Summer and winter, horses in your barn wear sheets and blankets. Count those as two outfits per horse—and some horses may require as many as six sheets, blankets, and coolers. Horse clothing can outgrow your tack room, and expand into barn-aisle clutter. Equally bad, stacks of big, bulky, and heavy blankets are prone to damage. And horse clothing can be expensive: The average blanket costs $70 to $150, with high-end, high-tech blankets and show coolers retailing up to $300.
To help you prevent blanket overload, we’ve developed a three-step plan. Whether you manage 10 or 200 blankets, it’s possible to preserve a balance of tidy storage, easy access, and security of valuable property.
Step 1: Label
First, practice a policy of identifying all the articles of horse clothing in the barn. Match each horse with its clothing, and plan how to label every item by its ownership.
You can label clothing with a permanent marker, writing on belly or leg straps. For a sharper look, attach bridle tags to chest straps, engraved with the owner’s name. Or, order fabric name tags to sew onto the binding on the blanket’s front or neck opening.
Barn-owned clothing: Do your horses share blankets? If so, you can mark your blankets with the size in inches and your barn name or initials. Identify blankets assigned to a specific horse with the horse’s name.
Boarders’ horses: Instruct boarders to identify their property with either their last names or horses’ names. To distinguish boarder-owned clothing further, supply a different color of marker (red for you, black for them) or suggest they order fabric name tags.
With a large number of horses, instruct the barn staff in your labeling scheme. Anyone who blankets the horses should be able to identify what clothing matches which horse, and the differences between barn and boarders’ property.
One way to keep your articles separate is to buy a single brand and color scheme. Monograms permanently identify ownership, although they increase the expense.
To document the details on who owns what, you might conduct an inventory along with labeling. The effort protects your investment, which can total thousands of dollars.
Step 2: Sort for Daily Access
You’ve scoped the volume of horse clothing on site. Now, control clutter by sorting blankets into categories: active use, special occasion, or seasonal use. Depending on the current season, you’ll have either lightweight sheets or heavier blankets on the horses. A single horse could have a daily wardrobe of sheet for the stall and fly sheet for paddock (summer), or stable blanket and layered turnout (winter). Colder months could add blanket liner and hood. Special occasion outfits include show coolers and rain sheets.
Here’s where you designate locations for all horse clothing. Every blanket stores either horizontally (folded and stacked) or vertically (hung on a rack). Racks need more wall space, but let fabrics breathe to reduce mildew.
The in-use blankets increase the potential for clutter, so arrange for daily access. Choose one of three options for the horse’s everyday blanket. 1) When not on the horse, fold the blanket on its back seam and fold again to hang it on a stall-front blanket bar. 2) Add stall-front blanket bags to each blanket bar. The folded blanket hides in the bag. Using bags makes the barn aisle tidier, although it takes time to stow and remove the blanket. 3) Hang the blanket in a designated place in the tack room. The swing-arm blanket rack allows the blanket to hang full length for ventilation. Save space by installing adjustable blanket bars that fold flat when not in use. Similarly, swing-arm racks fold flat against the wall.
Horses may alternate between two blankets every day, such as a stable sheet in the stall and a turnout in the paddock. In this case, assign a storage site for the blanket not in use. Set up a temporary location near the grooming stall to place the in-use blanket when the horse is groomed or exercised.
Step 3: Store Long-Term
Where’s the best storage site for clothing not in daily use? In your tack room, you might combine horizontal stacking and vertical hanging. Swing-arm blanket bars encourage air circulation for the thick, insulated blankets. The hanging four-bar blanket rack stacks four blankets, sheets, or coolers in layers folded over each bar. It takes less space, but requires you to feed each folded blanket over rails that are close together.
A new blanket bar from Apple Picker includes three rails for three blankets (www.applepicker.com). “It’s popular because it’s adjustable and can store three against the wall,” said Apple Picker’s John Tackett. Adjust the bar three ways: flat, straight out from the wall, or angled at 45 degrees.
To stack on shelves, fold horse clothing in half and then quarters. To keep clean blankets dust-free, designate one or more tack trunks for long-term storage.
There is a new way to store all of your equine equipment whether at home or on the show circuit. SaddleLockers.com offers galvanized equipment lockers for multiple disciplines that come in stay-at-home varieties and types designed to be quickly folded and stored, but secure at show grounds.
For off-season blankets, plan to put them away safely, off the ground and away from heat, light, and dampness. “At the end of the season, wash the blanket, air-dry it thoroughly, and store it in an airtight location to reduce breakdown of the blanket fabric,” advises Eoin Bracken of Buca blankets. “The top-of-the-line blankets have an antimicrobial treatment to maintain the fibers.”
Consider hazards that affect the textiles you’re putting away. Rodents can destroy fibers of any natural or man-made fabric. Unless your barn is completely mouse-free, protect blankets from those sharp teeth and claws. Wool coolers—still considered top-of-the-line—are at risk from moth damage.
Adjust storage to weather conditions. In a humid climate, blankets can develop mildew. A moist barn with mice infestation presents a real challenge, because you must guard against the critters yet allow air circulation. One solution is to construct wooden cupboards with sides or door fronts lined with metal screen mesh.
With this three-step plan, you’ll maximize the “closet space” for horse clothing in your barn. Organization keeps clothing accessible, tidy, and ready for use.