Guest Author - Susan Hopf
You have spent days browsing through the tack catalogues, carefully picked the right size, style, weight and colors for your horse’s new winter wear and it has at last arrived. Anxious to try the new investment on your beastie’s back you must arm yourself with an old sheet as a protective layer between the horse and new blanket just in case it does not fit or fails to meet your expectations – most places will happily take it back if need be but only if returned clean.
Once so armed and the blanket is unwrapped and placed upon your horse consider the fit. The front buckles should be secured with no pulling or stretching of the fabric. It should drape the shoulders with no restrictions of movement. The surcingles should rest lightly next to the belly – too tight and the blanket will be pulled back and forth across the horse causing rubbing – too loose and a leg could be caught as the horse rises from a prone position. The croup should be as free as the shoulders and the back should end at the base of the tail – if it hangs lower than the tail base it may inhibit the lifting of the tail during defecation which may unnecessarily dirty the horse as well as the blanket. If any of the above areas are unacceptable examine the cut of the blanket – this may have more to do with the fit than the size. Make notes and speak to the customer service people or perhaps others in your barn for alternative choices. Despite the sizing, which is only an indication of how long your horse is from chest to tail, blanket manufacturers cut the shoulders, girth, topline and depth of their specific blanket lines differently from each other and one line may be more suitable to your individual horse than the others.
Once you have a blanket that fits your horse the next consideration is the actual act of dressing. Many boarding facilities balk at having to deal with blanketing and blanket changes. If you board at a full-care facility this should be included, although some facilities charge to do so. Taking some care with how you remove and store your current “in use” turnouts and stable wear can make it very simple and much less time consuming for those that are assigned to dress your horse. Follow these simple steps:
Stand to the left of your horses – turn and face your horse’s side.
Undo all straps and Velcro – (please note when unsnapping the surcingles and leg straps keep your head facing forward in case of a kick)
Pull the front of the blanket over the back of the horse until you reach the tail – your blanket will still be on the back of the horse and folded in half lengthwise – the inside of the front will be exposed.
Now lift the blanket from the horse and place it on your blanket rack.
It is now ready to be removed from the rack, placed gently over your horses rump with the front simply pulled toward the shoulders and secured.
If all horse people removed their blankets in this manner – rather than pulling it off haphazardly and then folding it in a tight little square with straps hooked etc. perhaps fewer facilities would have issues with blankets. When folded in this manner the groom needs to unfold it, unhook the straps, fold it back (as it would be if you followed the above procedure), then place it on the horse – more steps than necessary and very hard on the person’s shoulder if they have more than a few horses to dress.
Lastly – foals and older horses often need more layers than others so be aware and make sure your horse is warm and dry.
Until spring – stay warm yourself and look for opportunities for a great ride – two feet of new snow and a moonlit sky is a wonderland of stars and crystals – happy riding.