If your horse wears a blanket, here are some tips to make it safer and easier for you and your horse.
- Check your horse daily to make sure that the blanket is not rubbing or pulling. Broken hairs are an indication of chaffing.
- To prevent the snaps on leg straps from getting soiled and sticky, change the strap around so the snap attaches to the ring near the belly strap, rather than under the tail area.
- Use small elastics like those used to bind braids to prevent belly straps from unhooking. Loop a small elastic around the slot end of a belly strap. Do up the strap as usual. Then pull the elastic forward and loop it a few times in front of the 'T'. (Thanks to my farrier for this tip.)
- Broken leg straps can easily be replaced and many tack shops provide them.
Fold the blanket properly to make putting it on and removing it safer and easier.
- If the blanket is pulling down and behind the horse's withers a tuck or dart sewn along the neckline may help it sit a bit higher. Estimate how much fabric needs to be taken up while the blanket is on the horse. Then with a heavy duty sewing machine sew in a dart. If you don't have access to a sewing machine or don't sew, anyone that does any sort of heavy industrial sewing can do this easily. Check for businesses that make things like boat tops, tarps, or banners. Of course in some areas you may be able to find someone who does horse blanket repairs exclusively.
- If your horses are outside a lot it may be helpful to have two outdoor rugs. We often have freezing rain and wet snow that seems to saturate most blankets after a time. An extra blanket means we can switch and allow one to dry. (Warning: thawing and drying horse blankets can smell bad to some people. If you are expecting guests you might not want to bring your blankets in the house to dry.)
- Don't try to wash your outdoor blankets in the washing machine. Most are too heavy when wet! Either send them to a blanket cleaning service or go to work with a scrub brush, mild soap and garden hose when the weather is good.
- Likewise don't take your horse blankets to the laundromat. Yes, the larger machines will accommodate a large winter blanket--but the dirt and hair that can get left behind will make you very unpopular with the owner.
- If your blanket is loosing its waterproof abilities try a spray on water-proofer. Forum members have discussed several products that work and are not harmful to the horse.
- Some horses like to play 'rip the blanket' and will destroy their own or a pasture mate's blanket. Try bitter spray-on products made especially for horses to discourage this type of play. Try providing other toys like play balls and old jeans with the buttons removed if you have a horse that likes to pull at things.
- A few years ago an older farmer stopped by and told me "you know you'll just make those horses sick, wearing blankets like that". A lot of people think horses shouldn't wear blankets (or be in stables) at all. Use your good common sense when blanketing. My horses wear blankets when the weather is below freezing and it is windy, raining or snowing hard. If the sun is out, even if the temperature is quite crisp you might want to take the blankets off. You'll know by the way your horses act whether they are feeling chilled or not.
- The best way to keep a horse warm during cold weather is not to buy the best blanket, but to buy the best quality hay. Some hard keepers may benefit from the addition of a concentrate feed, but the process of digesting hay gives off a lot of heat--keeping your horse warm.