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- Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM
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- Barn Biosecurity. Why it matters!
- Thrush. What is it? How do I treat it?
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- Grazing Muzzles and Metabolic Syndrome
- Shoo Fly! Horses vs. Flies ...
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Tips for Horse
Flash and Drop Nose Bands - Which?FLASH AND DROP NOSEBANDS
Purpose: Flash Nosebands and Drop Nosebands prevent certain mouth problems like opening the mouth and sticking out the tongue that effectively stops the contact that a rider has with the horse.
Severity: Drop nosebands are more severe than flash. Drop nosebands put pressure on the softer cartilage of the horse’s nose, whereas the flash sits higher on the harder bone and because of its wider width, spreads the pressure over a greater area.
Fit: The cavesson part of the flash noseband sits between one and two finger widths below the cheekbone and the flash part always sits above the soft cartilage of the nose. This ensures that it does not interfere with the horse’s breathing.
The drop noseband is trickier to fit correctly and can cause problems when done incorrectly. Because of this, if you can achieve the control that you need, the flash is the safer way to go. Fitted too high and it can press the bit up against the corners of the horse’s mouth and too low and it can effect the horse’s breathing.
Do I need a Horse Sheet or Blanket?
Horse Blankets vs. Horse Sheets:Does my horse need a blanket or a sheet?
Well... depending upon where you live, the answer may vary! In some regions a "sheet" is a turnout that has no fiberfill. It's pretty sturdy, and probably comes in a medium or heavyweight "blanket" version that does have fiberfill. In other parts of the country, a "sheet" is a super light cotton or nylon horse covering that definitely isn't strong enough to stand up to the abuse of turnout.
Both are useful articles of horse clothing, but it can be pretty confusing when they are called the same thing!!
To try to simply things, at Equestrian Collections we've separated our basic horse blankets into two groups Horse Turnout Blankets, and Horse Sheets:Turnouts: If you want a sturdy, waterproof horse covering that can stand up to the abuse of pasture turnout, you want a Turnout Blanket . Remember, just because it's a blanket, doesn't mean it has to be super warm. Most Turnout Blankets come in three weights - light, medium, and heavy. The lightweight turnout blankets generally have no insulation, and are basically sturdy horse raincoats that can stand a lot of abuse.Sheets: If it's summer, and you are more concerned about keeping your horse clean, at home or at the shows, you probably want a sheet. Sheets come in a variety of fabrics, most frequently cotton, nylon, or microfiber. They tend to be cool and lightweight. While some are adequate for turn out, if you have a rough tumble horse, or turn out in a herd, you probably don't want to turn your horse out in a sheet. It may not last the night!Hot, sticky, and buggy? Sheet too warm? If a sheet isn't the right answer, it may be that what you really want is a fly sheet. If you want maximum ventilation, and minimum bug irritation, check out Equestrian Collections selection of Fly Protection!
Choosing the Right Horse Blanket
What Type of Horse Blanket is Best for My Horse?Horse Blankets come in three basic types: Turnout Blankets, Stable Blankets, and Sheets. There is no right or wrong blanket choice. The ideal blanket for your horse will be based on the environment in which your horse lives, the types of weather you experience in your local area, and how much time you have to spend blanketing (and un-blanketing!) your horse.
- Stable Blankets: Stable Blankets are designed to keep horses warm in a stall or stable situation. If you live in a cold climate and your horse spends most of the time indoors, a stable blanket may be the best choice for you. Stable blankets are also a good choice for winter shipping, and are an excellent choice for body clipped horses that are stalled. (Remember, in most climates, a body clipped horse should be kept covered) The important thing to remember about stable blankets is that they are generally NOT waterproof. A stable blanket that is used outdoors in the rain can act like a sponge, soak up water, and actually make your horse colder.
- Turnout Blankets: Turnout Blankets are designed to withstand the rigors of pasture turnout- both in terms of weather and horse play! These hardy blankets are generally waterproof, breathable, and made of tough fabrics. If you can only have one blanket for your horse, a good turnout is probably the best choice. Just because it is made to be used outdoors, doesn't mean it can't double as a stable blanket!
