Understanding Horse Blankets

Understanding Horse Blankets

Whether you’re a new rider or a seasoned stable authority, one thing is for certain: Proper horse care comes with a lengthy list of must-have items. Horse blankets and sheets are definitely high on that list and with good reason. They offer your horse protection and comfort in various climates and weather conditions. You may also be considering a blanket just to keep him clean and cut down on grooming time, to keep him from growing a super thick winter coat, or because your horse is older or sick and can’t regulate his own temperature. These individual reasons will inform your choice of a blanket.

Though all blankets work to cover your horse in one way or another, here are the four frequently used blanket types to get you started thinking about what types of blankets would be best for your horse.

Types of Horse Blankets Available

Identifying the blanket that will best suit the needs of your horse is the best way to start. Though all blankets work to cover your horse in one way or another, their differences and overall purpose are significant. Here are the four main types of blankets:

Stable Blankets

Aptly named, stable blankets are most frequently used to cover your horse while he or she is out of the elements inside the stable, barn, or stall. They are available in a wide range of weights specific to your horse and the temperature. Since these fitted blankets are designed for indoor use, most are not waterproof, although you may find that some are composed of moisture resistant or water repellent materials. Stable blankets are not typically recommended for wear outside the stable although some may opt to use heavier stable blankets under turnout blankets for added warmth on the coldest days.

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Turnout Blankets

Turnout blankets and sheets are typically made with tough, waterproof materials that offer protection from the elements and hold up during rough and vigorous activities in turnout. Turnout blankets are available in a wide range of weights, from no fill sheets to lightweight turnouts, medium weight turnouts, and heavyweight turnouts.

Unlike the more fitted stable blanket, turnout blankets are designed to allow for the freedom of motion often necessary during turnout. They may come equipped with things like gussets, tail flaps, leg straps, and fleece withers, all of which improve the overall fit and functionality of this active use blanket.

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Fly Sheets

Much like the name would suggest, fly sheets are designed to keep flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other types of pests off your horse and minimize insect bites. Typically used in warmer months, fly sheets are lightweight and may also offer UV protection to help shield your horse from the sun. Materials range from a tight, lightweight windowpane mesh to a thicker polyvinyl material; the former great all-around protection and the latter with added durability for the horse who is tough on equipment. Our selection includes fly sheets with belly bands, fly sheets with neck covers, and more.

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Horse Coolers

Made with moisture-wicking materials like wool, fleece, mesh, or loosely-woven cotton, horse coolers help wick moisture away and speed the drying after a hard workout or bath to cool them off without catching a chill. Coolers made from fleece and wool can also double as blanket liners when the temperatures dip way low.

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What Weight Blanket Does My Horse Need?

Selecting the Proper Weight and Denier

The weight and denier of a blanket are important, particularly during the cooler months when turnout blankets and stable blankets become imperative to the health and comfort of the horse. The higher the fill weight of the blanket, measured in grams, the warmer it will be. The fill, which can be either Polyfill or Fiberfill, is responsible for the level of warmth a blanket provides.

The denier is responsible for the toughness of the fabric and should be chosen based on the behaviors of your horse. If he routinely chews or breaks halters and barn equipment, opt for a higher denier. Additionally, if your horse is turned out in a group and they are rough, you will want to consider a high denier as well.

When temperatures dip below 50°F and your horse is not clipped, a lightweight blanket with about 100g of fill is appropriate. Below 40°F, a lightweight to medium-weight blanket with 150-250g of fill will keep your horse warm. Temperatures between 20° and 30°F will need a medium-weight to heavyweight blanket and below 20°F will require a heavyweight blanket or extra heavy blanket with 300-400g of polyfill. For horses that have been full-body clipped, you will need to blanket more heavily. Between 50°-60°F, a clipped horse will need a lightweight blanket with 100g of fill. From 40°-50°F, a lightweight to medium-weight blanket with 150-250g of fill is necessary and 30°-40°F a mediumweight to a heavyweight blanket. When temperatures dip down to 20°-30°F, make sure your horse is warm enough with 300-400g polyfill of a heavyweight or uses a medium weight turnout blanket with a liner. Below 20°F, your clipped horse will need a heavyweight turnout blanket with a liner to stay warm.

