Buying Blankets, Sheets, and Turnout Rugs
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to outfit your horse in quality blankets, sheets, and rugs.
*Think ahead and buy winter-weight blankets and rugs in the spring and summer when shops and saddleries are eager to reduce their inventory. And be sure to check the clearance pages at online horse supply outlets where you might be able to buy a closeout top-flight garment for the same price as a cheaper model next fall.
*When buying a turnout rug or sheet, read the tags. Make certain the one you choose is waterproof (not water-resistant) and breathable (never use foam-lined blankets; they don’t breathe). Wearing a non-breathable blanket is to your horse like you wearing an old-fashioned plastic raincoat when it’s hot outside. It’s uncomfortable, and sweating inside of a blanket is as just as bad as getting wet. Keep in mind that turnout rugs with back seams can leak; one-piece designs are best.
*Blankets, sheets, and turnout rugs come in fabrics ranging from 300 to 1680 denier. Denier refers to thickness of threads and closeness of weave. The higher the denier the less likely the garment will snag and tear or your horse will be able to demolish it with his teeth. Buy the highest denier garments you can afford.
*Whether buying a sheet, a blanket for indoor use, or choosing a turnout rug, use a seamstress’ tape to determine the correct size. Hold one end of the tape at the center of your horse’s chest (at the point where his neck meets his chest), then measure along his side to the point where you want the garment to end. I like a roomy blanket; if you do too, measure back almost to the center of his tailbone. That’s the size of blanket he needs. If your horse measures an odd number, round up to the closest even size. For example, if your horse measures 71″, buy a size 72 blanket.
*Choose a blanket or turnout rug suited for your climate. When we lived in central Minnesota, our horses and donkeys wore turnout rugs rated for serious mid-winter cold; here in Arkansas, a waterproof turnout sheet to wear when it rains during the winter does the trick.
*Because they aren’t closely fitted, you can often adjust a slightly oversize turnout rug or sheet to fit your horse. Don’t, however, buy a smaller garment than your horse needs as snug garments rub, especially in the shoulder area.
*Most turnout rugs come with stretchy elastic leg straps to help keep the cover in place. Choose a model with detachable leg straps; you can remove them to launder the rug (otherwise they can get twisted around your washer’s dasher and damage the machine) and replace them if the stretch gives out before the garment itself.
Repairing Blankets and Sheets
It isn’t hard to keep horse garments in tiptop shape but you have to address problems as they occur. If binding pulls loose or you spy a rip, repair it before fixing it becomes a major job.
*It’s fairly easy to hand sew horse garments using a large, sharp needle with waxed dental floss or artificial sinew. Artificial sinew is heavy, flat, waxed linen thread that comes on a spool and easily splits into four separate strands. I wouldn’t be without it. Buy artificial sinew at Tandy Leather, buckskinner and Indian craft stores, at Amazon, or on eBay.
*My favorite needles for making repairs are single-curved glover’s needles or surgical suture needles (if you mail order them, make sure you buy surgical needles with an eye instead of the kind with a length of suture cord attached). These cut through soft to medium-soft leather, and nylon strapping like butter. Double-curved surgical needles work too, but I find them harder to use.
*Repair small rips with a product like Storm Shield Repair Tape or Weatherbeeta Repair Patches, available from most mail-order saddleries, or patch them using fabric from a worn out horse garment or another type of closely woven fabric. Keep in mind that while it helps to spritz patched spots with waterproofing spray, they will leak. Patches, however, prevent a small rip or snag from getting bigger.
*Replace broken chest straps on your favorite stable blanket or turnout rug using a single-ply nylon dog collar. Snip it in two and sew the straps down using artificial sinew or waxed dental floss.
*Places like Dover Saddlery, State Line Tack, and Schneiders Saddlery sell replacement surcingles, surcingle buckles, front closure assemblies, and leg straps. If you trash an old blanket or turnout, be sure to save these items for your replacables cache.
*In a pinch, you can replace broken or overstretched leg straps with wide elastic strapping from a sewing goods store, by measuring the correct length of elastic plus a few inches more, then knotting it to the hardware from your old leg straps.
Cleaning Horse Garments
Keep in mind that good blankets and turnout rugs aren’t cheap, so treat them well and make them last.
*Constant washing diminishes your turnout rug’s water resistance, so launder it only when you really must. Instead, hang it up between wearings, let it dry, and then brush off encrusted hair and grime.
*Restore a turnout rug’s waterproof finish by treating it with products like Nikwax Synthetic Rug Proof or Nikwax Canvas Rug Proof. Most large saddlery stores carry it.
*Few home washers and drainage systems can cope with bulky, hair-encrusted blankets and turnout rugs. Instead of laundering them at home, brush off as much hair, mud, and manure as you can and run them through front-loading commercial washers at your favorite laundromat. Bulky horse clothing needs room to agitate, so don’t overload the washers. If an item is truly filthy, you may need to send it through a second wash. When you’re finished, swab the washer’s interior with a damp cloth, and then run a complete cycle to flush away hair and debris.
*Before machine-washing blankets and turnout rugs, remove detachable leg straps and surcingles that could otherwise wrap around the machine’s agitator. Roll non-removable surcingles up close to the body of the garment and secure the rolls with several strong rubber bands.
*Launder your horse’s blanket or turnout rug in either cold or warm water unless a care tag directs otherwise. Don’t use harsh detergents; they can permanently damage synthetic fabrics and detergent residue irritates many horses’ skin. Fabric softeners and bleach also degrade waterproof breathable coating and shorten the life of a garment. Choose pure soap flakes, pet shampoo, or a commercial horse garment cleaner such as Nature’s Blend Horse Blanket Wash or Rambo Rug Wash.
*Never machine-dry blankets, sheets, or rugs; heat shrinks many fabrics and can damage some synthetics. Line dry or hang blankets and rugs on a fence or stall partition. Indoors, aim a fan at the garment to hasten drying.
*New Zealand-style rugs with canvas exteriors and turnout rugs made of especially bulky materials aren’t washer-friendly. To launder one of these items, hang it on a clothes line, a fence or stretch it out on a clean hard-surfaced floor. Use a plastic curry comb, stiff brush, broom, or shop-vac to remove hair, manure, and muck. Then hose it off and scrub, using any of the above named cleaning solutions. Do the inside of the rug as well, rinse thoroughly, and air dry.
*An easy, inexpensive way to clean a bulky rug is to take it to a car wash. Secure it to the building’s floor-mat clips and power wash away. When the item is saturated, hand scrub it with your favorite soap solution, blanket wash, or animal shampoo. Power rinse, scrub the other side, and then rinse again. To save time and money, dump rugs in an empty horse tank or plastic manure basket, presoak them in lukewarm sudsy water, then power rinse them at the car wash.
*To prevent it from mildewing, never store any type of equine clothing until it’s bone dry. Store blankets and rugs in zippered bed blanket bags, in heavy-duty trash bags with the tops sealed shut, or in covered plastic storage totes; choose the latter if your blankets are stored in the barn or garage, where mice sometimes gnaw through bags or cardboard boxes. Never add mothballs; mothball residue is toxic, it irritates horses’ skin, and moths aren’t attracted to blankets made of synthetic fiber anyway. If your blankets have woolen linings, store them with plenty of mesh or cheesecloth bags of naturally moth-repellent herbs such as bergamot, hyssop, sage, or tansy. Cedar needles or shavings and eucalyptus leaves repel moths too.
– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver