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Winter Wither Woes: Blanketing tips for a high neck set

If the neck opening of your horse’s blanket is tight across any part of the wither area, you’re not just risking rubbing out some mane…that blanket may be creating enough pressure to cause soreness. I’ve had my horse, Sawyer, for three years this March. As I’ll explain more in a moment, Sawyer’s conformation makes it hard to find a blanket that’s a healthy and comfortable fit for his withers and neck. Luckily, now that we’re in our third winter together, I’ve gone through enough blankets that I’ve figured out what does and doesn’t work for him. So, I thought I’d share blanket fitting tips for anyone with a horse shaped like mine!

Sawyer is a 7 year old Lippitt Morgan gelding. Lippitts are a segment of the Morgan breed with the most bloodlines tracing back to Justin Morgan, the foundation sire. Lippitts retain the most original breed characteristics of the Morgan Horse because they have no outcrosses to other breeds in the 20th or 21st centuries, and there are only about 2,000 left in the world. And as a stellar example of a Lippitt Morgan (if I do say so myself!) Sawyer’s conformation closely resembles the ideal Morgan breed standard, as stated by the American Morgan Horse Association website, www.morganhorse.com:

“The neck should come out on top of an extremely well-angulated shoulder with depth from top of withers to point of shoulder. It should be relatively fine in relation to sex. It should be slightly arched and should blend with the withers and back. The top line of the neck should be considerably longer than the bottom line…The withers should be well defined and extend into the back in proportion to the angulation of the shoulder.”

Sawyer lives outside and I blanket him as minimally as possible because his New England heritage means he’s got the thick coat and general hardiness to handle the cold with ease. However, because he stays in work during the winter, I give him a modest trace clip, otherwise he gets too sweaty. So, he does need a couple of turnout blankets to help keep him comfortable during the cold weather.

Because of the upright conformation of Sawyer’s neck, combined with the depth of his neck as it meets his shoulder and how low his neck ties into his chest, I’ve found that he simply does not fit into a traditionally cut turnout blanket. Further trials have also shown that the cut-back withers style preferred for many Quarter Horses are also a bad fit for his conformation.

Sawyer cooler too tight
This picture of Sawyer in a fleece dress sheet is a perfect depiction of how tight a traditional blanket cut fits him in the wither area and shoulder. You can see that because he has so much depth from point of shoulder to withers, the neck opening itself isn’t big enough, so the top of the blanket sits too far up from his withers and is extremely tight on that lower part of the neck, as well as at the shoulder. In fact, I no longer use this cooler, even just to walk up to the ring, because the shoulder is so tight I can barely unbuckle it by the time we get to the indoor arena from the barn.

Here are a couple of pictures to help you get a better idea of how Sawyer’s neck and shoulders are shaped:
Sawyer shoulder
Sawyer river

Now that you know what blankets don’t fit Sawyer, and therefore may not be the ideal style if your own horse has a similar neck/shoulder conformation, here’s what I’ve found does fit him: Blankets with a “high neck” cut, including the “Wug” style made by Horseware® Ireland, and those with a “combo neck” feature. Basically, anything where the top edge of the neck opening is significantly higher up the neck than it is on a classic cut blanket. This allows Sawyer to carry his neck at a normal, comfortable level, and even to raise his head higher, without creating a pressure point near his withers where the edge of a traditional neck opening sits. And as you saw from the photo of the fleece cooler above, the other challenge of regular blanket cuts is that they are extremely tight in the front of Sawyer’s chest as well – even if I got up a blanket size. The higher neck cuts also provide more room in the shoulder, so it’s a win-win.

Here’s a picture of Sawyer in a high neck blanket:
sawyer snow trot

Lastly, here’s a list of specific blankets I’ve had luck with!

“High Neck” and “Wug” styles:
SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket

This ships free!
SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket

 $169.95 - $179.95
(302 reviews)

Amigo 1200D Bravo 12 Wug
This ships free!
Amigo 1200D Bravo 12 Wug Turnout Blanket

 $178.95 - $198.95
(104 reviews)

Weatherbeeta Genero 1200D High Neck Turnout
Weatherbeeta Genero 1200D High Neck Turnout Blanket made Exclusively for SmartPak - Sale!
SOLD OUT
(41 reviews)

“Combo Neck” styles:
SmartPak Ultimate Combo Neck Turnout Blanket

This ships free!
SmartPak Ultimate Combo Neck Turnout Blanket

 $219.95 - $229.95
(38 reviews)

Coolers:
SmartPak Fleece Square Cooler

SmartPak Fleece Square Cooler
SOLD OUT
(24 reviews)

Here’s to a healthy winter full of comfortable withers and happy horses!

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3 comments on “Winter Wither Woes: Blanketing tips for a high neck set
  1. Madi Szurley says:

    He is so cute! This post has inspired me to buy a Morgan! Love him!!

  2. Jessica says:

    Thanks, Madi! Check out http://www.lippittclub.net and their awesome Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LippittClubMorganHorse/

  3. Sharon says:

    He’s gorgeous! The Lippit conformation is my favorite of the Morgans. There’s no question that they are Morgans. My husband’s mare (a Paint with racing QH in her pedigree) has fairly high withers. In the 11+ years we’ve owned her, we’ve only had to blanket her over 2 winters when temps got into the single digits over night (we’re in the high desert of S. Calif, totally different climate from Los Angeles). I got lucky with a State Line blanket made by Kensington. It gives her plenty of wither room. Sorry, but I bought this blanket before I discovered Smart Pak!! 🙂

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