Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blanketing PSA - Again.

So we had some interesting weather the other week, and it got me thinking about blankets. I know I did another post about them, but really, I could talk about blankets forever, and it's my blog... so devil may care.

I like blankets.

The weather went from warm - and RAINY - to sub-zero in less than 24 hours. Weird for Minnesota  super weird for the horse owners around. The horses had a jolly day playing and rolling and napping in the sun - and then the temp dropped. This resulted in some shivering, chilly and generally unhappy ponies.

Horses generally take care of themselves, coat wise. But a matted, wet, or dirty coat can't fluff up to keep them warm - and Minnesota often offers horse owners extenuating circumstances. Wind, driving snow, rain, random temperature changes... our horses need some help, no matter how nice of a coat they grow. My Foxie doesn't grow much of anything, and thus she owns a wardrobe that puts most horse owners to shame.

I think even the most sturdy of horses should own at least a rain sheet - something to throw on them during that epic 2 day long down pour, or the snow storm you can't even walk through, when you're not 100% sure Pookie will stay in his or her shelter like a smart horse. They should also own a cooler - polar fleece or wool,  to help wick sweat away, or serve as an emergency layer under that rain sheet.

The world of blankets is kind of a scary one - like most things in the horse world, it's unnecessarily complicated and everyone has an opinion. Here is my DL.

European cut, or that boxy long sided blanket with the upside down V shoulder gusset is the most common, and tends to fit a lot of horses. It's a good place to start for shape.

Measuring for a blanket goes from the center of the chest, around the widest part of the flank to the point of the buttock. Some brands run long, some run short - read reviews, ask around, try a friend's horses' blanket on yours.

I like belly coverage (no tummy sticking out!) and good coverage around the back, with a tail flap to keep out drafts. The shoulder should fit without binding and watch that it doesn't sit too low in the front, and doesn't catch back on the wither, as that can cause friction-related hair loss or sores on the withers. Knowing that my blankets are a bit off in shoulder fit, and that Foxie gets rubbed easily, she wears a shoulder slinky (a shoulder covering piece of spandex that cuts down on the friction) under most of her blankets.

Blankets come in weights, or warmths, and deniers, which is the toughness of the fabric.
- 600 Denier is the standard material, and it's durable enough for a quiet horse. If you have a playful horse, or one who goes out with a rowdy herd, I would try for a 1200+Denier blanket.
- Warmth wise, there are no fill blankets (usually lined with nylon for coat slicking or mesh for breathe-ablilty), medium weights that run 200 - 240 grams of fiberfill, and heavy weight blankets that run 300 grams or more. I find my rain sheet and my medium to be the most useful, and use my heavy for the coldest days.

I look for blankets with hoods and that are waterPROOF and breathable, as they give me the most forgiveness  Hoods make up for freak cold days when I can't get out to the barn to swap her into a heavy, and the waterproof and breathable qualities keep them dry (try battling rain rot under a blanket - warm and dark and if not breathable, moist... nope.) and the breathable blanket allows for some small sweating without being truly wet under the blanket. Some people can get by with liners (like on the new Amigo line - those are very cool!) but I prefer to have at least one "outside" blanket, as no matter how many liners you have they don't do any good with a ripped up blanket on top of them. I like detachable hoods as you technically have two blankets and that much more flexibility. Rain sheets are hard to find (as are no-fill hoods) so I tend to stick to high neck blankets that help keep cold drips out from underneath the blanket.

As I mentioned with the new Amigo by Horseware Ireland line, liners are a interesting new thing - it means you can wash all of your blankets at home, as a sheet or a liner should fit fine in most washers. I prefer closed front liners, as buckles rubbing on the underside of buckles screams pressure points to me. I also prefer ones, like the SSTACK or Horseware liners, that don't have straps of their own but instead use the outer blanket's existing straps to keep them in place. It means half the unsnapping and resnapping, and more comfort and less bulk for your horse. I prefer them over the fleece "Liners" that companies sell - fleece screams static to me, and static makes (my horse at least) a little nuts. I lost a nice fleece sheet that way, and found my horse all tangled up and in a bad mess. They're useful, but with a grain of salt.

Some horses find blankets that go over their heads scary, and thus I would make sure to blanket with caution until they become a usual thing, just like halters for the head shy horse or touching ears, or the 1,000 other things horses can become afraid of for some reason or another. My flighty girl quickly learned that she likes her blankets - and will help you put one on her by sticking her head in the hole (whether she is actually "helping" is a different question).

More food for thought,

Ashley and Fox

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