Reply To: when should I use a horse blanket?

G & S
Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

It really depends on the weather. I am not familiar enough with typical Arizona weather to know if it gets cold enough to need a turnout blanket or not. I know that Arizona is in a desert area, but nights can still get cold, but rain is usually not an issue. A run-in shed is always a good addition, but building one in mid winter is not always feasible. Horses can manage without a run in with a good T/O blanket.

Here is a crash course in critical blanketing info.

1) There are 2 sizing systems – the older American 2″ increment sizes system and the newer European 3″ increment sizes. The problem is that each measures the horse differently. The traditional 2″ system measures the horse from the center of the chest to to butt crack. The newer European system measures from the center of the chest to the outside edge of one back leg, with the horse standing square. My recommendation would be to measure the horse both ways, then pay close attention to whether the T/O you are considering comes in 2″ or 3″ increment sizes. If you measure both ways and write both measurements down, you will be set to order the correct size in either system.

You also need to be aware that there are 3 sizes that appear in both systems: 72″, 78″, 84″. However, because the 2 systems measure the horse differently, these 3 sizes will often not fit the same. So if ordering or buying one of these blankets, make sure you use the correct measuring system.

2) There are 4 different T/O types available: The actual amount of fiberfill varies by manufacturer, so I have given a typical average.

-T/O Sheets – no fiberfill, but will provide rain and wind protection, and the horse will likely not get overheated if an unexpected warm spell happens. They should, however, have either a standard lining or a “fishnet” type lining, so the underside of the nylon layer does not lay directly on the horse’s back.

-Light Weight T/O Blanket – somewhere around 100 g of fiberfill, so warmer
than a T/O sheet, but not a lot warmer.

-Medium Weight T/O Blanket – somewhere around 200 g of fiberfill, and probably the most useful version for most people & horses. If it turns bitterly cold, one can always add a blanket liner for additional warmth.

-Heavy Weight T/O Blanket – somewhere around 300 g of fiberfill, a good choice for very very cold winters, but this weight is too warm for many horses in the fall and spring, so many horse owners will have a medium weight for fall & spring and a heavy weight for the depths of winter. This does mean 2 blankets to wash & repair every year.

3) D-Ratings of blanket material
Typical D-Ratings are 600D, 1200D, 1680D. The 600D blankets will be the least expensive, with the 1200D blankets being sturdier, a bit more expensive, and the best choice for many horses, while the 1680D blankets are even sturdier and a bit more expensive than the 1200D’s, but can be the best choice for horses in a herd who get bored in winter & play “Blanket Pull”. I repair horse blankets & my experience is that if you have one horse or one horse and minis & ponies, you can get away with a 600D. Otherwise, don’t buy anything less than 1200D. And if you have a really rowdy group, go with the 1680D’s. The price difference between 1200D & 1680D is usually less than the cost of repairs to a 1200D vrs cost of repairs to 1680, if you have a group that really gets into their games of “blanket pull” in the winter. The 1000D’s just do not hold up as well as one would expect, compared to a 1200D.

4) Budget for blanket repairs. Even the best horse living alone will tend to tear his/her blanket, even the 1680’s. Horses like the warmth, but have no concept of taking care of the blanket.

5) Leg straps – elastic vrs. webbing. Both work, there is more “give” with the elastic leg straps, but the webbing ones hold up longer, as the elastic ones tend to stretch out, losing the “give” factor, and sometimes ending up too long for safety. Look for a T/O that has 4 D-Rings for leg strap attachment, and leg straps that have snaps at all 4 ends. Even the best snaps can get dirt, mud & ice in the snap part. With 2 snaps per leg strap, you will usually have one that works, so you can get the blanket off, then work on getting the jammed snap open with pliers, WD-40, and some time, with the T/O off the horse. Some T/O manufacturers save a few pennies by stitching one end of each leg strap to the underside of the blanket. Other use a loop in the webbing or elastic leg strap instead of a snap for one end. In both cases there will be only 1 snap per leg strap, so if that one snap jams, the leg strap will have to be cut to get the T/O off. The cost difference between 4 leg strap D-Rings and 4 snaps, and either of the the short cuts above is minimal. But manufacturers will continue to make blankets this way until enough horse owners stop buying blankets that don’t have 4 leg strap D-Rings and 4 snaps. I will now climb down from my hobby horse.

6) Most T/O’s (and nowadays, most stall blankets) come with leg straps. However, if you decide to go with the Rambo, Rhino & Amigo blankets from Horsewear Ireland, these do not come with D-Rings or Leg Straps. They do come with a butt strap. Gorgeous blankets, and worth the $300 price, but I disagree with their idea that their blankets fit so well they do not need leg straps, and only a butt strap is needed. Leg straps can also prevent the horse from rolling out of hisher blanket, which a butt strap will not do. Leg straps & Leg Strap Attachment D-Rings can be added by most blanket repair places.

There are also T/O’s that come with 2″ wide leg straps. I suggest you stay away from these T/O’s, stall blankets, sheets, etc. There are at least 5 design flaws with this type of leg straps, and they inevitably will tear out, since they are usually stitched to a back corner, often tearing out a good chunk of blanket with the leg strap. There is simply no way to attach these leg straps so they will not tear out or off.

7) Many T/O’s come with 3 or 4 neck cover attachment D-Rings, so you can add a neck cover. Some T/O’s come with an attached neck cover, that is not removable, so this type of T/O is probably not a good choice for an
only T/O as it may be too warm

8) Surcingle Issues
Most T/O’s come with 2 sets of “low crossed surcingles”, although some do use a single “California style” wrap-around surcingle. Either can work, but if you have a choice, look for low crossed surcingles that have a small piece of 2″ webbing sewn on the underside at the bottom of each of the 4 surcingles. The horses movement tends to cause the heavy thread used to attach the surcingles to the blanket to literally saw through first the lining material, then the top nylon layer. T/O’s that have this little piece of nylon webbing will last years longer without the surcingles slicing the material at the bottom line of stitching. SmartPak blankets and Horsewear Ireland blankets typically come with this valuable type of reinforcing.

If you find a T/O with a single “California style” single surcingle, which is attached to the bottom edge of the blanket on each side. This type of surcingles are usually reinforced on both the top side & underside, but the material is often vinyl, which is a bad choice, as vinyl is very sensitive to UV rays, which make the vinyl brittle, and liable to serious crack. Nylon webbing is not sensitive to UV rays, but vinyl is less expensive for the blanket manufacturer, as the reinforcements can be punch-cut, while webbing typically only comes in widths up to 4″, and needs to be heat-cut, as the heat-cutting blade seals the edges so they don’t ravel as it cuts.

7) Each manufacturer has a different set of patterns, so the blankets will fit differently, even though the same size. For example, Dover sells a line of gorgeous 1680D North Wind T/Os. Well made, well designed, but the entire line runs small through the chest. Great if you have a horse with a smaller chest, such as a narrower TB or an Arabian, but they don’t list that fact in the paper or on-line catalogs.

6) If the horse has never been blanketed before, be prepared for him to have an initial negative reaction. Horses have survived as a species for thousands of years by reacting first and thinking later to “a predator” on his/her back. Try laying some old towels on the horse back first, and always have 2 people – – one to hold the lead line and one (the more agile person) to put the towel or blanket on. Let the horse smell the blanket, and if possible distract him/her with treats while the towels or blanket are being put on.

If I missed anything, ask & I will try to answer.