Fall is the beginning of horse blanket season, but which blanket is right for your horse? Does he need a stable blanket? A turnout? A sheet? What is denier, and what is fill level? The options can be overwhelming. The right blanket for your horse fits his body type, lifestyle, and climate. These are the points to consider when finding the right blanket for your horse.
Once you find the perfect blanket, be sure to care for it properly. Find all the steps in Wash and Waterproof Your Horse Blankets the Right Way.
Choosing Warmth Level
How do you determine which warmth level is right for your horse? While many horse blanket companies have temperature charts like this one from Weatherbeeta, it is only a starting point. What really matters is how acclimated to your climate your horse is.
My horses were both born and raised in bitterly cold climates (Montana and Minnesota) and tolerated cold well. Weatherbeeta’s chart shows that at 30 degrees they should need a medium-weight turnout, but 30-degree days are so nice in Montana that they usually wore nothing at all.
Horses that move to cold climates from warm areas will need warmer blankets because their bodies do not know how to react to bitterly cold temperatures. Use this chart as a starting point, but remember that horses are individuals just like people, and some will be much more cold-tolerant than others.
If your horse spends any time in a stall, he needs a stable blanket. You do not wear your winter coat in the house, and your horse should not wear his turnout blanket in his stall. Wearing the same blanket inside and outside will make him prone to chills, which is what you are trying to avoid by blanketing. Choose a stable blanket with a warmth level that fits your climate and the warmth of your barn.
Stable blankets may be open or closed front and have a single belly strap or a belly wrap. I find that a closed front blanket fits my wide-chested stock horses best, but the choice is yours. Not all horses tolerate the blanket going over their head, and you may find an open-front blanket more convenient.
Remember that stable blankets are made from nylon with a lower denier than turnout blankets, so they are more prone to tearing. Use them as a base layer underneath a turnout blanket when your horse goes outside.
Closed-front stable blanket: Derby Originals Stable Blanket with Belly Wrap (buy it here). Derby Originals makes a durable stable blanket. The exterior is 1200 denier nylon that resists tears, and the belly band closes with hook-and-eye surcingles rather than Velcro.
Open-front stable blanket: Amigo Mio Stable Blanket (buy it here). I am a huge fan of Horseware Ireland blankets, even their lower-end Amigo line. Horseware Ireland blankets cost a bit more up front but last years longer than other brands. The Amigo Mio fits wide-chested horses well and stays in place, preventing rubs.
Turnout blankets have grown in popularity over the last 15 years and finding one that fits your horse’s body type and lifestyle can be overwhelming. Turnout blankets are designed for horses on the move, so finding the right one is very important for your horse’s comfort and your wallet.
The first point to consider is your horse’s body type. Is he wide-chested? High-withered? Different blanket brands fit different body types better. Poor fit leads to rubs and slipping, which can cause your horse to get tangled in his blanket.
The second point to consider is your horse’s lifestyle. Is he turned out in a small area by himself? Does he have rambunctious pasture mates? Consider the fencing too. Horses will snag their blankets more often on wire fencing than wood or vinyl. A turnout blanket with a higher denier level will cost more up front but will last longer and take repairs better.
The third point to consider is your climate. I lived in frigidly cold Central Montana for 16 years, and some winters the temperature was warmer in Fairbanks, Alaska, than where I was. Even in those cold temperatures, my horses did not need a heavyweight blanket. Heavyweight turnout blankets are bulky and uncomfortable for your horse. You are better off layering a lightweight or midweight turnout blanket over your stable blanket for ultimate warmth and comfort. Have you ever worn a bulky, uncomfortable winter coat where you felt like you couldn’t move? This is how your horse feels in a heavyweight turnout blanket. Make him more comfortable and choose a lightweight or midweight turnout blanket and dress him in layers.
Wide-based stock horses: Rambo Original Turnout Blanket (buy it here). I bought these blankets for my horses 9 years ago and they will last several more seasons. They are a bit sun-bleached now, but have kept my horses warm in the frigid Montana winters without rubbing or slipping. These blankets are THE BEST on the market and well worth the money.
Narrow, high-withered horses: Horze Supreme Avalanche Turnout Blanket (buy it here). Horze is a lesser-known brand, but I am always impressed with their quality. Their Avalanche Turnout Blanket fits narrow-chested, high-withered horses well without rubbing or slipping.
If you are riding in cold temperatures, your horse will sweat. Sweat in the summer is good because it naturally cools your horse but sweat in the winter can be deadly. Wool is the best fabric for wicking moisture away from the skin and drying your horse without him catching a chill.
Many coolers are fleece, and you should avoid these. Fleece is a synthetic fiber that traps moisture and heat against your horse’s skin, making him prone to chills. In extreme cold, this can be deadly. Wool is the safest option.
Centaur Wool Show Cooler (buy it here). True wool coolers are hard to find, but Centaur makes a quality one. This cooler will wick moisture away from your horse’s skin and allow it to evaporate, keeping your horse warm and dry.
Rambo Techi-Waffle Cooler (buy it here). I love all things Horseware Ireland, and even though this cooler is not wool, it wicks just the same. In Fall 2017, I leased my horses to Rocky Mountain College’s equestrian program, and one of the students using my horses had this cooler. She put it on my soaking wet horse, and I watched the cooler absorb the moisture. Underneath my horse was warm and dry. This cooler is everything Horseware Ireland advertises it to be, and it is well worth the money.
Make your own! When I was a starving college student, I learned how to make my own wool cooler because any new tack was well out of my budget. This is a super easy project and you don’t need many sewing skills. Buy a wool Army Surplus wool blanket (buy it here) and sew ribbon on the front edges to make ties (buy it here). Sew one piece of ribbon across the back to make a tail loop. If your blanket isn’t large enough to make a cooler, sew two together with one seam. Super easy, super affordable.
Consider Your Horse
I had the advantage of owning a horse blanket repair business for almost four years, so I had the chance to see how different brands fit different horse body types and which blankets are worth the money. Consider your horse’s body type, lifestyle, and climate, but when that does not give you the answers, look at the other horses in your barn. Find a horse with similar body type to yours and see if his blanket fits well or not. That will give you a great starting point. Once you have the right blankets, your horse will be warm and comfortable through the dark winter days.
Which horse blankets are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!
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Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.