06 Dec Blanketing Your Horse: How-To With Pictures
How to Put a Winter Blanket on Your Horse
Winter provides new challenges for horse owners as they care for their equine friends. Dealing with the cold and making sure your horses are staying warm is just one extra thing you’ll have to think about when temperatures drop. Winter blankets can give your horse extra protection and warmth from the elements during the winter months.
How do you put a winter blanket on a horse? There are a few things you need to do to get a winter blanket on a horse:
- Organize the winter blanket and place it over your horse’s back.
- Stretch the blanket so it lays properly over your horse.
- Secure the chest straps over your horse’s chest.
- Snap the belly straps into place, being sure to cross the straps over each other like an “x.”
- Secure the left leg strap around the left hind leg and snap it to the buckle on the left.
- Secure the right leg strap around the right hind leg, threading it through the left leg strap and snapping it on the right side of the blanket.
Now, that may seem like a lot if you’ve never blanketed a horse before! Don’t worry, in this article I’m going to break down exactly how to blanket a horse, when to blanket your horse, and other important things you should know!
Parts of a Winter Horse Blanket
Before putting a winter blanket on a horse, let’s first talk about the parts of the blanket so you can identify each bit.
- Fleece guard on the withers: a rectangular piece of fleece fabric that sits over the withers of the horse. Being able to recognize this piece of the blanket can help you organize your blanket on the horse more efficiently.
- Front closure: the fronts of the blanket that wrap around the horse’s chest.
- Chest straps: straps attached to the front closure that secure the blanket around the horse’s chest.
- Belly straps: straps that cross from the right side to the left side of the blanket, under the horse’s belly.
- Leg straps: a strap on both the right and left side of the back of the blanket that goes around the hind legs of the horse.
- Tail cover: a flap of fabric at the back of the blanket that falls over the horse’s tail.
Other Parts of a Winter Horse Blanket:
Not every winter blanket will have the next parts mentioned; however, you can find blankets that do have these features so it’s important to know what they are.
- Neck cover: a section of a winter blanket that drapes over the horse’s neck and secures at the front of the neck to provide extra protection from the cold.
- Tail strap: mostly found on stable blankets or coolers, some winter blankets may have these instead of leg straps. A tail strap is a strap that goes under the horse’s tail to secure the blanket in place.
Now that you know the parts of a winter horse blanket, it’s time to cover how to get it on the horse!
Blanketing a Horse Step #1: Organize the Blanket
Before I put a blanket on, I like to first organize the blanket so I’m not having to struggle with it when it’s on the horse. To do this, I take the fleece guard at the withers and the tail cover at the back of the blanket and hold them together so I know where the middle of the blanket is. This will make it easier to then drape the blanket over your horse and know where each piece of the blanket is.
If this seems confusing, you can start by draping the blanket over a fence rail as it would lay on a horse. Then, with one hand at the fleece guard and the other hand at the tail cover, bring your blanket together so you can easily throw it over your horse.
Blanketing a Horse Step #2: Getting the Blanket on the Horse
Once you have your blanket organized to where the fleece guard and tail cover are in the middle, stand on the left side of your horse and drape the winter blanket over your horse’s withers. When draping the blanket, make sure the fleece guard and tail cover are directly over your horse’s withers.
Blanketing a Horse Step #3: Properly Placing the Blanket on the Horse
Placing the blanket over your horse’s withers with the fleece guard and tail cover directly over the withers will ensure that your blanket is already in place; all you have to do is pull the back of the blanket over your horse’s rump and the blanket should be positioned correctly over your horse.
Blanketing a Horse Step #4: Secure the Chest Strap
Once the blanket is lying across your horse, secure the chest straps first. Bring the two front closures together and snaps the straps onto the opposite front closure. The chest straps should be tight enough to where the blanket fits over the widest part of the horse’s shoulders and the front closures overlap a few inches.
Blanketing a Horse Step #5: Secure the Belly Straps
The belly straps are sewn onto the right side of the blanket; you will need to bring them under the horse’s stomach and connect them to the buckles on the left side of the blanket.
