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Whether you're a fan of seasonal blanketing for all weather conditions or prefer to only use a turnout rug during inclement weather, as a horse owner, you likely own at least one horse blanket.
In some instances, you may need a combination of turnout blankets, stable blankets, and even a blanket liner to keep your horse warm.
Those who ride regularly or are involved in horse competitions may also need coolers, fleeces, and competition sheets in their tack trunk.
Here we will teach you all you need to know about caring for a horse blanket. From cleaning tips to storage ideas, read on to learn how to maximize your blanket's lifespan.
The first step in ensuring the lifespan of your blanket is to be certain you have the right blanket size. Obviously, this is primarily for the comfort and safety of your horse.
However, another benefit is that a horse will happily tolerate a well-fitting blanket. This will save the blanket from rips or tears and avoid damage to expensive body clips, buckles, and surcingles.
Washing Your Blanket
In general, a blanket can be used for an entire season, with basic spot cleaning to get rid of badly soiled areas. This can be done with a stiff brush where necessary. Washing too frequently can damage the outer coating and compromise fabric strength.
If you're a stickler for spotless rugs, you might find it easier to keep a collection of more than one. Using a liner or a cooler under your blanket can reduce the grease build-up on the inside of the blanket. They are also easier to clean.
At the end of the season, most blankets can be safely washed using cold water and soap. Ideally, this should be horse-blanket specific, but a mild detergent should be good enough, provided it is suitable for the blanket material used.
Take care to follow blanket washing guidelines, and avoid fabric softener since this will damage the waterproof coating on the blanket.
If you don't have access to a blanket laundry, it's not a good idea to wash blankets in your washing machine. The weight of the fabric, along with dirt and loose hair, may damage the mechanism and clog drains.
Lighter rugs, such as coolers or competition sheets, may be safe to machine wash, provided you take care that buckles won't get hooked in the drum and that you remove excess hair with a hose before washing.
For heavy blankets, you'll find it more effective to hang them up and then hose them down while scrubbing with a firm brush with detergent. Take care to rinse the soap out completely since some horses are sensitive to soapy residue.
Once clean, drain excess water, then drape over a strong clothesline, blanket rack, or fence to dry completely. Avoid the temptation to put them in the dryer, because the heat will damage the protective lining.
Once your blankets are clean and dry, you can examine them to see if any areas need repair. Check buckles, lining, and surcingles, and order any replacements needed to be ready for the next year.
Small tears can be easily hand-stitched, while larger ones may need patching with a suitable piece of fabric. A tailor or seamstress might handle these tasks more effectively if you're not handy with a needle and thread.
If you live in an equestrian area, it's likely that there is a service nearby that you could access, too.
At this point, you might also decide that the fabric of your rugs needs to be re-proofed. Products are available to repair your blanket's waterproofing without compromising either breathability or water-repellant capability.
Doing this well before the new season will ensure that your blankets are ready before the weather turns nasty.
Once your blankets are clean, repaired, and completely dry, you should store them safely until you need them again.
Competition sheets, coolers, or rain sheets may need to be accessed more regularly, but heavy winter rugs can be folded and stored in secure trunks until the following season.
It's important that blankets are not stored wet in order to avoid damage from mildew and rust. Also, ensure they are not vulnerable to moths, rats, and other pests, or you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise when you unpack them the following year.
Should You Blanket?
Much of this information may be irrelevant if you're still deciding on the type of blanketing routine you'd like to follow. Many horses, particularly if the climate is warm and they are stabled, are quite happy to go without.
However, in some cases, blanketing is unavoidable. This is particularly true if you own senior horses or live in a region where dense winter coats alone aren't enough to maintain your horse's body heat during icy winter months, or if your horse feels the cold.
A horse that is struggling with weight loss will battle to keep warm. This will show up in poor body condition scores and continued loss of body weight.
Of course, weight issues should first be addressed by determining your horse's ideal weight using a horse weight calculator or horse weight chart and then addressing your horse's nutrition.
Horse feeding mistakes can be avoided by following a horse feeding chart and ensuring that the feeding ratio for your horses is suitable for their breed type and level of horse sports and games they're involved in.
If you're training for upcoming equestrian events, you may want to clip your horse during winter, which will mean a winter rug is essential. Many clipped horses also need day sheets, even if the sun is out.
Another benefit for competitive riders is that blankets also help keep coats finer and easier to groom since you're not faced with as much of the dense winter fuzz designed to ward off the cold.
A good quality blanket is an investment in your horse's welfare and, with the right care, should last for many years. Aside from maximizing the lifespan of your rug, your horse will thank you for providing clean, well-fitting protection from the elements.
Looking for more guidance on how to take care of your tack and horse wear?Contact Country & Stable USA for great tips and a full range of products for you and your horse.