- Horse Sheets: Horse Sheets are multi-purpose cover-ups that are used anytime you need lightweight coverage for you horse. Sheets can be used in the summer when you want to keep the dust off, or to prevent sun fading, or in a stall situation when you want your horse clean, but don't need the warmth of a stable blanket. If you show, a sheet is critical for keeping your horse clean and ready for the ring. Some sheets are hardy enough for turnout, but beware, many a horse owner has gone to catch up their horse to find them wearing the taters of a lovely sheet!
What Weight of Horse Blanket Is Appropriate?Turnout Blankets are generally available in three "weights" based on the amount of insulation ("fill") in the blanket : Light Weight Turnout (no fill) Medium Weight Turnout (approximately 200grams of fill); and Heavy Weight Turnout (300+ grams of fill ).
Stable Blankets are similarly categorized, although they will generally have higher "fill" weights, and much lighter exterior fabric: Light Weight Stable Blanket ; Medium Weight Stable Blanket; and Heavy Weight Stable Blanket. Because Stable blankets do not have to be waterproof, you will also have a wider variety of insulation materials. You will find everything from traditional wool blankets, to high tech fleece.
How do you know what weight your horse needs? Here are some basic guide lines for a horse with a moderate hair coat, and days without extreme winds or heavy precipitation:
Temperature Blanket Weight Blanket Weight w/ Liner 35-50° F Light Weight N/A 25-35° F Medium Weight Light Weight w/ Liner 10-25° F Heavy Weight Medium Weight w/ Liner Below 10° F Heavy Weight plus Stable BlanketRemember, these are just guidelines! Just like people, some horse tend to be hot and sweaty, and others need more covering. Additionally, be aware of factors others than temperature. A bright, sunny, but very cold day, may require less blanket than an overcast, wet day. Use common sense! When in doubt, err on the side of under-blanketing. Just like you, it is not a good idea for you horse to get sweaty under layers of heavy blanket.
Do you live in an area with wide temperature swings? Try a blanket that has optional liners. These ingenious systems combine Turnout Blankets with fitted liners of varying weights. This allows you to change out the liner based on the temperature. Additional, these combos are generally much easier and faster to change than completely swapping blankets. If you swap blankets on a lot of horse daily, a liner system may be the best option.
How to Fit a Grazing MuzzleHow to Fit a Grazing Muzzle
So you've decided that your horse needs a grazing muzzle. Now, the question is, how to fit the thing?!
Fitting a grazing muzzle is a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you need the muzzle to be neither too big, nor too small, but just right. If the muzzle is too big, the horse will be able to shift the basket up over their nose. If the muzzle is too tight, it will rub whenever the horse chews and cause sores.
You want to be able to fit about a finger's width between the basket edge and the horse face. But, remember, if you can pull the basket off the horse's nose, so can your horse!!
There are two basic types of muzzles, those that attach to a regular halter, and those that come with their own headstall. In general, the ones that attach to a regular halter are shorter and fit a bit lower on the head. They will fit a wider variety of horses, but can be somewhat easier for a horse to get off. The ones with their own headstall are deeper, and ride higher on the face, making them a better choice for "houdini" horses!
If you are buying a muzzle for general use in your barn, one that attaches to a halter is a good choice. If you are purchasing one for long term use on a specific horse, an all in one is probably your best bet.
How do you know if your horse needs a muzzle? Check out Ask the Vet!
Bathing Your Horse
Helpful Hints for Bath Time
At my last horse show, as my large, mostly white, five year old Gypsy gelding walked into the warm-up ring, someone asked me, "How long does it take you to get him that white?" With a chuckle I replied, "Five years!"
Bottom line, you cannot get a white horse, or a horse with a white tail, or white feathers, clean and sparkling white by just bathing him a day before the horse show. The key to a clean horse is commitment and consistency. Get dirty hair clean before it becomes stained hair!
Start with the Tail:Wet the tail well with warm water, then wash it with your favorite shampoo. The secret to getting tails clean is to wet every hair, which is not as easy as it sounds, especially with thick tails. I find that Horse Spa Tail Buckets are a fantastic tool for getting tails really clean. For a white tail, after shampooing and dumping the dirty water out of the tail bag, try putting some whitener back into the bag with a little more water and tying it back up. Let it soak while you work on the rest of the horse.