Every horse is slightly different and you will want to check to ensure that he is warm enough and not overheating.

Temperature Horse with Natural Coat Horse that is Body Clipped
50° - 60° Sheet - No fill Light Blanket (100g)
40° - 50° Light Blanket (100g) Light/Medium Blanket (150g - 250g)
30° - 40° Light/Medium Blanket (150g - 250g) Medium/Heavy Blanket (200g - 300g)
20° - 30° Medium/Heavy Blanket (200g - 300g) Heavy (300-400g( or Medium (200-300g) with Blanket Liner

Below 20° Extra Heavy (300g - 400g) Heavy (300-400g) with Blanket Liner
Denier Strength
210 Very Light Strength
420 Light Strength
600 Medium Strength
1200 Heavy Strength
1680 Extra Heavy Strength
2000 Super Heavy Strength

When determining the best weight, you will need to consider the following:

  • The temperature of your horse’s environment during use (Fall, Winter, Spring, etc.)
  • Your horse’s coat (condition of coat, light/heavy, body clipped, etc.)

What Size Blanket Does My Horse Need?

Selecting the Right Size

For a horse blanket of any kind to work properly and safely, it must fit your horse correctly. For that reason, it’s imperative that you measure your horse using a flexible tape measure. Accurate measurements can be obtained by measuring from your horse’s chest (high point of the shoulder) to the rear of the hind legs.

For the best results, measure your horse standing on flat ground and keep the tape straight as you measure from chest to hind legs.

Blankets should never be too tight or too loose on any part of your horse to prevent chafing, rubbing, or otherwise. A blanket should never be too long or too short and all straps should be snug as both of these extremes can cause your horse harm. To be safe and avoid ill-fitting blankets, be sure to check the following:

measuring diagram

To avoid ill-fitting blankets, be sure to check the following:

  • Leg Straps: Leg straps that are too snug can rub and irritate your horse’s skin. Conversely, leg straps that are too loose can easily get caught or tangled and become a hazard for your horse. There should be about a hand’s width, 4-5", between your horse and the strap.
  • Surcingle Straps: These straps fasten under the belly of your horse. When fastened, you should be able to slide your hand easily between your horse’s belly and the strap with about 4" between belly and strap. Much like the leg straps, a surcingle strap that is too tight will cause skin irritation, while a strap that is too loose can get caught on something, including your horse’s leg.
  • Neck Opening: A properly fitting blanket will completely cover your horse’s chest while allowing for free neck movement. Like the straps, the general guideline is a hand’s width of space, 4", between the blanket and horse. More space and a loose blanket mean less protection from the elements and the possibility of your horse getting caught or tangled. A blanket that is too tight with less than a hand’s width will not only irritate your horse’s skin but can also restrict movement.
  • Drop: The drop, or length, of the blanket is important to keep in mind to give your horse the widest range of motion and prevent tripping or tangling. If the length chest to tail of your horse’s blanket is accurate, the drop will be corresponding to this and fall at the appropriate point in your horse’s leg.

If you’re still looking for information on and suggestions for more great winter horse blankets, how to measure a horse for a blanket, check out our helpful Blanket Finder, Understanding and Choosing the Right Winter Horse Blanket, Understanding Horse Blankets, and our guide on When to Blanket Your Horse. Remember that proper blanket care will prolong its life and you can read about How to Clean a Horse Blanket to protect your investment.

Horse Blanket FAQs

Determining if you should purchase a stable blanket or a turnout sheet would actually depend on whether or not your horse needs a waterproof blanket. Since stable blankets are NOT waterproof, they are typically used when your horse is kept in the barn. This type of blanket features a center seam and rump darts, providing a more contoured design. The addition of a full hood is also available and sold separately from the blanket. Used in combination with each other, they help to provide complete coverage for horses that are usually body clipped or help to prevent the growth of a winter coat. Popular stable blanket brands available at State Line Tack include Tough-1 and Snuggie stable blankets.

