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About Blanketing and Horse Clothing

About Horse Blanketing and Horse Clothing

Many types of specialized horse clothing are available to keep horses comfortable indoors, outdoors and before and after workouts or baths. This article will help you decide whether to blanket your horse in winter, which types of coverings are most appropriate for your horse and how some of the specialty articles of clothing are most appropriately used.

If your horse has excellent protection from winter’s biting wind, sleet and snow, and you rarely ride in winter, then he or she may not need to be blanketed. Barring illness or other compromising factors, your horse will acclimate to cold weather as the season approaches through the development of a thick, fluffy coat and extra grease in the skin as protection against the elements. All you may need is a medium weight turnout blanket to put on your horse in the coldest, wettest weather.

However, any horse that is turned out in cold winter weather without shelter or meets any of the following factors will benefit from wearing a blanket::

  • Ridden in an indoor arena
  • Fully or partially body clipped
  • Geriatric or compromised by certain health issues
  • Unable to grow a thick hair coat
  • Transplanted from a warm geographic area to a cool one

If you choose to blanket your horse for extra warmth and protection, you’ll have to monitor fluctuating winter temperatures and change blankets as needed to prevent sweating when temperatures rise or shivering when temperatures drop. Overheating and perspiring must be prevented under a blanket, as it can cause a chill or lead to illness. For this reason, most people who choose to blanket horses have several articles of horse clothing that offer varying levels of warmth on hand to use in various conditions. Once you begin to put a blanket on your horse, you’ll need to keep him or her in some type of covering until warm weather arrives.

Some horse owners find layering to be the most practical, cost-saving, space-saving approach to blanketing. Ready-made layering packages, blanket bundles and blanket liner systems are available. Or, you can create your own layering options with pieces of horse clothing that can perform multiple functions, such as a fleece dress sheet that can act as both a blanket liner and a cooler, or a stable blanket that can be topped with a waterproof turnout.

Horse clothing falls into two main categories: those used for turnout and those used in the stable, during transport or under supervision. Read on to learn more about types of blankets.


Any article of horse clothing designed for turnout will be waterproof and made of a durable, rugged fabric to stand up to horseplay. It will be styled to allow freedom of motion and may have special features, such as gussets and shoulder darts, to enhance fit without restricting the horse’s movements. Shoulder darts and gussets on blankets provide more room in the shoulder area and can be helpful for outfitting broad-shouldered horses.

The interior fabric may be a slippery and smooth to glide over a horse’s coat, mesh to help with breathability or an alternative fabric such as fleece. Waterproofing is an important aspect of turnouts for those times when your horse is exposed to wet conditions—it is unhealthy for a horse to wear a wet blanket. (Over the years of use and laundering, you should check your turnouts to be sure they maintain water repellency. Waterproofing can be replaced by professional horse blanket cleaning services or with products available for home use.)

Turnout Sheets

Turnout sheets, are the lightest weight turnout available. You could compare this type of covering to a lightweight raincoat or waterproof windbreaker that you might choose to wear yourself. Turnout sheets are designed for horses to wear for protection from wet weather or mud during cool temperatures. They are usually too warm for horses to wear during hot, summertime temperatures, but they are not insulated with fill so they don’t create warmth in cold temperatures.

Weigh the benefits of using a turnout sheet for your particular horse. Turnout sheets, as can any sheet without the benefit of fill, make a horse’s hair lie down flat, thus preventing the horse’s natural ability to keep itself warm by circulating body heat through fluffed-up hair. Turnout sheets should not be confused with rain sheets, which are intended for use while a horse is being supervised.

Turnout Blankets

Turnout Blankets come in a range of weights, with the weight referring to the amount of poly fill or fiberfill between the outer and inner layers. The fill adds warmth and insulates the horse’s body heat. It is measured in gram weights; the higher the number of grams, the warmer and heavier the blanket. You could compare this type of clothing to winter jackets and down-filled parkas that offer varying levels of insulation.

Horses differ in their needs, making it difficult to prescribe a blanket until you get to know your horse. Some horses, like people, naturally run warm. Other horses do not develop thick hair coats and may suffer from the cold. You’ll have to observe your horse to determine the appropriate level of warmth he or she requires throughout your varying winter weather conditions.

If you’re new to blanketing or plan on purchasing one turnout blanket only, choose a medium or mid-weight blanket. Heavyweight blankets can become too warm in certain conditions, such as on a sunny winter day, and lightweight blankets might not provide enough warmth, especially for a horse that has been clipped.

  • Lightweight turnouts from some manufacturers have 50 or 100 grams of fill in the center. Some manufacturers refer to their turnout sheets as “lite” or “lightweights,” so when shopping, always look for verification of fill amounts. Many people rely on lightweight turnouts with 50 or 100 grams of fill for the months when the weather is just starting to cool in autumn or warm up in spring. They offer some level of warmth that turnout sheets without fill cannot provide. Some people with horses that run hot rely on lightweights with 100 grams of fill because heavier blankets are too warm for their horses.

  • Mid-weight or medium weight turnouts have 180 to 250 grams of fill. Many horses do well with a medium or mid-weight blanket.

  • Heavy weight turnouts typically have 300 to 440 grams of fill. They may be critical for use on a fully clipped horse and for extreme cold weather conditions. However, the warmth they provide may be too much for some horses in some conditions.

Turnout Blanket
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