There are many different types of horse blankets. Choosing the right one depends on several factors. Will the horse be stabled or out in the field? Is the weather clear and nice, or is it rainy or snowy? What are the temperatures? Cold weather can require several blanket weights depending on how low the temperature drops.
Turnout Blankets and Sheets
These types of blankets are designed for protecting the horse while he is in the field. They are created with fabric that is more rugged while still allowing for easy movement. They are tough enough to stand up to rigorous activity and horseplay. Most turnouts are breathable and waterproof, protecting the horse from inclement conditions such as rain, snow, and sleet. Turnouts can also keep mud and other materials off the horse’s coat.
Layering a turnout blanket over a stable blanket adds warmth for the horse while still protecting him from precipitation. A horse should never wear a wet blanket; it can cause serious problems. They are also cut for a looser fit to allow for movement and a better range of motion. Features may include shoulder darts or gussets which are qualities that provide flexibility and added comfort. Horses can wear turnouts without supervision.
· Rainsheet – Rainsheets are waterproof to protect the horse from weather conditions such as rain to keep them dry. There are two types, lined and unlined. Lined sheets offer an extra layer for warmth. Rainsheets can also be used over blankets that aren’t waterproofed, and often are used to protect the liner or blanket from becoming wet.
· Summer Sheet – They provide minimal warmth, but are often used to keep the horse clean (when the horse is at a show or other competition). Because they are very lightweight and not lined, they can also be used for stabling.
· Turnout Sheets – They come in a variety of weights. In this case, weight refers to the amount in grams. The higher the number of grams, the warmer and heavier it is. Turnout sheets typically contain poly fill between the inner and outer layers. The fill acts as insulation to keep the horse’s body heat in and it provides warmth. Lightweight turnouts have around 100 grams of fill, mid-weight turnouts have 180 to 200 grams, and heavyweight turnouts have 300 to 440 grams.
· Hoods and Neck Covers – These are available in stable styles as well as turnout styles. Neck covers often connect to the blanket neck opening and end just behind the horse’s head so that the entire neck is encased. Hoods encase the horse’s head and have holes for the horse to see. Not all horses need hoods or neck covers – or both. An owner needs to carefully evaluate the situation because the horse can overheat if he is too covered.
Stable Blankets and Sheets
Stable blankets and sheets are used when your horse is stabled or trailered. They can also be used in instances where your horse is supervised, but can be used as an additional layer of warmth when worn under a turnout blanket (really for a significant drop in temperature, far below what is normal or what the horse is accustomed to). They don’t need to be waterproof so they typically aren’t. However, some are water resistant or water repellent so they aren’t stained by urine or manure when your horse is moving about his stall or lying down. These blankets are more form fitting since they are worn in the stable or trailer where the horse isn’t moving around as much.
· Cooler – While they are often used for cool out after working the horse, they can be used to provide warmth when the horse is in its stall.
· Stable Blankets – They are primarily for warmth while the horse is in the stall, but they come in different weights for different levels of warmth. Stable blankets are not waterproof, so they aren’t really designed for outdoors. A lightweight stable sheet is a must for any region. However, it is also a good idea to invest in a medium weight and heavy weight stable blanket too. Even if you live in southern states that don’t get very cold, it’s a good idea to have heavier weight stable blankets on hand. You never know when the weather will take a turn and the weather lately have been very uncharacteristic for many regions. You want your horse to be ready no matter how the weather turns.
Stable and Turnout
Some blankets are used for both stabling and turnout.
· Flysheets – They protect the horse from flies, mites, and other biting insects.
· Turnout – While typically used for outdoor use, they can also be used in the stall to provide warmth or keep the horse clean.
Riding, Exercise, or Work
· Quarter Sheet – They serve several purposes which include providing warmth to the loin area during exercise (cool down or warm up) and rain protection while riding. They typically cover the loins but some quarter sheets also cover the legs. They are usually made of wool or fleece. This is important because muscles take longer to warm up when it’s cold than when it’s warm. The quarter sheet covers the larger muscles in your horse’s hind end and lower back, allowing those muscles to warm up gradually.
· Saddle Blanket or Pad – They are designed to lay between the horse and the saddle, protecting the horse from any rubbing or discomfort. A saddle should never be placed directly on the horse’s back so a saddle blanket or pad offers a layer of protection and allows for a more comfortable ride.
· Cooler – They are designed to help dry the horse and cool them out after exercise or work. Typically they are comprised of fleece or wool and can be used to provide warmth while the horse is being walked. A cooler can be used for warmth while the horse is stabled.
· Dress Sheets – They are as much for looks as they are for functionality. Dress sheets are usually made of wool (but some are fleece) and are available in many different plaids and colors, usually fastening at three points: tail cord, one belly surcingle, and one chest buckle. They work well as a blanket liner, cooler, or to provide extra comfort and warmth during transport.
· Anti-Sweat Sheets – These sheets are made of a cotton blend or 100% cotton. They wick away moisture and are designed to keep your horse from becoming chilled after a bath or when he is sweaty. You do need to monitor your horse when he is wearing this blanket because if he is very wet the blanket can get saturated and he can get chilled. When this happens, replace it with an anti-sweat sheet if the horse isn’t dry.
As a horse owner or trainer can see, there are many options available to suit your individual needs. if you still aren’t certain about the best choice, have someone who has a lot of experience help you. There are also many informative articles that can be found on various websites that will prove helpful such as understanding the difference between Western saddle pads and blankets.