Move on to the Mane:The soaking each hair applies to the mane as well. I like to use a mounting block to get up and over the top of the neck. This allows you to wash the mane right down to the roots.
Time for the Body:When bathing the body, I choose a shampoo that is safe to use often. Vetrolin the Stübben Hair Care Line are two top quality shampoos. Wet the body with warm water, and use them as directed. For especially dirty spots on the body, like grass stains or manure stains, try putting shampoo directly onto a Grooma Soft Touch Massage Brush and work the lather into the stain. Let it sit while you work on the rest of the body. This works well with general problem areas as well, like hocks and knees.
Don't forget to check the sheath or teat area!
Many horses have white legs, and in my case, feathers! For the sake of your back, train your horse to stand quietly while you pull up a stool and sit to work on his legs. I have one of those little garden stools with wheels that works great. Be VERY CAREFUL when you do this, even the most well trained horses can surprise you with a sudden move.
After you thoroughly rinse the body and legs, be sure to scrape off the excess water with a scraper. This is important because leaving water on the horse's body creates insulation and will not allow heat to escape. If you don't scrape off excess water your horse can overheat quickly in hot summer weather. Rinse and scrape both sides several times until you feel sure that all the soap has been rinsed out.
A quick tip for the next morning when you find dirty spots on your show ready horse, or when you unload him from the trailer and find manure stains on his clean tail and legs, give the Shapley's Easy Out No Rinse Shampoo a try!
And Back to the Tail:Now back to the tail, which has been soaking. After taking off the tail bag and dumping the whitener, you can leave the tail to dry if the whitener you use allows for that. Be sure to check the label to be sure the product you use does not need to be rinsed out. You can also condition the mane and tail at this time if you like. Again, check the labels for directions. Some whitener products can be sprayed on a wet or dry tail and left on without rinsing.
Finally, the Face:The face is the last thing. Be very, very careful! Some horses just won't stand for hosing the face; it can be a very dangerous thing for both horse and human. Use a shampoo that's safe for the eyes, even human baby shampoo is a good choice. If the horse will not tolerate hosing the face, don't push the issue. Wash his face with a washcloth and towel instead. If he allows you to rinse his face, a bar of baby soap is an easy way to wash his face and not get soap in his eyes.
Remember, the most important part of keeping a horse clean is that he has a healthy hair coat! Shiny coats come from the inside. Clean ones come from consistent work and elbow grease!Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author: Debby Stansell, Alaria Moss Gypsy Horses
Prep Your New Leather Tack
Preparing New Leather Tack for Use
You've spent hours researching the perfect tack for your horse. You've scrimped and saved until you can afford to buy it. You've carefully fitted it on your horse, so you know you will not need to return it. Now you get to ride, right?! But, WAIT! Before you ride in your new tack, you need to prepare it for use.
The goal? Remove the waxy coating that comes on most new tack, so that it can absorb enough oil to protect and soften the leather. If you don't, you run the risk of damaging your brand new tack.
Get out your tack cleaning supplies and follow these steps. Remember, you can't return your new tack after you have cleaned it, so be sure it fits!
What You Need:
- Glycerin Soap: Glycerin Soap comes in a bar or tub. The natural fats or oils in glycerin soap allows it to clean leather without drying it out, and also help preserve your leather. Glycerin Soap is safe to use every time you ride, so make sure you always have a bar or a tub on hand.
- Neatsfoot Oil: Neatsfoot Oil will supple your leather quickly and safely. This is a rich compound that will not rot stitching. With deep, penetrating oil, Neatsfoot is excellent for restoring leather after storage or prolonged use in the rain.
- Tack Sponges: Any sort of sponge will do, but tack sponges are a convenient size to get into all the little tight spaces on tack.
- Soft Cloth or Towel: Keep a pile of old (clean!) soft towels around, or purchase barn towels if you don't have any old ones.
- Small Bucket : And sort of small bucket, or large plastic container will do.
Step by Step:
- 1. Make sure all buckle are open and tack pieces are taken apart before you start. This will ensure that every piece of tack gets treated.
- 2. Fill a small bucket with very warm water
- 3. Wet your tack sponge, then squeeze out excess water
- 4. Rub the damp sponge over the glycerin soap to get it nice and soapy, but not sudsy. If you get a lot of suds, your sponge is too wet.
