Blanketing 101

When I was a little kid, I loved Back to School shopping. New year, new styles, new clothes, I thought it was the best thing ever. That is, until I owned my first pony and learned about blanket shopping. New clothes for my pony?! I was hooked.

Blanket shopping is exciting and fun, but it can also be a daunting task. With so many different styles, weights and technical terms, it can be tough to know where to begin. But here at SmartPak, we love to make it easier for you to take great care of your horse. With that in mind, I put together a “little” guide to help you build the best wardrobe for your horse.

How to Measure

Before you can start shopping, you need to know what size your horse needs. The most common way to measure your horse is to take a side measurement. Starting at the center of the chest, run a cloth tape measure in a straight line down your horse’s side to the point of the buttocks (just before the “cheek” meets the tail.) This measurement, in inches, will be your horse’s true size. For a quick demonstration on how to measure your horse for a blanket, check out the video below:

In this example, Diem measures 75”, so that would be his true size. (It’s worth noting that having a friend to help measure makes things much easier on you and your horse. It’s also worth noting that Diem should’ve been standing square while we measured him, but he’d been out schooling cross country all morning and was feeling rather lazy.)

The Right Blanket for Your Horse

If you’re new to the world of blanketing, or if you have a new horse that you’ve never “dressed” before, it can be really tough to know where to start. As riders and horse owners with years of experience dressing horses of all shapes and sizes, we have a lot of practice finding the right fit. I’ve pulled together some general feedback on what blankets are best for what body types, along with other helpful hints, to make your shopping easier.

If you have…

  • A thin/narrowly built horse, like a thoroughbred or arabian, you may want to consider the Weatherbeeta blankets, which offer a more streamlined fit that won’t swallow your horse whole.
  • This ships free!
    Rambo® Original Turnout w/Leg Arches

     $278.95 - $318.95
    (45 reviews)
    A big & tall horse, like a warmblood or draft cross, you’ll want a blanket that has a lot of room in all directions. Horseware Ireland’s Rambo line is very popular for the larger breeds, as are the SmartPak blankets and the Baker line.
  • A stockier horse, like a Quarter Horse, Paint, Morgan or some pony crosses, you’ll need a blanket with plenty of room in the shoulders and hips, but without a long drop. Big D blankets have been a popular choice for years because they offer ample room without rubbing. The SmartPak blankets and Horseware Ireland’s Amigo line have also been highly recommended for these types of horses, as their overall proportions decrease very evenly as the sizes go down.

A few more helpful hints:

  • Leg straps: some blankets have them, others don’t, and whether you’d want them or not depends on your horse. If you have a really skittish horse, you may want to avoid spending time around his back legs, so Horseware Ireland blankets, sans leg straps, may be better for you. However, if you have an escape artist who is always wriggling out of his blankets, leg straps might offer the added security that you’re looking for, making SmartPak, Big D or Weatherbeeta blankets a better choice for you.
  • Orican Freestyle High Neck
    SOLD OUT
    (38 reviews)
    High neck blankets tend to put less pressure on the withers, making them great for high-withered horses or those prone to wither rubs. The SmartPak Deluxe High Neck and Orican Freestyle High Neck are both great choices.
  • Closed-front blankets, like the Big D All American Blanket, offer a seamless fit across your horse’s chest. Eliminating the front closures is a handy way to avoid bulk if you’re layering up. However, since they don’t have a chest opening, closed-front blankets have to go on and off over the head, making them less than ideal for nervous nellies.
  • V-Front blankets, like the Rambo Wug and Rhino Wug, are cut a little higher over the shoulder and neck, and come together lower on the chest. This unique design eliminates some of the traditional pressure points, making it ideal for horses that get chest and shoulder rubs when wearing standard style blankets.
  • This ships free!
    SmartPak Deluxe Turnout Blanket

     $139.95 - $169.95
    (243 reviews)
    If you’ve got a horse that’s notoriously tough on his blankets, the higher the denier, the better. The SmartPak Deluxe Turnout Blanket and Amigo Turnout Blanket offer a durable 1200 denier exterior, while the Big D Heavy Magnum Turnout boasts an impressive 2100 denier outer shell. Ballistic nylon and ripstop exterior fabrics are also indicators that a blanket will stand up to a little more abuse.

