What to Look For When Buying a Horse Blanket
Guide to Horse Blankets
There is a great range of horse blankets (called rugs in some countries) and it is easy to get thoroughly muddled about what to buy for your equine friend. It is even possible to buy foal blankets. Whether you want a waterproof horse blanket or a cheap horse rug depends on your situation.
So much depends on your circumstances that spending a little while working out exactly what you need will pay dividends. If your horse is a tough ‘native’ breed who has good shelter in his field and normally lives out you may not need a paddock blanket. Perhaps you just need something to put on your horse to keep him clean after washing. If he is a thin-skinned hot blood and clipped as well, he will definitely need protection from the elements.
Paddock, all purpose or turnout blankets are used when the horse is turned out in the field. These blankets are waterproof and tough. The thickness and/or filling can vary according to the temperatures expected. There are now a number of different fillings which are lightweight but extremely warm. Many blankets have a tailpiece which comes down over the top of the tail preventing rain from being blown in under the rug. There are several different methods of securing blankets. Particularly efficient is the method involving twin crossing surcingles where, in addition to a fastening on the chest, two webbing straps are sewn on the rub equalising the tension by starting from the point of each shoulder, crossing under the girth and continuing to the top of the hindquarters.
Horses living out in winter or let out for a few hours a day normally need a New Zealand rug. They are fastened across the chest and have leg straps to prevent them being dislodged if the horse rolls.
Stable blankets are worn in the stable and don’t need to be waterproof. Nylon quilted blankets have a brushed nylon or cotton lining and are both light and warm. If you can’t afford both a paddock and stable blanket, a paddock blanket will usually suffice. Stable blankets can be heavy, medium or lightweight.
Fly and summer sheets are thin. Horses that are sensitive to fly and mosquito bites will benefit from wearing a flysheet during the summer.
Exercise blankets come in varying sizes and are not full size. They may sit under the saddle covering the croup and quarters or cover the rider’s legs as well. Waterproof exercise blankets are available in fluorescent material and are useful if you need to exercise your horse on the roads during periods of low visibility.
Sweat blankets (or anti-sweat blankets) are used after exercise or bathing. They will absorb sweat and dampness and help prevent chills while the horse cools down and dries off. They are usually made of cotton mesh, creating air pockets next to the body to insulate the horse against extremes of hot and cold. They can be used for extra warmth at night if needed. A simple jute blanket placed under the turnout blanket will serve the same purpose.
Horse blankets come in varying thicknesses from a single layer to quilted fabrics for use in freezing conditions. If conditions are really cold, there are various neck blankets available too as well as hoods which cover the head down to the nose. The ears may protrude through holes or there may be ear covers.
If possible, buy two blankets. It is easy for one to get wet or filthy and having a replacement allows time for the first one to be cleaned or dried. There is nothing wrong with second-hand blankets particularly as a back-up but try to get the correct size. Blankets are usually measured along the bottom edge from centre of chest to level with the tail. Blankets increase in size in increments of 3 inches. Most rugs nowadays have pleats at the shoulder (and sometimes at the hip) which allow freedom of movement and prevent rubbing.
Before spending hard-earned money on a rug, peruse a couple of catalogues. Pay a visit to your nearest saddlery shop and inspect what’s available. Buying summer rugs in the winter and vice versa may mean you can take advantage of sale prices.