- 5. Rub the soap over every piece of smooth leather, including the back sides. Rub vigorously enough that you remove the thin wax coating. (Note: DO NOT clean suede portions, like knee rolls!)
- 6. Rinse, re-wet, and re-soap the sponge as needed (with a lot of tack, you may need to dump and replace your water)
- 7.Wipe all excess soap and suds off your tack with a clean, dry cloth. Wipe until your tack is dry
- 8. Using a new cloth, wipe a thin layer of Neatsfoot Oil over every surface of your new tack. Repeat until the leather stops absorbing oil. (Alternately, for bridles and small items, you can fill a small bucket with oil, place the tack into the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes.)
- 9. Wipe all excess oil off your tack with a dry towel (leaving on excess oil just causes dust to stick to it)
- 10. When tack is completely dry, put all the pieces back together!
It is worth it to take the time to prepare tack for use before you use it. The oiled leather will be protected from sweat and dirt. It will be soft and supple, and therefore more comfortable for you and your horse. Well oiled tack also repels water, keeping it safe from rain, humidity, and mold.
All you have to do to keep your tack in good shape from here on out is to wipe down after each use and condition it about once a month. There are a number of wonderful cleaner/conditioner combinations on the market that are good for everyday use. Try out a few until you find the one that works for you.
Note: These instructions are intended for traditional smooth leather tack. Increasingly, there are synthetic options, leather/synthetic combinations, and endless new high tech approaches to stuffing and seating materials on saddles. Be sure to read all the manufacturers instructions before you clean or prep your tack in any way! Many of the new high tech material options have special cleaning and care requirements.
What about Bitless Brides?
Husband and wife team, Gerry Guy and Zoe Brooks, designed and patented the Nurtural Horse Bitless Bridle on their 500 acre farm in Northern Ontario in 2005. It all started when Zoe's mare did not respond well to a bit, and Zoe needed to find an alternative to to traditional bits and bridles.EC: Bits have been used by horsemen for hundreds of years. Why change?
NH: Because your horse will be happier! And happier horses perform better and generally make better mounts.EC: What disciplines can I use the Nurtural Horse Bitless Bridle?
NH: You can do anything you like with a Nurtural Bitless Bridle! English or Western, horses are generally more confident and relaxed when working in a bitless bridle as opposed to any kind of bit.EC: Even Driving?
NH: Sure! We make and customize bridles for "minis to mammoths!" So we've got a Nurtural Bitless Bridle for virtually any type of driving horse.EC: But what about brakes? Will my horse stop?
NH: That's probably the most frequently asked question we get. And the answer is a resounding "yes." Of course, you don't have to listen to us, we have lots of examples of happy customers:"To me she feels like a totally different horse, responsive, quiet and attentive to the lightest contact. It also felt as if I had installed power breaks, requiring only a fraction of the pressure I usually need to get a balanced stop"
"I just tried my new bridle!! My horse was so light and prefect! He is a TN Walker and gaited like he never has with a bit! He was so soft and responsive and stopped immediately!"
"I have a 21 year old Belgian Draft. Put him in this bitless, now he stops on a dime and give you a nickle change. "EC: How long does it take to retrain a horse on the Nurtural Bitless?
NH: Not long at all! We do public Nurtural Bitless Challenges, saying "Bring us ANY horse. What it does in a bit, you will do better in a Nurtural Bitless." We have thirty minutes to show what they can do in a bit, then we take the horse and rider (or driver) bitless for the first time, and then repeat whatever they did in the bit. Every horse to date has done noticeably better!EC: What makes Nurtural Bitless different from other bitless bridles?
NH: It's the patented Circle-X that holds the reinstraps securely under the chin, so they stay on the horseís cheek for maximum directional control.
Our reinstraps do not twist, tangle or pinch the nose. The nosebandís rubber gripping gives added contact, allowing more respect without slipping. Horses do not push into this noseband; they stop and back up with ease.
Many points of adjustment in the reinstraps allow you to attach your reins close to the horseís mouth to improve bending and stopping signals.
Our solid crown piece ensures the reinstraps do not slip or become uneven, providing minimal, yet consistent poll pressure for slowing and stopping.
