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Choosing the proper blanket for your horse

By Curtis Gardner, CEO, Triton Barns

For the new horse owner, deciding whether you need a blanket for you horse and choosing the proper kind can be a confusing task. Many different types of horse blankets are available to horse owners, but some may not be needed in every situation. When deciding if a horse blanket is right for your horse, the most important things to consider are the horses living situation and daily tasks.
If your horse is a lovable backyard trail horse, with a loafing shed and a full coat in the winter, you may not need a blanket at all. Typically, horses in these situations will do fine with their own coat for protection against the elements. The only exception would be if you live in a climate with extreme temperatures. In these cases, your horse may have a need for a winter blanket.

Winter Blanket

Winter blankets are the thickest, warmest horse blanket made and are comparable to a winter coat for a person. In extremely cold conditions, any type of horse may need a winter blanket, whether stalled or in the pasture with a shelter. The easiest way to tell if your horse needs a winter blanket is to observe him in cold temperatures. Is he shivering at all? If so, he needs a winter blanket immediately.

If you do blanket him, make sure to remove the blanket when the temperature warms up. It is harmful to your horse for him to be too cold, but being overly hot is also dangerous. To check, periodically run your hand underneath your horse’s winter blanket. If your horse is sweating, it’s time for a lighter blanket or none at all.

If you own a show horse who’s body shaved regularly, completely different rules apply and you will most likely need some type of blanket. Shaving a horse’s normal coat leaves him defenseless against many outside elements and the right blanket can help you compensate for this.

Turnout Blanket

A turnout blanket will most likely be needed if you own a show horse that is regularly clipped. Turnout blankets are made of heavy-duty material and can be worn in cold or warm temperatures. Turnout blankets are dual purpose, offering protection from cold in low temperatures and sunburn in the summer. Use the same principle as with winter blankets - don’t leave a turnout blanket on your horse if he is sweating.

Day Sheet or Summer Sheet

These blankets are designed for mild weather conditions and their main purpose is to keep the horse clean. Usually made of cotton or poly cotton blends, they are very comfortable for your horse and easy to wash. Summer sheets are mainly recommended for the show horse that needs to stay clean. Most family horses will not have need of a winter blanket and will appreciate being able to roll in the dirt and scratch their backs.


Flysheets are usually made of a mesh material and help protect your horse against insects and bites during the summer months. Lightweight and highly ventilated, they provide a barrier against bugs, yet are still very breathable and comfortable for your horse. Again, show horses most commonly use flysheets, however if you have a family horse that has trouble with bugs during the summer (usually black horses), you may want to invest in a flysheet.


Coolers are a must-have for the heavily worked horse. Hunters, Jumpers, Eventers, and any horse consistently being worked for a discipline should have a cooler. Coolers are another dual-purpose blanket and are used to keep your horse warm after warm-up, but while waiting to perform. It should also be used after heavy work to help him cool down. Typically made of fleece or wool, they are easy to wash and comfortable for your horse to wear.

When deciding if your horse needs a blanket, consider where he lives, the type of climate and his daily job. Some horses may not need a blanket at all, while others may need three or four different kinds. The best rule of thumb is that your horse should never be overly cold or overly hot. Keep these factors in mind to help you choose the right type of blanket for your horse.

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