Does your Horse need a Turnout Blanket?
In determining whether your horse actually needs a turnout
blanket and which type to get for your horse you have to consider
How much time does your horse spend outside? Stabled horses who
are turned out for three or four hours during the day may not
need a turnout blanket at all.
What are the average winter temperatures in your area?
What is your average winter rainfall? A cold, wet horse is more
miserable than a cold, dry horse. In England, because of the
excessive winter rains, all of our horses had two turnout rugs.
That way, the horses could wear one while the other was drying in
Does he have an adequate field shelter that will block the
prevailing winter winds? A sturdy shelter that will protect the
horse from wind and rain will go a long way toward keeping the
horse warm and comfortable in the winter and some owners may find
that their horses don't need extra protection.
What kind of winter coat does your horse normally grow?
Remember that just because you feel the cold, it doesn't mean
your horse is uncomfortable. Having said that, I will add that
Annapolis is a typical thin-skinned thoroughbred who doesn't
grow much "fur" in the winter and typically uses a lot of the
energy he gets from his feed to keep himself warm. However,
his long-time pasture buddy, Logan, used to turn into the Abominable
Snowman every winter, with a coat so long you could lose
your hand in it.
Is your horse fully or partially clipped? A clipped horse will
need a blanket whether he is pastured or stabled and will
probably need an additional liner for added warmth.
Which Features should I look for?
As a rule of thumb, always go for the very best quality you can
afford. That bargain blanket may not be such a bargain when the
buckle on the leg strap breaks or when your horse is shivering
because rain seeped through the seams.
For turnout blankets, the traditional ripstop canvas "New
Zealand" rug is a good choice, but not the only choice available
nowadays. Waterproof nylon outer layers are also popular. Look
for a blanket that doesn't have a seam at the top where water can
leak in. Usually, the canvas rugs are a very distinctive green
color, although I have also seen them in blue and black. Nylon
and other synthetic materials are available in a myriad of colors
and can be selected to match your stable's colors.
Linings can be full or partial, wool or synthetic. If you live in
the north, (well anywhere other than Texas, where I live, I
suppose) you may want to get one with a thermal lining. In
addition, blanket liners can be purchased separately. The deeper
a blanket is, the warmer it will be for your horse. Many rugs
come with tail guards, which can protect your horse from wind
(horses always like to turn their hindquarters to the wind and
Turnout blankets may come with bias (or cross) surcingles or with
a central surcingle and leg straps. Whichever design the blanket
you select has, make sure to adjust the straps correctly for the
comfort of your horse and also to help stop the blanket from
shifting in use. If your blanket has a central surcingle, be sure
to use a pad underneath it where it crosses the spine and also
stretch your horse's forelegs to unwrinkle the skin - the same
way you do for the girth. Avoid blankets with the leg straps
attached either too high or too far back. Your horse is going to
be wearing his turnout blanket at his most active time and it is
going to have to withstand all sorts of wear and tear as your
horse rolls, runs and plays with his pasture mates. It is
important to make sure that it is comfortable for him and that it
does not slip.
Other useful features to look for are shoulder gussets, which
give the horse room to move and alleviate pressure on the
shoulders, and a nylon lining in the shoulder region, which
lessens the change of the rug rubbing the hair and causing bald
spots. Avoid blankets with over-large neck openings as the rug
will tend to slide back and pull more on the horse's shoulder.
Measuring your Horse for his Turnout Blanket
The way to measure a horse for his turnout blanket is the same as
for stable blankets, anti-sweat sheets or summer sheets. The
measurement is taken from the middle of the horses chest, all the
way back to the tail.