Innovative Horse Health Care Products
New Horse Health Care Products on EC!
At Equestrian Collections, we are always looking for new and innovative products to help you care for your horse. In the last few months, we have added a number of really exciting new products to help address some of your most pressing horse health care issues.
Leg Care: Icing and cooling horses’ legs and tendons is standard care for most equine athletes. However, as anyone who has done it will tell you, it’s not easy! Either you have to stand for ages with a cold hose (assuming that your water is cold enough to do the trick), or you somehow have to get ice in contact with your horse’s leg. We have two new product lines designed to solve this issue. Ice-Vibe by Horseware of Ireland combines ice boots with a vibration system that not only cools your horse’s tendons, but also increases the blood flow. The built in automatic timer means you don’t have to stand there while your horse is being treated!(Please note, Ice-Vibe is so popular we are currently sold out! We hope to have more available soon!) EquiFit’s Gel Compression System utilizes refrigerated cold packs too, but this system incorporates a compression air pump. You hand pump the boots for the perfect level of pressure. Not only does this help decrease “stocking up,” but it also insures that the gel pack actually contacts all surfaces on the leg for the best possible icing.
Ulcer Care: Recent medical research has made it clear that gastric ulcers are a fairly common condition in horses. Show horses, race horses, and any horse confined to a stall, are particularly at risk for this painful condition. We have two new products designed to help prevent ulcers. Both UlcerGard and GastroMax utilize omeprazole to reduce acid that may cause ulcers. (Remember, if you suspect gastric ulcers in your horse, consult your veterinarian.)
Nutritional Supplements: The market is booming with new nutritional supplements! At EC we have three new lines that you may want to check out. Silver Lining Herbs are herbal based, all natural supplements designed to recreate the kind of eating your horse would do if they had access to unlimited free grazing. Figuerola Supplements address the nutritional needs caused by unique individual health conditions such as chronic laminitis, or suspensory injuries. Finally, the HEIRO Supplement was designed by a practicing veterinarian specifically for horses with insulin resistance. This organic supplement is intended to help you get your insulin resistant horse off dry lot and back on pasture.
First Aid: With increasing attention being paid to antibiotic resistant infections, many horse owners are looking for effective minor wound care that does not depend upon traditional antibiotics, so they can save the antibiotics for the serious stuff. At EC, we have four innovative new options for your equine first aid kit. Vetericyn’s Microcyn Technology has been shown in studies to treat a wide range of viruses, fungi, and spores without antibiotics. AgSilver products utilize infusions of microscopic silver to prevent fungal growth (They even have a fungus resistant bucket!). Figuerola’s Zicatrex is an antiseptic cream based on natural South American resins. It is non-toxic and completely iodine free. Dermafas, distributed by the Eventing experts at Nunn Finer, is based on an amino acid vitamin complex. Many people have found it to be very effective for treating rashes, abrasions, sweet itch and other skin ailments.
Information in this article is based on manufacturer’s published information on these health care products. It does not constitute any guarantee of efficacy from Equestrian Collections. Further, this information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional. All horse owners should seek advice and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.
Caring for Your Horse Blankets
How to Care for Horse Blankets
In the best of all worlds, we’d all have a horse blanket fairy that takes our nasty turnout blankets away in the spring, repairs all the rips, washes them, re-proofs them, and stores them away neatly. Unfortunately, for most of us, “summer storage” means piling our blankets in the corner of tack room and dragging them out again when the temperature drops.
Before you resort to buying new blankets, take a good look at your old ones.
Wash - Ideally, blankets would be repaired before washing, as washing may exacerbate any ripping. Unfortunately, horse blankets are frequently just too nasty to consider repairing until they are clean. For a moderately dirty blanket, a good rinse with the hose is your best bet. This will remove surface dirt, but not hurt the waterproofing. However, most blankets will need a more serious cleaning with soap. For this, make sure you use blanket wash, not detergent! Regular detergent will remove waterproofing from your blanket. Don’t use it! A standard washing machine can generally handle one blanket at a time; overloading your washer can damage the machine. Make sure to buckle the surcingles and cover the Velcro, or the spin cycle will tangle the blanket. Also, run the blanket through an extra rinse cycle. You want to make sure all the blanket wash is rinsed out.