These are just some general suggestions and, of course, every horse is different, so there’s no one-size-fits all approach. If you have a blanket that works well for your horse, we’d love for you to share it here or write a review on our website to help other customers shop for their horses!

The right blanket for the weather

There are a lot of factors to consider when figuring out how much you want to bundle up. To help out, we created a quick-reference temperature guide. Of course every horse and every environment has it’s own unique considerations, so if you have specific questions, you should check with your vet.

Approximate Temperature Guide
45° F – Not clipped: no blanket; Clipped: light weight blanket
35° F – Not clipped: light weight blanket; Clipped: medium weight blanket
25° F – Not clipped: medium weight blanket; Clipped: heavy weight blanket
15° F – Not clipped: heavy weight blanket + hood; Clipped: heavy weight blanket, liner + hood
Below 10°F, Heavy weight blanket, liner + hood for all; add polar fleece for clipped

If you’re not sure about the various weights, the meaning of terms like “denier” or the difference between sheets, stable blankets and turnouts, we can help! Check out our in-depth Blanketing Glossary or call our experts at 1-877-885-2904.

Happy shopping!

Sarah Paull

Sarah Paull is a lifelong rider and SmartPak’s Brand Manager. You may know her better as the life-size foam finger from the London Olympics, the host of USEF Network’s Live from London coverage, or “that girl from the Stuff Riders Say videos.” Prior to joining SmartPak in 2008, Sarah worked as a Veterinary Technician at B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, and obtained her degree in Equine Science from Centenary College. Sarah is the proud mom of Cody, a semi-retired, 23-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, and she’s currently looking for an eventing partner to help her get rid of all the extra time, money and energy she doesn’t actually have :-) If you're interested in her often-horsey, always-odd musings, follow @SmartPakerSarah on Twitter.

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30 comments on “Blanketing 101
  1. jennifer porter says:

    Great tips. One piece of info that’s missing and also hard to find, is the life of a blanket. How long do blankets last? Would love to get some guidance!

    • Peppermint says:

      My horses are rough on their turnouts and I’ve found Horsewear to last the very longest. But mine love to roll so the absence of leg straps creates issues with rugs sliding up front. Bad idea! Weatherbeeta has good blankets but they are not as durable as Horsewear. Mine have lasted 3 years with repairs each year. Horsewear Rhinos have been with me more than 10 years with good care and occasionaly patch.

  2. Jennifer Stout says:

    Another topic not covered–what to do about foals! I’d love to see something on what’s appropriate for the weather, how to guesstimate what size to buy for the expected foal size (for those that can’t wait for a blanket to be shipped, and what really holds up to the rambunctious nature of the little demons…er, dears. :)

  3. Stacy Hawkins says:

    I have a thoroughbred, she is slim and has high withers. Her Weatherbeeta with the high neck works perfect. I use the clipped suggestions even though she is not. She is so thin skinned and has such a light coat. She has many blankets but this is her fav and uses the turnout both indoor and out.
    Thanks SmartPak

  4. Pam Paulk says:

    I would like to know which manufacturers are cut further back for the neck opening so they do not put pressure on the withers and rub the mane out as well. Good article although I also blanket heavier than recommended, since my Thb is in training in the winter and I do not want a long coat. Thank you.

  5. Janyse Madsen says:

    I never used to blanket my Paints, but now that they are older I do. The Horseware ireland Amigo works great for them! They love to roll and although this particular blanket does not have leg straps, they do stay in place. My Paints are not clipped and they get by fine with the medium weight blankets in the cold weather.
    It should be noted not to take the blankets off/on too much; once their winter hair is flattened down from the blanket, it is hard for them to keep warm.

  6. Liz Baker says:

    My horses aren’t ridden much over the winter months, and I prefer to let them grow a full winter coat. Because they have nice, thick coats of their own, I don’t blanket unless: 1) it’s below 50 degrees and RAINING (snow will build up on their backs & actually keep them warmer than would a blanket – snow is 32 degrees, while the air temp might be much lower), 2) it’s 35 degrees or below and WINDY – the wind sucks the heat right out of their coats, or 3) it’s below about 20 degrees. If I blanket when it’s much above 32 degrees I find my horses sweating under the blankets. Also important is buying blankets with good wicking properties. I find that a wet horse becomes a dry and cozy horse pretty quickly if the blanket wicks well. These guidelines have kept my pasture ornaments healthy and happy in various climate regions in both Colorado and Pennsylvania.