If your horse requires a waterproof material, there are two types of turnout blankets/sheets available. The first is the standard, which helps provide coverage from the horse’s withers to over the tail. The second is a combo blanket or Detach-A-Neck, provides all-over covering, starting from just behind the ears to over the tail. Since the design of a turnout blanket/sheet is more “drape” like, it is roomier to allow for better coverage and helps protect against Mother Nature’s elements. Popular turnout blanket brands available at State Line Tack are Defender, WeatherBeeta, Saxon, Professional‘s Choice and Weaver.

Since the warmth of the blanket is determined by how much fill is in blanket, we’ve put together two reference charts regarding the warmth and fill of a blanket. Some guidelines to keep in mind when choosing are:

Determining which weight you need depends on your horse’s environment.

  • Is your horse stall kept or turned out with or without shelter?
  • What is the climate like where your horse is kept?

Determining which weight also depends on your horse’s coat.

  • Does your horse grow a light/heavy coat?
  • Is your horse body clipped mid-winter?

You can always layer blankets for added warmth. For instance, if you buy a turnout blanket with light warmth, but also purchase a stable blanket with medium warmth, you can layer the two together, adding a waterproof protection to the stable blanket as well as additional warmth from the light turnout blanket.

First, the strength of the outer shell of a turnout blanket, or also called “denier”, is determined by the thickness of the material’s thread. Second, the higher the denier number is, the stronger the material strength will be. Now which denier is right for your horse? Here are a few things to consider:

  • How destructive is your horse? Does your horse come in from the field with a lot of scrapes.
  • Is your horse turned out with any other pasture pals? Are they destructive? Will your horse’s blanket become their chew toy?
  • What is your budget for buying a blanket?

Refer to the Denier Strength Chart for more information.

This is easiest when done with the help of a second person. You will need a flexible tape measure, which will help you get the most accurate measurement possible. First, start by standing your horse as square as possible on a flat, even surface. Next, place the tape measure at the center of the horse’s chest, over the high point of the shoulder. With the tape measure held in place on the chest, run it alongside the horse’s body until you reach the rear of the hind leg. For the most accurate measurement, keep the tape as straight as possible along the side of the body without following the contours of the horse’s body. If the length falls on a size not offered by the blanket company, then simply round up to the next available size being offered.

First, we recommend placing a thin, clean stable sheet on your horse to keep the blanket in new condition, in case the fit isn’t just right. To check if the blanket fits properly, place the blanket on and fasten the chest straps so the fabric overlaps at the chest. It should be snug here, but not tight. Next, fasten the surcingles and adjust to fit loosely on the horse’s stomach with about four fingers width between belly and straps. Finally, fasten the leg straps and adjust so you can only fit a hand’s width between each leg strap on your horse’s thighs.

Once the blanket is on your horse, check the length and the fit on the front. To check the length, stand behind the horse and gently bring the two ends toward one another against the horse’s rump. Try not to pull the blanket out of place as you are doing this. If the ends meet on the horse’s tail, the blanket is too large. If you cannot bring them together at all or if you can see more than 2-3 inches of the horse’s rump on either side of the tail, then the blanket is too small. The end of the blanket should stop just above where the tail starts. Now, to check the fit on the front of your horse, it is best to watch your horse walk while wearing the blanket. As your horse is moving forward, observe the shoulders. If the blanket fabric pulls tightly against the shoulder to the point of possibly impeding movement, then the blanket is too snug. If the blanket drops very low at the shoulder or chest, then the neck opening and/or the blanket is too large.

If your horse comes in and the blanket is covered in mud, the easiest way to get the mud off is to let it dry and use a stiff brush to remove the mud. If your horse will tolerate it, you can also leave the blanket on it while you brush the mud off. If you need to wash the blanket, the best way is to wash it with a mild detergent and then hang to dry.

Top Brands

  • Tough-1
  • Weatherbeeta
  • Kensington
  • Horseware Ireland
  • Saxon
  • Defender
  • Amigo
  • Shires
  • Published:
  • Updated: 1/13/2020: 1:37:11 PM ET