Dry – DO NOT put your horse blankets in the dryer! Like detergent, the high heat of the dryer can damage the waterproofing. Hang your blankets outside and let them dry naturally. Be careful with heavy weight blankets; they need to be fully dry or they might mildew.
Repair – Some blanket damage is repairable, some is not. Small holes in the turnout can be repaired with a blanket repair kit, such as Rambo’s Stormsure. Follow directions on the label. You can also repair buckles and surcingles. Most blanket manufacturers sell replacement parts, and you can re-attach surcingles using a heavy duty sewing machine. Velcro that no longer stays attached can be refreshed with Velcro brushes, and double check that you have all the rubber buckle keepers for your T-Lock buckles. Rips and tears are more difficult. Once the outer fabric on a blanket starts to tear, you may be able to temporarily repair it with heavy duty waxed thread, but it will probably not last long. Time to buy a new blanket!
Waterproof – As long as you don’t use detergent, or a dryer, a good quality turnout blanket should stay water proof for at least two seasons, possibly three. If the blanket remains in good condition, you can extend its useful life with waterproofing. Follow the directions on the label, and make sure the blanket is completely dry before using it on a horse.
Blanket beyond repair? When selecting a new blanket, look at your old one and determine what did and did not work. Did it rub your horse’s shoulders? It may not have fit well; be sure to measure before buying a new one, and consider a different shoulder style, such as a HUG. Did your horse destroy it in one season? Look for a blanket with a sturdier outer fabric, such as a Rambo. Do you live in an extreme climate and have too many blankets? In that case, replace your old blankets with a liner system that has one outer blanket and multiple liner options. Do you blanket lots of horses daily? Look for “Euro” cut blankets that do not use leg straps. That’s two less buckles per blanket. Saves a lot of time and frozen fingers!
How to Shop for a Turnout Blanket
How to Buy a Turnout Blanket
You've decided that your horse needs a new turnout blanket this winter. But what to buy? There are literally hundreds of horse blankets on the market today, and reading their descriptions is a bit like reading in a foreign language. Denier? Fill Weight? Euro Style? What does it all mean!? And the prices, is it really necessary to spend that much?!
With a bit of a tutorial in the language of horse clothing, you’ll find that it’s not so hard to decide which blanket to buy. Once you know what you’re reading, it will quickly become obvious what kind of blanket is right for you and your horse.
Turnout Blanket vs Stable Blanket:First things first, is your horse going outside in their blanket? If so, he needs a Turnout Blanket, not a Stable Blanket. Turnout Blankets, regardless of brand, are generally waterproof, or highly water resistant. Stable Blankets are not. If your horse is out in the rain or snow in a Stable Blanket, it will eventually turn into a sponge. You will have a very wet, very cold horse. Remember, “turnout” doesn’t have to mean turned out in a big beautiful pasture. That pipe paddock off your stall is just as likely to get rained on! If your horse EVER goes out in his blanket, he needs a turnout.
Denier:“Denier” technically means the mass density of fibers. In terms of horse blankets, it means how dense the fibers are on the outer fabric of the blanket. A higher denier means a denser, and therefore stronger, fabric. So for instance, a 1000 denier blanket will generally be stronger than a 600 denier fabric. There is no ideal number. If your horse is easy on his blankets or only gets turned out alone, you can probably go with a lower denier. If you have a blanket destroyer or a horse that goes out with a rowdy herd, chose a higher denier blanket. The higher denier will cost you more, but it’s cheaper than replacing a shredded blanket! Other code words for a stronger outer fabric are Ripstop and Ballistic. A new addition on the blanket scene is stretch fabric. We are seeing more and more stretch. It remains to be seen how popular this will become, but if you’ve got a very active horse, it might be worth trying.
Lining:Once you’ve decided on a denier, you should think about lining. The main consideration here is that the lining be breathable. You don’t want moisture to get in the blanket; however, you do want moisture in the form of sweat to get OUT. This is generally referred to as a “wicking lining.” In addition to breathability, pay attention to the lining on rub areas such as the shoulder. If you have a horse that tends to get rubs, look for nylon lining on the shoulders. This will be slicker and not catch the hairs as much.
