It’s amazing how much one horse can accomplish in blanket destruction, never mind the damage several horses together can muster up.
What can you do to save your blanket investments?
Before repairing a horse blanket, clean it according to instructions on the manufacturer’s label. Usually this involves shaking off all the loose dirt, then hanging it over a rail or laying it out on level ground. Use a shedding blade or a strong currycomb to knock off any encrusted mud, dirt and manure. Next, use a stiff broom followed by a quick once-over with a shop-type vacuum to remove any leftover dirt or hair.
There are several options for washing, from hand cleaning to using a heavy-duty washing machine. Coin-operated, self-service car washes can provide a good hand washing. Blankets can be laid flat on the ground, or slung over a pick-up truck and washed one side at a time. A portable, aluminum saddle rack can also be set up, but may not stand up to a high-pressure spray. It is definitely a better choice to use a mild pressure sprayer like the kind used around the farm to spray fertilizer or weed spray.
A final caution:?Be sure to use only the rinse option. Auto soap is very harsh and extremely difficult to rinse out of a blanket.
If you opt for a washing machine, it’s best to use a commercial-grade machine like those found at a laundromat. Large-capacity home washing machines work all right for sheets or lightweight blankets, but not for heavier winter-type blankets.
When washing a blanket that is water repellent, turn it inside out to protect the treatment. Otherwise, wash it with the dirtiest side out.
Choosing the correct water temperature is also important. Hot is best for cleaning purposes but can cause the color to fade. Cold water is the poorest for cleaning, because it tends to leave in odor and oils. Warm water is probably the best choice and it works well with most types of soap.
Use care in selecting the soap, too. Many are difficult to rinse out, and some will weaken the water repellency of the blanket. Woolite and Ivory are good choices and are unlikely to bother a horse’s skin.
Sue Oliver of Meadow Branch Farm in Hedgesville, W.V., washes blankets in Nikwax Tech Wash. This bio-degradable product removes dirt while leaving water repellency intact. Nikwax can be purchased at outdoor clothing stores or on-line at www.nikwax-usa.com.
No matter the method, blankets should be rinsed at least twice to make sure all residue is removed.
Checking for Damage
Now it’s time to check the blanket for rips and tears both inside and out.
Patching a blanket is not difficult. First, use a patch material that matches the original as closely as possible. It is a good idea to keep old blankets for this purpose. If you don’t have any blanket scraps available, use canvas, Cordura and duck material for outside blanket repair, and felt or flannel for inside repair. If you are repairing an insulated blanket, you can replace the insulation with a little pillow stuffing under the patch.
There are two basic ways to secure a patch: sewing and gluing. Unless you have access to an industrial-strength sewing machine, you will probably have to sew by hand using a leather awl or large darning needle. Whether you sew by hand or machine, use a waxed thread—it is stronger and will hold the patch longer. And the best wax thread is dental floss, which is inexpensive and comes in several colors.
If sewing is not your forte you can glue the patch. A hot-melt glue gun and a few glue sticks will do the trick. Fabric adhesive, like the kind for work clothes, also works well. It can be purchased at department or farm stores.
Be sure to check the straps as well. Repair whiz Deb Kelln of Kelln’s Quarter Horses in Dundurn, Saskatchewan, Canada, said, “I make my own leg straps and other replacement parts to fit each individual need using materials suitable to the job. That may be elastic, webbing or leather.” Many times replacing straps will mean replacing hardware as well, so it is a good idea to keep extra surcingles, buckles, snaps and o-rings on hand. If front straps are broken, the best solution may be to sew the fronts together and make the blanket a closed-front pullover, as Cinda Williams of Crosstar Equestrian Center, Verden, Oklahoma, does.
The last step is to make sure the blanket’s water repellency is intact. Washing, heavy use and abrasion can deteriorate water repellency, making it necessary to reapply waterproofing products every so often. Be sure to check the blanket manufacturer’s recommendations first.
If you need to treat a blanket, there are three options—wash in, spray on and brush on. The Nikwax brand provides several products formulated for horse blankets that can be applied any of the three ways. Spray-on ScotchGuard is another commonly used application.
Aggie Peters, a.k.a. The Blanket Lady, of Giradin’s Blanket Repair in Brighton, Colorado, has used Thompson’s Water Seal waterproofing (usually used as a wood sealant) on blankets. “This needs to be applied by brush or roller in temperatures over 55 degrees, using two coats, 24 hours apart,” she said. “It leaves a tacky feeling, but it will make the blanket more resistant to tears,” she added.
Once your blankets are clean, repaired and water repellent, they should be ready to use again—until the next equine wrecking crew.