Blankets: Not Your Mother's Rugs

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As the leaves start to turn, it’s time to think about blanketing once again. If your old blankets are no longer serviceable, you might find yourself shopping for replacements. Here are some new choices from leading manufacturers that can help you find the best protection for your horses, without sacrificing style or killing your wallet. These are only a sampling of what is out there. Check your local tack store or favorite catalog for even more options. And be sure to take a look through our slideshow.

FABRICS

Most blankets today feature synthetic fabrics that offer the combined benefits of durability, wicking properties, breathability, and protection against the environment. We are all pretty much familiar with the old staples, cotton and polyester. But viscose, polypropylene, nylon, ballistic nylon? And what is denier (D)? The lingo used in catalogs can be confusing. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Viscose: This is a form of wood acetate that is used to manufacture rayon. Viscose rayon is lightweight, silky, and drapes well (it tends to wrinkle though). It is breathable like cotton, but provides superior absorbency so is a good wicking fabric. It can tend to stretch and shrink more than cotton.
  • Polypropylene: This is a thermoplastic polymer that is used in everything from packaging materials to clothing. It is favored for use in clothing because it is very lightweight, yet offers good insulation and wicking properties. It tends to retain odors more than polyester, however.
  • Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic polymer that is lightweight, tough, and durable. It offers excellent abrasion resistance so often is used as a lining in blankets to help prevent rubs. Nylon is also resistant to mold, mildew, and fungus.
  • Ballistic nylon: This tough, thick nylon was originally developed for military applications, and was intended to protect the wearer from flying debris and artillery shells (hence the designation ‘ballistic’). This material, which features basket-weave construction, is predominant in today’s turnout clothing, since it can usually withstand the rigor of horseplay.
  • Denier: This refers to the weight, not the strength, of nylon. The higher the denier, the thicker the fiber, and vice-versa. Double-weave 1050 denier is the strongest and most durable for its weight.

Many blankets offer a combination of materials. The new WeatherBeeta 1000D Stretch Original turnout blanket, for instance, features a tough outer shell, stretch panels across the shoulders for maximum comfort, and their Wick-Easy lining for keeping the horse dry through fluctuating temperatures.

Many stable blankets, such as the Rider’s International NorthWind blanket, feature a nylon lining to protect the coat, polyester fiberfill, and a 1200 denier polyester shell. Horseware Ireland, makers of the Rambo, Rhino, and Amigo lines of horse clothing, are introducing the Amigo One-Piece Insulator stable blanket. Suitable for sensitive horses, this blanket features a uniform 200 grams of poly fill insulation from tip to tail, sandwiched between a tough outer layer of 210D ripstop polyester and a soft, polyester lining that shines the horse’s coat. Their original Amigo stable blanket now features the same lining and exterior material, but is available in a choice of 200g or 350g fill.

Of course, not all blankets follow this “high tech” construction model. The Original Baker 5A stable blanket, made by Curvon, is made entirely of a triple-woven acrylic fabric. The durability and warmth of this fabric makes the Baker a staple in many barns.

CUTS and FEATURES

Open any catalog, and you’ll find a dizzying array of choices that can help you customize a horse’s winter wardrobe.

The new WeatherBeeta Freestyle turnout blankets feature reflective panels on the front, sides, and tail flap for added visibility. Also new from WeatherBeeta is the Snug Fit system (available on their Detach-a-Neck styles), which features a waterproof fleece cuff that seals off the top of the neckpiece from wind, rain and cold. They also offer the Comfort Cuff, soft padding around the neckline that provides extra warmth and comfort. Weatherbeeta’s clip and dee front closures offer 10 different adjustments to achieve the best fit for your horse. All fittings on the WeatherBeeta blankets are rust resistant.

New to Horseware Ireland’s Amigo line is the Bravo 12 One-Piece, which prevents mane friction and is suitable even for sensitive horses. A seamless attached neck cover provides increased protection from wind and weather, and also offers a small flap to prevent exposure during movement. Their Rambo Optimo turnout rugs feature a 1000 denier ballistic nylon outer shell, antibacterial lining, and their Articulated Pivotal Dart system, which is a gusset behind the elbow that provides greater freedom of movement.

Rider’s International offers their Hug closure system, overlapping chest panels that allow the horse to move and graze without rubbing and binding. Schneider’s Saddlery offers a similar neck closure system on their line of blankets.

Other features available from a variety of manufacturers include:

  • Wither relief pad
  • Full- or extended-neck styles
  • Detachable neck
  • Interchangeable linings of different weights
  • Shoulder gussets and darts, for freedom of movement
  • Taped seams or seamless back construction
  • Leg straps
  • Tail flap
  • Expanded choice of colors and patterns

MEASURING FOR BLANKETS

Proper fit is key to a horse’s comfort and can also help prevent rubs and slipping. To find out what size blanket your horses need, measure the distance from the center of the chest to the center of the tail. Many blankets are sized in three-inch increments, so choose the closest size available.

For horses that fall in between sizes, consider contacting the manufacturer or visiting their website for guidance, since recommendations can vary. For Weatherbeeta Freestyle blankets, Gabriel Sperber, marketing director for Weatherbeeta, recommends going down a size. Horseware Ireland recommends going up a size for their Amigo and Rhino lines. However, their Rambo blankets run large so the company recommends subtracting four inches from your measurement, and choosing the size closest to that number.

BLANKET CARE

To keep your blankets as comfortable as possible for your horse and to maximize the blanket’s life, Mara Stephens, marketing assistant for Horseware Ireland, recommends cleaning your blankets annually. “First, remove excess dirt from the outside of the blanket with a brush and hose. Then, you can either wash the blanket by hand or in a commercial washer, but use the delicate cycle and cool water. Avoid hot water, and use only very mild soap. We recommend Rambo Rug Wash, an environmentally friendly product that’s designed for synthetic fabrics. It effectively removes dirt without damaging the waterproof coating.”

When the blanket has been washed, allow it to drip dry. Stephens cautions that using a dryer or storing the blanket before it is fully dry will damage the waterproof coating (and void the warranty). “In the unlikely event that your horse’s turnout should become nicked or damaged, we offer products to contain and waterproof the nicks that your blanket may incur through the years,” she notes. For additional guidance on blanket care, consult the manufacturer’s website.

With proper care and selection, your blankets should keep your horses warm and protected for many years.