Is your horse going to be properly dressed for the upcoming winter season? After a hot, humid summer, horse owners are pumped for a fun fall including hacks and post-show season vacations before prepping for the winter circuit.
This year’s Farmers Almanac 2016/2017 predictions for winter weather predict colder and snowier weather in many parts of Canada and the USA. (Click to read a summary of this year’s weather predictions.) Unless you have the luxury of spending the entire winter season somewhere sunny and warm, you need to make sure you have a variety of winter blankets for your horse to make sure they stay comfortable. If you are planning on clipping your horse or keeping him/her turned out on pasture board all winter, you may want to discuss your horse’s specific needs with your coach, trainer or someone knowledgable at your barn.
(If you are buying blankets for the first time, check out our article which includes a fitting guide, tips and tricks on How to Buy a New Horse Blanket.)
Here is a list of blankets you should consider having on hand for 2016/2017!
Cotton/mixed-blend stable sheet
Does your barn leave doors partially open at night? If so, you may want to consider a cotton blanket or mixed-blend stable sheet. Mixed blend material includes polyester, polypropylene or other types of synthetic material. These synthetic blends tend to make the blanket more durable if your horse is hard on his blankets or your mare’s sheets require frequent washing. Keep in mind that 100% cotton blankets should always be hung to dry to avoid shrinkage in the dryer, even if the label says pre-shrunk. Look for a design with gussets in the shoulders, which are ideal for wide-shouldered breeds like draft types, warmbloods and Quarter Horses. In addition to belly straps, the sheet should have D-rings for hind-leg straps which will prevent slipping of the sheet if they move around a lot or lie down in their stalls.
For unexpected fall showers, your horse will be most comfortable in a rain sheet. If your horse is unclipped, a breathable rain sheet that allows body heat to dissipate if she’s running around with friends but prevents water from leaving her soaked and chilly. Look for one with mesh-type lining to prevent her from overheating. The benefit of these rain sheets is that barn staff can easily throw them over a light stable sheet on cooler days without your horse getting sweaty and hot. The amount of denier on a blanket indicates the fibre thickness, so a high denier count means the blanket will be durable against pony playtime. A tail flap will prevent blowing wind and rain from sneaking onto the hindquarters. Always select an outdoor blanket with hind D-rings to prevent accidents in the field.
Quilted stable sheet
Any blanket or stable sheet that you use on your clipped horse should generally have some fill in it once the ice and snow make an arrival in your area. The fill indicates how many grams of fiberfill or polyfill the blanket contains, which should tell you roughly how warm it is. Think of a winter coat: the more fill means the more insulation will keep you warm! With horses, the fill tends to be synthetic material because it is more breathable in case your horse is running and playing. Something like a down fill would quickly overheat a horse, but synthetic fill is an equine-friendly method of keeping them appropriately warm.
Rainsheet (with fill)
This is a waterproof turnout blanket with a low amount of fill (usually 50-180 grams) that will keep a partially-clipped horse warm in windy, cold or rainy weather even without a stable sheet underneath. (If your horse has a clipped neck, consider a turnout with a neck attachment.) This sheet should be paired with a stable sheet if it is being used as a turnout blanket for snow or extremely cold days.
Outdoor Turnout Blanket
Outdoor turnout blankets are designed to be weather-resistant, durable and come in many different fills depending on your needs. A medium-weight fill would be in the 200 gram fill range, and a heavy-weigh fill reaches as high as 400 grams of fill. By layering a lighter indoor stable sheet and a heavier outdoor turnout, a clipped horse can get as much protection from the elements as required! (If your horse has a clipped neck, consider a turnout with a neck attachment.)