Your horse sure looks sharp in his new winter blanket. You can cross your fingers and hope it makes it to spring intact, or you can take the following four steps to help minimize the risk of tears and other damage.
1. Make sure it fits. A blanket that is too big is more likely to be stepped on or snagged. Not only is that bad for the blanket, but it can cause injury to your horse. A too-snug fit strains seams and fasteners, making them more susceptible to wear or failure. Keep in mind that weight gain and loss can affect a blanket’s fit from year to year.
2. Adjust the straps properly. In addition to securing the chest and belly straps comfortably, make sure they are positioned as the manufacturer intended. Most turnout blankets are designed so the straps cross each other underneath the horse’s belly, and not doing so can strain the stitching or lead to slippage. Also, if the blanket has straps between the hind legs, use them. This may mean ordering replacements if yours are long gone, but they will stabilize the blanket to keep it safely in place.
3. Keep it clean(ish). A horse’s blanket is never going to be as clean as the one on your bed, but letting it get encrusted with filth will shorten its useful lifespan. Allow wet mud and muck to dry, then remove the dirt with a stiff brush. Hind-leg straps can get particularly gross, but those can be fairly easily washed and dried quickly. You can “spot clean” areas on the blanket with water on warmer days, but it’s helpful to have a backup blanket available for your horse to wear if a mid- winter trip to a horse-friendly laundromat is needed for a full washing and drying.
4. Store it properly. When your horse isn’t wearing his blanket, store it on a rack, bar or even folded on top of a tack trunk, out of reach of other horses. Resist the temptation to toss it on the floor of the aisle or over a stall wall where it can be stepped on, chewed up or otherwise damaged.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #447, December 2014.