  7. Liz Baker says:

    As to the question for foals. . . Foals seem to have a way of being born with an appropriate hair coat for the weather when they’re born. I have used large dog blankets that are built like horse blankets on my foals, though, on occasion – mostly when it’s raining. Since they aren’t very good at regulating their own body temps, like adult horses, they do sometimes need a bit of help. The best blankets I’ve found for babies are a line called Tough One, distributed by JT International. They are the best ones for the price that are good for turnout – most foal blankes aren’t waterproof, but these are. Measure just the same as you would your adult horse for size. I think I paid around $40 each for them a few years ago. They hold up about as well as can be expected when dressing inquisitive and active youngsters. Big D used to make a nice foal sized turn-out, but I don’t know if they market them any more, it’s been quite a few years since I bought one of those. For the most part, though, if you are able to keep those babies inside when the weather is really bad, they shouldn’t need blankets. Of course, each foal is different. . . The nice part is that, a baby who’s been blanketed isn’t worried about saddle blankets at all, when the time comes! I just got a report from the guy who bought a 2010 colt from me – he put a pony saddle on him, just to see what he’d do – the colt reportedly took it “like a 20 year old rope horse”! Don’t know that I’d recommend doing this with most babies, though. . .

  8. Malinda says:

    New Zealand Blankets were not mentioned. They have been just what we need for most of our weather in Arkansas. I love buying used blankets on e-bay .

  9. Native Texan says:

    I have used the Smartpak and Kensington turnouts on my Arabians with success. They fit well and have lasted several seasons. I tried Weatherbeta blankets once and did not like them. They didn’t fit my Arabians well at all, so I sold them. Incidentally, I’m not sure why this guide considers Arabians to be narrow. Most that I’ve met and my Arabians are all quite wide.

  10. Marci says:

    I know this is probably not an appropriate place to say this, but here goes, anyway. I have 25-year-old QH/TB who has always worn a size 82 blanket. However, with age, he doesn’t hold his weight as well anymore, so his 82 blankets no longer fit — get stuck behind the withers. About three years ago I ordered a turn-out and a mid-weight blanket for him from a brand called Turtle Neck. Guess what? He can still wear those blankets! All the other brands, I’ve had to chuck. Plus, I find the Turtle Necks keep him really warm because of the snug, but non-binding fit around his front shoulder/withers area. Can’t say enough about these blankets! Just love them. By the way, they are long cut also and very durable, plus they send extra parts that may need to be replaced with the new blanket. So far, have only used the legstraps.

  11. Ruth says:

    My t/o sheets and blankets are HUG brand. These are great, well designed blankets The overlapping front bib design provides great fit and the blankets are very durable. I’ve never had a rub on any horse with these blankets. I won’t buy anything else.

  12. Mallory says:

    Over the years my experience with blankets has not changed much. I have had both quarters and tbs and leg straps are a must! I like Big D but I feel the price is a bit much for stable blankets. Not really a big fan of the stable blankets from weather beta for any breed they tend to sit back to far on the wither and rub and slid. As far temp, I blanket much heavier to keep my horses slick, or to keep them shedding. Love hoods! They can only help!

  13. Jill says:

    Anyone have any recommendations for a blanket that works well on a Friesian? My 2 yr old filly got shoulder rubs in last years blanket, and even though I measured carefully her new 75 inch fits well chest to butt but her back is short and with that upright neck the blanket just bunches up along her back and neck rubbing on her mane.

    • Try Schniders, they have great, long lasting blankets that are great value. They also have several kinds of neck fits, one is cut back for horses like saddlebreds, and other high necked horses. Love mine!

      • Carolyn says:

        Definitely call them for best recommendation for style. They were superbly helpful in fitting my Perch cross!

      • PaintedCowgirl says:

        Totally agree with the Schneiders blankets. I bought one about a month ago and I love it. After my gelding destroyed the first blanket (of another brand) after only a few days of use, I got him the 1680 denier ballistic blanket from Scheniders. He likes to reach over the barbwire fences and, aside from a few snags, this blanket has held up well. It keeps him toasty on the frigid days, but allows him to regulate and stay cooler on the warmer days. They have multiple styles and cuts to fit just about any horse, their customer service is great, and delivery is quick.

