber mass. In layman’s terms, the higher the denier in a blanket, the tougher the blanket is going to be. This is an area you don’t want to skimp on, especially if you have a horse or pony known for destroying things. Usually the higher the denier the more expensive the blanket is going to be, but for good reason, because it will be much tougher and last you longer.
Grams refers to the fill or insulation in the blanket. The higher the grams, the warmer the blanket will be. Blankets generally range from no fill up to 450 grams. No fill or 50g being the lightest weight, 100g is usually considered a lightweight blanket or sheet, 200-250g is usually considered a medium weight, and 300-450g is considered a heavy weight.
Different closures - There are many different types of front closures on blankets and the one you choose may be dependent on your horse's body shape, how likely they are to try to get out of the blanket or safety. A blanket with no front closure will have to be slid over the horse's head and is not adjustable. Buckles, hooks or elastic are going to be the most adjustable since they should have multiple options for making the front different sizes. Snaps or disc closures will not have much adjustability. Another thing to consider is that some of these options are going to be easier or harder to get fastened and unfastened based on if your horse will stand still for blanketing and how cold your hands are too.
Gussets - Are a built in construction that allows for more shoulder movement and can eliminate rubbing in horses with wide shoulders. Gussets are not a good option for very narrow horses.
Drop - refers to the length of the blanket. A standard drop will only come a few inches past the horse's belly, while a longer drop will cover more of the legs and hindquarters. This may be a good option for horses that get cold easily but can prevent movement and may get caught easier since there's more fabric.
Hood - is the part of the blanket that goes up your horse's neck. You can have no hood or a detachable or attached hood. Hoods help prevent moisture from getting in under the blanket and can help with warmth in extreme weather.
Ripstop - is a technology that prevents ripping and tearing. A crosshatch pattern stops the spread of a puncture or tear by limiting it to the crosshatch section it occurs in.
Waterproof vs water resistant - If your blanket is going to be worn outdoors or in inclement weather you want a waterproof blanket. Water resistant means the blanket will repel some light moisture but if the moisture comes down more heavily it will soak through. Stable blankets and sheets are NOT waterproof and only meant to be used indoors.
Surcingles - These are the straps that run under the belly and keep the blanket in place. They should not be as tight as a girth, but tight enough to help distribute the blanket evenly and keep it in place, and enough that a hoof cannot get caught in it. They should cross under the belly when blanketing a horse.
Leg straps - Not all blankets have these but they are extra straps that help keep the blanket securely in place by wrapping around the hind legs. These should not be too tight, but tight enough not to get a hoof caught or get caught on other objects. Detachable ones are easy to replace or remove.
Cordura - A synthetic nylon fabric that prevents mold, mildew and rot.
Horsewares - These blankets come at multiple price ranges depending on the line you choose, Rambo is the highest price point, Rhino is the mid price range, which is the bulk of what we carry, and Amigo is the lower price range. These blankets fit most shapes and sizes of horses and are a great option for narrower horses that have trouble with shoulder rubbing.
The Rhino line offers a tough 1000 denier polypropylene outer layer, barrier technology to ensure waterproofness even if the outer layer gets damaged, can feature a detachable hood on certain blankets, has liner loops for easy attachment of liners, a V-front closure and surefit neck design to remove pressure and prevent rubbing in the shoulder area, dual leg arches for better movement and three surcingles for a more secure fit. We carry this in a normal fit and a wug (high neck) option. This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
The Amigo line offers a 1200 denier polyester outer layer that is strong, waterproof and breathable, fiberfill insulation for extra warmth, dual leg arches for maximum movement, liner and hood loops for convenience, cross surcingles for a secure fit and a wipe clean tail strap for a secure fit. This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
Weatherbeeta - These blankets run in the mid price range. They come in light, medium and heavy weight options with different features and a standard drop. These blankets are a great option for horses with wider shoulders and bigger builds.
The ComFiTec Ultra line offers a 1680 denier ballistic nylon outer shell with Teflon coating that is both waterproof and breathable, a full wrap tail flap to wrap around the horse's hind quarters, shoulder darts with forward gussets for ultimate movement, adjustable, removable leg straps for a more secure fit, an adjustable belly wrap for extra warmth, a waterproof, removable hood, for extra protection, and a Cozi Guard for extra chest protection. This line comes in a heavy and medium weight option.
The ComFiTec Essential line offers a 1200 denier ripstop outer layer that is both waterproof and breathable, a 210 polyester lining, a traditional shoulder gusset for natural movement, and adjustable buckle front closure, adjustable and removal leg straps for a secure fit, a standard tail flay, low cross surcingles, and fleece wither relief. This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
Saxon - These blankets are in the lower price range. They fit horses with wide shoulders or larger builds well. They feature a 1200 denier ripstop, waterproof and breathable outer layer, twin, adjustable chest straps, shoulder gussets for increased movement, low cross surcingles and adjustable leg straps for a secure fit and a standard neck with fleece wither relief. This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
Shires - These blankets run in the lower price range. They have an extra drop to them, and shoulder gussets so fit broader horses well and horses that need extra coverage for warmth.
The Tempest Line offers a 600 denier ripstop, waterproof and breathable outer layer with taped seams to prevent leakage, adjustable buckle chest straps, adjustable cross surcingle and an adjustable fillet strap for a secure fit. This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
The Highlander Line offers a 600 denier ripstop, waterproof and breathable outer with taped seams to prevent leakage, deep shoulder gussets for increased movement, fully lined for extra warmth, twin buckle chest fastenings, adjustable cross surcingles, adjustable fillet strap, integrated leg strap loops, and a tail flap.This line comes in heavy, medium and lightweight options.
If you have any questions about how to measure your horse, which blanket may be the best option for you or blanket questions in general, our staff are all fully trained and happy to help! You can reach us by phone, email or in person!