Horse Blanket Guide

Types of Horse Blankets and Sheets

We’ll help you understand what to wear when

A horse sheet is lightweight and has no fill, whereas a horse blanket has filling to keep your horse warm. They come in two varieties: turnout and stable. Turnout sheets and turnout blankets are waterproof and designed to be worn when your horse is outside, while stable sheets and stable blankets are not waterproof and meant to be worn when your horse is inside. Choosing between these types can be overwhelming, but we’ll take a closer look at the differences here to help you ensure that your horse’s wardrobe is properly stocked.

You have a variety of outerwear in your own wardrobe because you need options based on whether it’s rainy, snowy, or too cold to even be outside—and your horse should, too! While there are a whole variety of types of horse clothing, we’re going to focus first on two key factors – the level of warmth and the presence (or absence) of waterproofing. (Want to check out all the possible pieces of horse apparel? Head over to our Blanketing Glossary!)

Warmth of Horse Blankets & Sheets

When it comes to understanding the importance of warmth, a surprising analogy can help – your bed! Think of the items you use to “dress" your bed – the sheets are very thin and provide little in the way of warmth. Blankets, on the other hand, are bulkier, cozier, and keep you warmer.

The same is true for dressing your horse! Horse sheets are thin and lightweight, while horse blankets provide considerably more warmth. And just like the ones on your bed, horse blankets come in different thicknesses or amounts of warmth.

The amount of warmth a blanket provides is measured in grams of fill (basically “stuffing"). Here’s a rough breakdown that can be helpful when shopping:

  • 0-100 grams of fill – Sheets (also sometimes called “Light Weight Blankets," because nothing’s ever that easy in the horse world!)
  • 150-250 grams of fill – Medium Weight Blankets
  • 300+ grams of fill – Heavy Weight Blankets

Waterproof Horse Blankets & Sheets

This is the element where your horse is not like you. While you might be fine outside on a clear day in a sweater or sweatshirt, if your horse is going to be outside, it’s best to use a waterproof outer layer. That’s because if your horse lays down on ground that looks dry, his blanket or sheet can still absorb moisture and when that damp blanket meets cold air, it can end up making him chillier than he was without the blanket or sheet in the first place!

In a very helpful naming convention, stable blankets and stable sheets are not waterproof and are intended to be used indoors, as their name implies! Turnout blankets and turnout sheets, on the other hand, are waterproof and safe for use inside and out in the turnout or pasture. In addition to being waterproof, turnouts also tend to have a heavier denier, which means they’re tougher and can stand up to outdoor elements, like rough ground (or rough pasture mates!).

 

To Blanket Or Not To Blanket Your Horse

We’ll help you decide what’s right for you and your horse!

Deciding to blanket your horse depends on five factors: his coat, his living situation, his digestive health and age, his body condition, and the lowest temperature at which he can keep himself warm.

That’s why, like most things in the horse world, the short answer to the age-old debate of whether or not to blanket is “it depends." Every horse is an individual, and the decision to blanket should be based on their unique needs (and not just because their owner is cold!).

There are five key factors that play a role in how your horse stays warm, and we’ll help you understand how each one impacts the decision to blanket your horse.

Shorter periods of daylight trigger horses to grow longer, coarser winter coats. When it gets chilly, the hairs stand on end to trap warm air close to the body, insulating the horse from the cold.

  • Horses with a full winter coat are likely to be OK au naturel
  • Horses that are clipped or have sleek "show coats" will definitely need a blanket to stay warm

Access to shelter can help horses cope when winter weather's at its worst.

  • Horses with stalls or other permanent shelter may well be fine with just their winter coat
  • Horses that aren't able to fully escape from the elements should have a waterproof sheet or blanket to keep warm and dry

As horses get older, they become less efficient in many body systems such as digestion and immunity. The ability to maintain their core temperature, or thermoregulate, is one of these systems.

 

One way to help senior horses retain body heat is through blanketing, using the correct fill or weight of blanket so that overheating does not become an issue.

Body condition, or the measure of overall fat cover, impacts how easily a horse can regulate his temperature.

  • Easy keepers, or horses with plenty of fat, are more likely to be fine sans blanket
  • Hard keepers, or naturally thin horses, often burn extra calories just trying to keep warm, so giving them a blanket is a smart choice

A horse's lower critical temperature (LCT) is the lowest temperature at which he can maintain his core temperature without using additional energy. Once the temperature drops below that LCT, his hair coat and normal calorie intake alone aren't enough to keep him warm.

 

The temperatures a horse is used to can impact his LCT, which is why horses in warmer climates often "get dressed" at milder temps than horses in colder areas.

 

How to Measure for a Horse Blanket

Yes, your horse has a size!

Wrapping your horse in a well-fitting blanket is like hugging him, even when you’re not there, and finding the perfect fit starts with knowing your horse’s size.

To measure your horse for a blanket, start at the center of your horse’s chest and run a cloth tape measure along his side to the point of the buttocks where the “cheek" meets the tail. Include the widest part of his shoulder, and keep the tape measure level and taut (we suggest having a friend help you). The number of inches is your horse’s true size (note: some blanket brands run a little large or small, so we recommend checking out the hundreds and hundreds of product reviews left by horse owners like you!).

