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Tips for Horse: 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” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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