When doing this, you’ll notice usually two belly straps. To correctly secure these straps, take the front belly strap, bring it under the horse’s stomach, and secure it to the back snap on the left side. Then, take the back belly strap and secure it to the front snap on the left side. The two belly straps should form an “x” under your horse’s belly. This secures the blanket and keeps it from sliding
Belly straps should be loose enough for your to fit your hand through the strap. If they’re too tight, they can be uncomfortable or even hazardous for your horse. If they’re too loose, they won’t keep the blanket from sliding around or your horse from getting their leg caught in it.
Blanketing a Horse Step #6: Secure the Leg Straps
You’ll find a leg strap on both the left and right sides of your blanket connected towards the back of each side. First, take the left leg strap, wrap it around the inside of your horse’s left back leg, and secure it to the snap on the back left corner of the blanket. Then, take the right leg strap, wrap it around the inside of your horse’s right back leg, loop it through the left leg strap, and then secure it to the snap on the back right corner of the blanket.
The two leg straps will then look like an “x” between your horse’s back legs, although both straps will be attached on both ends to their individual sides.
Looping the leg straps secures the blanket to the side of your horse and keeps the straps from riding up your horse’s…crack. If you notice the straps are riding up your horse’s…crack, even if you have secured them correctly, it’s usually a sign that the straps are too tight. These straps should hang loosely around your horse’s leg, although not too loose to where they drape over the horse’s knee!
How to Take a Winter Blanket Off a Horse
Once you know how to get a winter blanket on a horse, taking the blanket off is pretty easy. All you do is undo all the straps and then pull the blanket off by bringing it back and off the horse’s hind end.
The one thing I will note about this is to develop a system for how you take the blanket off your horse. I always take the blanket off by undoing the straps from the back to the front. The reason I do this is so I don’t forget any of the straps. Before I had a system, I would sometimes forget to undo certain straps and when I would go to take the blanket off, the horse would get all tangled in the blanket. This is dangerous and also a nuisance.
Does My Horse Need a Winter Blanket?
There’s an age-old argument in the horse world about whether or not horses really need to wear winter blankets. After all, what about the horses in the wild? They never wear blankets. (the average horse in the wild only lives 15 years.)
The reason people argue against winter blankets is that a horse needs to be able to fluff out its coat in cold weather so properly insulates itself. When a horse has a blanket on, they aren’t able to do that, as the blanket makes the hair lay flat. That being said, a waterproof winter blanket will provide the same level of protection, if not more, against cold and moisture.
My opinion is that some horses need blankets while others don’t. I had a mare who would be shivering if it was 55° F and rainy. My current horse has been in sub-freezing temperatures during ice storms without a blanket and has come out on top. Every horse is different! A good indication that your horse needs a blanket is if they are shivering, if they’re clipped, if they don’t grow a decent winter coat, or if they are older and younger with compromised health problems.
To learn how to recognize if your horse needs a winter blanket, visit my article How Can I Tell If My Horse is Cold?
When to Blanket a Horse
I also like the peace of mind winter blankets give me if it’s really cold and wet outside. I like knowing my horses are snug in their blankets and safe from getting soaked by cold rain or snow.
I personally will start blanketing my horses if it gets to be freezing temperatures or below with dry weather. If it’s wet outside, I will start blanketing with waterproof blankets at 45° F (7.2° C) to protect from hypothermia and discomfort.
Horses can overheat in winter blankets if they are left on in warmer temperatures, so setting a temperature limit to watch for can help you ensure your horses will remain healthy. I use the temperatures I mentioned above because it would take a lot of work for a horse to overheat in a blanket in those temperatures.
How to Measure Your Horse For a Blanket
Before you purchase a winter blanket for your horse, you’ll first need to measure your horse and see what size blanket they need. To do this, have a measuring tape on hand. You’ll also need a second person to help you do this.
Start measuring at the base of your horse’s chest; this is right in the middle of your horse’s shoulders and where the neck meets the chest. Put the beginning of your measuring tape there. Then, bring the tape over the widest part of your horse’s shoulders. From there, bring the tape back and over the widest part of your horse’s hip, stopping the measurement right as you meet the hair of your horse’s tail. Whatever your measuring tape reads there will be the size of the blanket you need.
Blanketing your horse is just one aspect of care you’ll need to provide to your equine friends in the winter. Cold months bring a whole share of new challenges you’ll have to face as a horse owner. To learn other helpful tips about caring for horses in winter, visit my article 20 Best Winter Horse Care Tips.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.