While we’ve been enjoying a terrifically warm fall so far across the Wasatch front, our local horse owners know that blanket weather isn’t far off.
Whether you’re a horse owner who waits for the daytime temps to dip near freezing before you cover the horses, or one of the owners who offers extra protection as soon as the nighttime thermometer shows temperatures in the 30s, we’re all well aware that it will be soon time to haul out our winter blankets.
Before blanketing the horses, we want to be certain that their blankets are clean. If you need to freshen them up from their time in storage since late spring, you can hang them out for a bit of air on a dry and breezy day.
If your blankets are in need of additional cleaning before they’re put back into commission for a full winter’s use, we recommend washing them, preferably in a sturdy industrial washing machine. If your washer at home isn’t up to the task, you can take it to a laundromat or to a professional cleaner.
Check local classified listings (ksl.com for example) to locate services for cleaning and/or repairing your blankets. If there are any tears left over from last winter, you’ll want to make sure those are patched or sewn up before putting the blanket on your horse. While even small holes allow cold and moisture to enter and make the horse uncomfortable, a tear is also an added opportunity for the blanket to snag on something and frighten your horse. Those scares can often lead to injury.
If you need to replace overly-worn blankets, now is the time to do so. Check out local Salt Lake-area resources (IFA, AA Callisters on Redwood Road, Cal-Ranch or Horse Crazy down in Draper). If you prefer online shopping, Schneiders (SStack.com) always has an ample selection and good prices. Watch sales at SmartPak and Dover Saddlery as well.
Measure your horse BEFORE ordering or purchasing a new blanket. Make sure the blanket will be comfortable, allowing room for easy and unrestricted movement, but not so large that it will be sloppy and slide around on the horse.
Some designs are closed in the front; nice for the horses who are calm, well trained and conditioned to blanket wearing, and do not mind having the blanket pulled over their head when you take it off. However; younger or unseasoned horses will not appreciate this feature and you’re advised to buy a blanket that opens in the front. Many are now created with easy clips, saving you time and helping prevent daily buckling and unbuckling of the front straps.
You can invest in a belly band design or choose one that has two bottom straps. If your style features the two separate lower straps, make sure to cross them for an enhanced fit. The lower straps or belly band should be snug enough that a foot cannot easily slip through and get caught if a horse were to lay down or scratch himself, but certainly not too tight.
The back straps go under the back legs. Those too should be crossed to help keep the blanket securely in place and fend off unwanted shifting.
The outer shell of most turnout blankets is waterproof or at the very least weather resistant. If your horse lives in an indoor stall that is not subject to rain or snow and you simply want to offer him additional warmth in his stall, you may select a stable blanket. Stable blankets, however; are not weatherproof and cannot be worn outdoors where they will become wet (they will simply soak through and you’ll have a very uncomfortable horse).
Does your horse have to be blanketed? In many cases, no. If the horse is of a good weight, healthy, and grows a fuzzy winter coat, there is a very good chance that a blanket is not entirely warranted. If your horse has been clipped or has any condition that slows the growth of a good, insulating winter coat, if she is older or thin or not in optimum health for any reason, then a blanket is highly recommended.
Get ready for wintertime now and prepare a comfortable blanket for the horses that need them.