        • Tricaratops says:

          “He like to reach over the barbed wire fence”

          Therein lies your problem. It should be noted that barbed wire is never an appropriate fencing choice for horses.

          • Deb says:

            Suggest that PaintedCowgirl was not looking for unsolicited commentary on fencing. Right or wrong, there are sometimes when you should keep your opinion to yourself.

  14. Erin says:

    Are there study based references for these blanketing techniques, or is this based primarily from experience? You’re blanketing “approximate temperature guide” does take into account whether or not a horse is clipped, however, it does not take into account body weight and condition. Do you have any suggestions as to how to blanket older horses that do not grow thick coats? Also, what about the elements like wind and precipitation? If you can provide peer reviewed published literature regarding this topic I would love to read it!

    Thanks.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your question! Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of clinical/peer-reviewed research in the world of horse blankets. The only studies my search found focused on the effect of clipping vs. not, with regards to thermoregulation during exercise, and pressure on the withers compared across three blanket styles.
      Keep in mind that we were writing this guide more as an educational tool to give riders and horse owners some basic information they can use to start conversations with their barn managers, trainers and/or vets.
      Our approximate temperature guide is just that – an approximation based on years of collective personal experience, and our recommendations are in-line with the opinions of other industry experts (for some additional reading, check out these two pieces from our friends at The Horse: http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6171 and http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=13124).
      If your horse is older and has trouble maintaining a winter coat, he may well also have trouble maintaining adequate fat cover, and both of those challenges would likely predispose him to need a little more help maintaining his core body temperature. As with all seniors, or horses with any special conditions, your best bet is to work with your veterinarian to make sure your meeting your horse’s individual needs.
      You are absolutely correct that precipitation and wind can intensify cold temperatures (they don’t call it the “wind chill factor” for nothing!), so overall weather conditions should absolutely be taken into consideration when dressing your horse on a day-to-day basis.
      Overall, just like people, some horses are simply less bothered by wind and rain (and for that matter, cold weather in general), so unfortunately no chart or statistics are going to be able to give you all the answers you need. (Think about it like warming up for a horse show: some horses need 10 minutes to get loose, then they’re ready to head to the ring, while other horses need 40 minutes of solid riding to get their head in the game.) That’s why we kept our recommendations basic and general.
      If you have specific questions about your horse’s health, your best resource is your vet. If you have questions about our product selection, and which blankets might be right for your horse, feel free to call our experts at 1-888-752-5171 – they’re always happy to help!

  15. Debbie says:

    Snap front closures: I have a Weatherbeeta Orican blanket for my mare. Word of warning, when closing the front snap closures always snap them with the snap opening facing inward toward the chest. I put it on with the toggle facing outward and it caught on the fence wire. Luckily Miss Bonnet is a level-headed girl and didn’t hurt herself or tear the fence down (or rip up her brand new blanket). That was the first time I had this type of blanket rather than the one with a buckle/tongue closure, so something I hadn’t considered.

  16. Shannon says:

    I have the hardest time figureing out what weight to purchase. I have a TBxDutch Warmblood mare. She is 24 y/o and has arthritis in hips and hocks and navicular. She is much less stiff in the winter when I blanket. I don’t clip her, but she produces a very thin coat. The problem: living is So. California and the extreme temp swings. Last night it was 60 degrees up until 1 am, but this morning at 5 am it was 33 degrees. By 8am it was 60 degrees and even with a lightweight turnout sheet she was already sweating on her back. I’m not sure what type/weight blanket to use for this scenario, which occurs a lot where I live. To hot to blanket at a reasonable evening hour, but too cold to be without one in the wee hours. Can you offer a suggesstion? She is high whithered.