Fill Weight:This is the amount of fiberfill insulation in the blanket – between the lining and the outer fabric. Generally speaking, most blankets come in three weights. A lightweight (sometimes referred to as a “sheet”) has no fill at all. With no insulation, it is basically a sturdy raincoat. A medium weight usually ranges from 150 to 250 grams of fill. A heavy weight can be anything from 250 to 450 grams or more. These same fill weights apply whether you are looking at a detachable blanket liner, or the blanket itself. The higher the gram weight, the warmer the blanket will be. There is no easy translation from temperature to appropriate fill weight. In a wet, cloudy climate your horse will need a warmer blanket than they will in a dry, sunny climate even if the ambient temperature is colder. Be careful not to over-blanket your horse. Warmer is not necessarily better. A hot horse will sweat in the blanket, and ultimately end up colder. If you live in a wildly variable climate, like the Mountain West, a single turnout blanket that has a variety of liners may be your best bet.
Euro vs Traditional Style:This refers to the overall cut of the blanket. “Euro” style blankets are cut to float over the top of the horse, rather than fit closely to a horse’s contours. Rambo blankets are good example of euro style. A traditional blanket uses seams to create contours that create a closer fit, and gussets to allow freedom of movement. WeatherBeeta blankets are a top choice of traditional cut blankets. One is not better than the other; it is simply a matter of fit. Because higher withers can help hold a blanket in place, thoroughbreds and warmbloods frequently do well in Euros. Quarter Horse types that tend to have less wither and broader hind quarters sometimes fit the traditional better. There is no hard and fast rule though. Increasingly, blanket companies are creating hybrid blankets with features of each. Want a Euro blanket, but like the gussets on a traditional? Try a Rambo Optimo.
Leg Straps vs Tail Strap:Closely related to the cut issue are leg straps and tail straps. Most euro style blankets do not have rear leg straps; they have a single strap that sits under the tail above the hocks. The blanket stays in place because it floats, and shifts back to center when the horse moves. Alternately, traditional blankets usually come with rear leg straps. Owners are usually highly opinionated on this issue! Some people insist their blankets don’t stay in place without leg straps, and besides, they find that tail straps get really mucky. Advocates of tail straps argue that leg straps are just two more clips to do up with frozen fingers. Tail straps do not have to be undone every time you take the blanket off.
Closures:Horse blankets come with a wide variety of closures -everything from simple Velcro, to T Locks, to regular buckles. Velcro is fine for neck rugs and tail covers, but not for heavy stress areas like surcingles and chest straps. Traditional buckles work well because they are adjustable and don’t accidentally unfasten, but they can be difficult to do up with bare fingers in sub-zero temps. One nice option are closures that initially adjust with buckles for fit, but then clip with a quick release. If you have really cold winters, T closures are fast and easy in the cold. Just make sure you have some extra rubber T-Lock fasteners on hand. If you lose the little rubber donut on the T-Lock, they don’t hold well. If fact, having replacement buckles for all your blankets is great idea.
Neck Coverage:Blankets come with a wide range of neck coverage. A cut-back or standard neck blanket will have no coverage. A high neck will sit up higher on a horse’s neck, usually several inches past the wither. This feature is less about warmth than it is about keeping rain from seeping down the neck opening. Full neck coverage can either be permanently attached to the blanket, or be in the form of a detachable neck rug. Detachable neck rugs are great for flexibility; you can choose to use it or not depending on weather conditions. One caution – neck rugs seem to be a favorite tug of war toy for turned out horses. Your horse may go out with one on, and come in without it! Remember, if you are buying a neck rug, make sure you buy the same brand and style as your blanket. The attachments are different for each, and one brand may not match another.
Now it’s time to pick a blanket. First, decide on what features you need – say for instance, a high denier, low fill weight, euro turnout blanket with a high cut neck. Then you need to decide how much you have to spend. There are a variety of features at virtually every price range. It is really not necessary to look at blankets you just can't afford!Once you’ve decided on features and price, go the Blankets, Rugs, and Sheets page on Equestrian Collections, use the left hand navigation to sort the blankets by type, then by weight, and then price. Read through the descriptions (you know what they mean now!) and choose the one with the features you need! It’s really that simple.
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