What to Wear, & When

Sheet or blanket? Stable or turnout? If your horse is going to be outside you’ll want to put on a turnout, whereas you can choose a stable if he’s only going to be in the barn. Depending on the temperature, you’ll choose a sheet if it’s warmer outside and a blanket if it’s colder, but just like Goldilocks, your horse wants his blanket to be just right. Deciding how much to bundle your horse up can be tough, but we’ve got two questions that can help you decide!

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple

Just like it does for us humans, 40 degrees will feel different to a Florida horse in October than it will to a horse in Chicago in February, so you’ll need to dress your horse differently depending on the temperatures he’s used to.

In addition, the temperature outside isn’t the only factor to consider when you’re choosing the right blanket for the weather. Other factors, like your horse’s living environment and whether or not he’s clipped should also be taken into account.

Want to remove all the guesswork?

Download the SmartPak Blanketing App from the iTunes App Store or Google Play! We’ll ask a few basic questions about your horse and the app will look at your local weather forecast and make a smart recommendation for what your horse should wear – day and night!

 

Cleaning & Storing Horse Blankets

Protect your investment!

Cleaning and storing your horse sheets and blankets properly is essential to making them last. You should store them up off the ground with a blanket rack, bar, or bag during blanket season and in a sealed container during the off-season. At the end of blanket season, you can wash and re-waterproof them yourself, or send them to a professional horse blanket washing service. Read on to learn more about our smart storage tips and to check out our blanket washing guidelines.

Storing Horse Blankets and Sheets

On a chilly winter day, the last thing you want to be doing is digging through piles of blankets in your tack room to find the right one for the weather. Luckily, there are several ways you can keep your horse’s blankets neat, tidy, and off your barn aisle or tack room floor during blanket season. Our top picks for blanket storage include blanket racks that can be hung on the wall, blanket bars for your horse’s stall door, and blanket bags that can be hung on your horse’s stall door. Whatever your situation, we’ve got a blanket storage solution that will meet your needs!

Once you’ve gotten your blanket rack, blanket bar, or blanket bag, your next step is to fold your blanket so that you can store it neatly. If you’re tired of struggling with unruly blankets or leg straps hanging out all over the place, we’ve got you covered with a how-to video on the easy way to get a tidy fold in no time flat!

Once blanket season is over, your work isn’t done yet! Storing your horse’s blankets properly during the off season will protect your investment and help ensure that they’re ready to go when the cool weather comes again. Before you store your blankets, it’s important to wash them and make any necessary repairs. (Don’t know the best way to clean your horse’s blankets? Check out our tips below!) Once your horse’s blankets are clean, dry, and in good repair, store them in a sealed container such as the bag they came in, a tote or trunk, or a vacuum seal storage bag to keep dirt, mold, mildew, and any pesky critters out.

Cleaning Horse Blankets and Sheets

 

When it comes to washing your horse’s blankets, you have two options: washing them yourself, or using a laundry service.

If you’ve chosen the do-it-yourself route, you can use your own washer or head to the laundromat. If you’re going to try a laundromat, be sure to call first to make sure that horse blankets are allowed. It’s also a smart idea to do a pre-wash at the barn first to help save your washer. Just use a stiff brush to get any excess hair, mud, or dirt off the blanket, hose it off, and hang it to dry.

After your pre-wash at the barn, it’s time to hit the laundry! Ideally, you should follow the washing instructions provided by the manufacturer, and consider using a detergent specifically designed for horse blankets, like Rambo Blanket Wash. Once your blankets have been through the washer, you can hang them to dry. To help prevent the color from fading, consider hanging them in the shade rather than in the sun. Once your blankets are clean and dry, you’ll also want to consider re-waterproofing them.

If you’ve decided that you’d rather not wash them in your own washer, many areas offer horse blanket washing services. If you’ve never used a blanket laundry service before, ask your barn mates or other riders you know for recommendations. When you’re researching the different services available to you, a few things to consider are whether they apply a waterproofing coating after they’ve finish washing them, if they offer blanket repairs, and if they’ll pick up your dirty blankets and deliver your clean blankets back to your barn.

Re-Waterproofing Horse Blankets and Sheets

A number of factors, including age, improper washing, and improper storage can cause the waterproof coating of your horse’s turnout blankets and sheets to break down over time. If you’re noticing that water no longer “beads off” your horse’s turnout blanket or sheet, this may indicate that it needs to be re-waterproofed. Just like with washing, you have two options when it comes to re-waterproofing your horse’s blankets: doing it yourself or sending your blankets to a professional blanket washing and repair company.

If you’re already planning to send your blankets and sheets to a professional to be washed, look for a laundry service that also offers re-waterproofing services. If you’re planning on washing your horse’s blankets yourself, then it may make the most sense for you to re-waterproof them yourself while you’re at it. Keep in mind that before you re-waterproof your horse’s blankets on your own, it’s a smart idea to check with the manufacturer and see whether re-waterproofing it will invalidate any warranties on it in the future. In addition, you can see ask if they have any specific recommendations for what type of re-waterproofing product to use on their blankets.

Once you’ve determined that you’re definitely taking the do-it-yourself route, it’s time for you to hit the store (or the Internet!) and find a re-waterproofing product. There are a variety of spray and wash-in products that you can use to re-waterproof your horse’s blankets. You can use products that are designed specifically for horse blankets, or you could even head to an outdoor or camping store and check out waterproofing products designed for general use. After you’ve chosen a product, read the instructions on the bottle carefully and apply it as directed for maximum benefit.