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Undercover Equines: A Horse Blanket Primer
When shopping for your trusty steed's wardrobe, take this 'cheat sheet' along.
The chill of autumn is in the air, and you've got horse blankets on your mind. Perhaps you'd like to keep your clipped horse's coat short this winter, so it's easier to cool him down. Or your elderly equine will need his own parka if the mercury plummets much lower.

1. Check the Temperature
Outerwear should keep your horse comfortable and dry, regardless of the temperature (sweat buildup under a covering that's too heavy can cause a chill when it evaporates). So your first task is to consider whether you need a sheet (a lightweight covering for cool weather, such as in the spring and autumn) or a blanket (a heavier garment for colder winter days or nights).

2. Determine the Location
Secondly, does your horse need clothing for inside the barn or out in the field? Turnout sheets and blankets are built more ruggedly for outdoor use and usually repel water, as well. Remember, too, that you can layer sheets and "liners" under blankets for added warmth. Indeed, it's ideal to collect outerwear in different weights for different climates and different purposes—including a fly sheet for warm-weather pest protection and an apres-workout sweatsheet or cooler.

3. Pick the Right Materials
Blanket insulation generally comes in the form of fiberfill or polyfill, which traps warmed air against the body. Common outer fabric options include rip-stop nylon (a lightweight woven fabric that resists ripping and tearing); cordura nylon (a strong fabric resistant to abrasion, mold and rot); and ballistic nylon (which is heavier and stronger than cordura).

Confused about the term denier? Like thread counts in bed sheets, it indicates textile strength—the higher the number, the harder-wearing the fabric (blanket linings are usually 70 to 150 denier, with outer layers 300 to 2400).

4. Go Durable
Other features that increase the durability of horse clothing include:
  • metal vs. plastic hardware
  • seamless backs in turnout blankets and sheets (because stitching invites leaks) or taped back seams
  • nylon strap closures vs. less sturdy hook-and-loop fasteners
  • elastic leg straps that are removable (and therefore easy to replace)

5. Don’t Forget to Measure Your Horse
Sizing varies between manufacturers, and you will see numerous features designed to improve fit, such as shaped withers, belly bands, shoulder gussets and more. American sizing is generally in 2-inch increments, with a more contoured fit and a shorter drop than European sizing, which is in 3-inch increments and offers more coverage (especially good for turnout clothing). To estimate your horse's size, run a cloth tape measure from the center of his chest along the side of his body and back to the edge of his tail.

6. Invest in the Best Blanket
It's a good rule-of-thumb to invest in the best blanket money can buy and be committed about maintaining it. That includes prompt repair to tears and missing hardware; periodic re-application of waterproofing, if needed; and annual cleaning before summer storage (while sheets and liners can often be laundered at home, professional cleaning is advisable for most blankets).

With proper care, a horse blanket or sheet should survive years of regular use, even on the most active of equines