    • Hi Shannon, thanks for your question – it’s a doozy for sure! Since a lightweight turnout is making your mare sweat in the warmer evenings and mornings, she should stay undressed all night. Otherwise, the sweat could get trapped under her lightweight turnout and when the temperatures drop overnight, that sweat can cause a nasty chill. Does your mare live in a stall or at least have a run-in shed? If so, she should be just fine keeping warm for those chilly early morning hours.
      Because you mentioned your mare’s arthritis, I wanted to recommend a product that a lot of SmartPakers (and customers!) are very fond of using for their older, creaky horses – the Back on Track Fleece Blanket (http://www.smartpakequine.com/back-on-track-fleece-blanket-10015p.aspx). The fleece is infused with ceramic fibers that reflect your mare’s body heat back on to her, helping keep her muscles and joints warm and “loose.” Obviously fleece isn’t a good solution for turnout, but it is nice option for helping your mare warm up for and cool down after winter rides.
      I hope this is helpful! If you have more specific questions about your mare, don’t hesitate to give our Customer Care team a call at 1-888-752-5171 – they’re always happy to help!

  17. Wilda says:

    How frequently do I need to remove the blanket during the colder winter months?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Wilda – You should check your horse’s blankets every day to make sure it hasn’t shifted and that all the straps are still buckled and adjusted properly. It’s also important to remove your horse’s blankets regularly to make sure your horse isn’t developing bothersome rubs, which can become serious if not addressed right away. Last but not least, removing the blankets regularly is critical because it allows you to give your horse a hands-on body condition score inspection, to make sure he’s maintaining his weight throughout the winter. (Our Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray, can help you learn how to evaluate your horse’s body condition score: http://blog.smartpakequine.com/2011/06/how-to-body-condition-score-your-horse/).
      Now comes the tricky part – what’s “regularly” really mean? It varies from rider to rider, but our recommendation is pulling your horse’s blankets off every day or every other day to let the skin breathe and to make sure everything is happy and healthy.

  18. Brooke says:

    I just got a new horse and so for the first time in 8 years I need to figure out a new blanket strategy. I’m always worried my horse will be too cold – I guess because I’m always so cold. I already purchased the smartpak delux turnout sheet which I love so far but now I’m trying to decide on a stable blanket and stable sheet. I really want to go with the baker sheet and blanket because of both durability and style but I’m worried they won’t be warm enough during the cold Syracuse winter. My new horse seems to be hotter than my last horse but I don’t want to spend the money for a baker blanket to find out its not warm enough. Do you have any suggestions? Have you found the baker line to be warm enough or should I go with a stable blanket with fill in it? Also for now I don’t think I will body clip him as he’s only 3 and this is my first winter with him but I definitely plan to in the future. Thanks

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hey Brooke – these are all great questions – and congrats on your new horse! I totally sympathize about always being cold, and I used to over-blanket because of it, so I’m excited to help you and your new guy find the right solution for you both. Since you’re not planning on clipping your new guy this year, you definitely don’t have to bundle your horse up as much as you would if he’s clipped. In fact, he might not even need a blanket at all for much of the winter. I’m a former New Yorker (albeit “downstate”) and I know a lot of people who never blanket in the winter. That said, I always like to keep my horse’s coat lighter in the winter (often body clipped), so I am a fan of quality blankets. And when it comes to quality, it’s hard to beat Baker! These blankets and sheets are gorgeous and built to last. The Baker Blanket is made from triple weave acrylic, so it offers a ton of warmth without the bulk of a filled blanket. I checked the average temps in Syracuse and it looks like the winters run about mid-teens to low thirties, so for most of the winter (down to the low 20s) the Baker Blanket should be just about right for your guy. When it drops below that, you can layer the sheet underneath for a bit more warmth, or consider adding a heavy weight blanket to your horse’s winter wardrobe. (Baker does offer a super heavyweight 400g turnout blanket… :))
      One thing I find helpful to keep myself in check when I’m getting chilly and start projecting on my horse, is to feel the tips of his ears – if they’re not cold, neither is he!
      I hope this is helpful! If you have any other questions, let me know, or call our awesome Customer Care team at 1-88-752-5171 or email CustomerCare@SmartPak.com. Have a great ride! – SmartPaker Sarah

  19. Holly says:

    Thank you for the great tips, esp finding the right brand for your type of horse. I do think that you may want to reconsider your comment “A thin/narrowly built horse, like a thoroughbred or arabian” because Arabians are built nothing like thoroughbreds. They have round, sprung rib cages, low to moderate withers and often huge shoulders. They are much closer in build to a Morgan than a thoroughbred! :)

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