In the horse blanket guide series so far, we have covered the different features of a blanket and what factors influence the kind of blanket your horse needs. Whilst it may be easy to select a blanket in the coldest depths of winter, it is a bit trickier during the transitional seasons like spring and fall. We’ve all checked the weather forecast multiple times a day to try and figure out which blanket will be best and wondered if we made the right choice.
Keep your horse comfortable by recognizing the signs they are too hot or too cold, and how to properly fit a blanket. We will also give you some blanket care tips and tricks so that they last.
Knowing what ‘normal’ looks like for your horse is key to understanding if they are at the right temperature. A quick daily check will give you a good idea of their general health and condition so you can easily recognize changes whether related to blanketing or something else.
Life would be much easier if our horses could simply tell us how they’re feeling. Instead, it’s up to us to spot the signs that they are too hot or too cold:
Signs Your Horse is Too Hot
- Sweating – this can be under the blanket, along the neck, or behind the ears
- Heavy breathing
- Change in behavior – could be more lethargic or restless
- Rubbing the blanket to try and remove it
Signs Your Horse is Too Cold
- Tucked up tail to try and keep warm
- Seeking shelter or huddling up with other horses
- Change in behavior like pacing to try and warm-up
- Loss of condition – typically a more long-term sign that they’re too cold
Quick Tip: Place your hand under the blanket behind their withers to feel how warm they are. This is a better way to gauge their temperature than by feeling the ears or legs which are exposed to the elements.
Blanketing for Changing Weather Conditions
During changing weather conditions, your horse may get too hot or too cold. If you recognize they are not at the right temperature, it’s time to act.
Horses that are too cold may need to be taken into a stall or barn if they have been exposed to very wet or cold weather. This will give them an opportunity to warm up and dry off. A cooler blanket is helpful here to wick away moisture and prevent the horse from becoming chilled. You can also put another blanket on a cold horse and give them some extra forage.
For horses that are too hot, you will need to remove their blankets and wash them off if they are sweaty. Walk them around to dry and use a cooler if necessary.
Monitor the weather to ensure you are blanketing for the conditions. Blankets may need to be adjusted throughout the season or even on a daily basis to prevent your horse from becoming too hot or too cold.
Here are a few ways to increase your blanket options to suit different conditions without having to purchase one in every type and weight:
Blanket liners are a good way to increase weight and warmth. Many blankets come with liner loops to easily attach. This is an adaptable way to blanket based on the weather conditions and your horse’s needs without having to use two or more layered blankets.
By attaching to the blanket, liners also don’t slip and slide around as two-layered blankets can. Using liners as opposed to one heavy weight blanket also offers excellent insulation to trap warm air whilst still being breathable. Not only that but liners can fit into a domestic washing machine so you can quickly and easily wash them – try doing that with your 400g turnout blanket!
Liners can be used in both stable and turnout blankets so this is a cost-effective way to increase your blanketing options without having to purchase a blanket in every type and weight.
Hoods are a useful addition to blankets to offer protection against the rain and keep the whole body at a consistent temperature, especially as there are important muscle groups in the neck. This is particularly beneficial for older horses or ‘poor-doers’ who struggle to keep their condition over the winter. Using a hood can also prolong the time between clips so you don’t have a fluffy-looking neck whilst the rest of your horse still looks freshly clipped.
On warmer days, removing the hood can help prevent your horse from getting too hot and allow them to soak up some vitamin D. Many blankets have a detachable hood design so that you can quickly change the blanket to suit the weather.
Over Vs Under-Blanketing
We know the feeling when you check the weather app to discover that it’s cold and windy in the morning but supposed to be warm and sunny by midday. As much as you’d love to spend all day at the barn you’ve got to put your horse in the paddock and get to work. What blanket are you supposed to use?
Horses are good at regulating their own body temperature. They can easily warm themselves up if they are too cold by eating more, seeking shelter, or moving around. It is much more difficult for a horse to cool themselves down if they are wearing a blanket that is too warm.
Over-blanketing often leads to more problems than under-blanketing, such as skin infections from sweating and rub marks. Excessive overheating can also cause longer-term issues including weight gain, signs of colic, and can even increase the risk of laminitis. So, if you’re debating which blanket to go with then the lighter weight one is usually the safer option.
Horse Blanket Fitting Tips
Once you have the ideal weight and style of a blanket to suit the conditions it’s time to get the fit just right for ultimate comfort.
Measure your horse prior to purchasing a new blanket instead of guessing. Your horse’s shape can change over time and sizing can vary between brands. Find out how to measure your horse in our fitting guide. In lite weight blankets with no fill, you can size down if your horse is between sizes.
The front of the blanket should overlap with the top strap in line with the point of the shoulder. Fasten the top and bottom strap to the same hole. The bottom strap will be looser but this ensures your horse has freedom of movement in their chest. Make sure you can easily fit your hand underneath the front of the blanket.
On this type of fastening, the diagonal top strap should be in line with your horse’s shoulder groove and the straight strap with the point of the shoulder. The trigger clips should be done up inwards, facing the horse’s chest.
Surcingles are the straps that go under the belly. You should be able to fit four fingers vertically between your horse’s belly and the straps.
Horseware’s blankets are designed to fit securely without the need for leg straps. Instead, the tail strap keeps the blanket in place during windy weather. The tail goes over the tail strap and you should be able to fit a flat hand between the strap and the horse.
Checking Fit Over Time
Remember to check straps and fittings regularly in case they need to be adjusted. Straps that are made of webbing can stretch out over time. If the blanket is too loose it is less secure and could cause rubbing.
Horseware has been making blankets for life since 1985. Here’s how to look after your blanket so that it keeps your horse warm and dry for many years to come.
Keeping Your Horse Blanket Clean
Daily grooming helps to avoid the build-up of grease and hair on the inside of the blanket and hood. Keeping the mane clean also reduces the risk of rubbing. A mane and tail conditioning spray helps keep the mane smooth but you can also use a show shine spray on the inside of the blanket.
“Once the lining of hoods and blankets are dirt-free, spraying show shine to these areas can create a glossy film along their surface to help to repel dirt, and aids in allowing the lining to move freely with the horse.” – Clare Silke, Product Innovation Manager at Horseware Ireland.
Blanket Rips and Tears
Maximize the longevity of your blanket by regularly checking for any rips or tears. If you do notice a small tear, all hope is not lost. Act quickly and repair the damage with something like the Rambo Blanket Repair Kit to seal and waterproof it.
Washing & Waterproofing
Every Horseware turnout blanket comes with a waterproof guarantee. It’s important to care for the blanket to ensure the waterproof coating isn’t damaged. You should not need to reproof the blanket during the guarantee period but you will likely want to wash it. Here are some tips for washing:
- Gently brush off any dirt or mud
- Hose off the turnout (do not use a power washer)
- Use a wash formulated for blankets e.g. Rambo Wash
- Hang the blanket to naturally drip dry
- If using a washing machine, wash on a cool setting
- Store the blanket in a cool, dry area, preferably in a breathable storage bag
- Avoid exposing the blanket to heat or UV
Over time, the waterproof coating will begin to break down. There are professional services available to reproof your blanket, or you can do it yourself using a spray-on treatment. If your blanket is no longer waterproof due to damage it’s best to assess if it can be repaired, or if it is time to purchase a new one.
With changing weather conditions, be sure to regularly assess your horse to ensure they are comfortable in their blanket. Once your horse has a blanket that suits them, look after it so it can take care of your horse for many seasons to come.