Are you beginning to think about winter and the cold weather that's just around the corner?
If you ride a lot in the winter or if your horse is kept outside most of the time, you might consider buying a blanket for him to keep him warm on those long, cold nights.
Once you decide that your four-legged friend needs a blanket, you'll have a lot of choices to make regarding what type of blanket you want to get him. If he lives outside, you need to get something waterproof so he won't be standing in a soggy blanket when wintery weather strikes. If he spends his nights indoors, you can opt for a stable blanket that adds warmth, not weight.
Once you've narrowed down what type of blanket you need, what colors you want and what features you want on the blanket, it's time to measure your horse to decide what size he needs.
You'll need a cloth or flexible measuring tape and a helper. Your helper will hold one end of the tape so you can get an accurate measurement of your horse. Stand your horse on level ground with all four feet underneath him, not stretched out in front or stuck out behind him.
Your helper should hold your horse and take the beginning end of the tape measure and hold it in the middle of your horse's chest. Then you can take the other end of the tape measure and walk to the rear of your horse. Hold the tape in the center of his tail. When you lay the tape measure against his body, make sure that it's flat and there are no kinks or twists in it. It should pass over the point of his shoulder, along the widest part of his barrel and over his flank. Look at the number on the tape that is closest to the middle of his tail. This is the size blanket your horse should wear.
Blankets are measured in inches or centimeters, and different brands have different increments-some may be measured in two or three inch increments. If you've decided on a particular brand of blanket, but your horse doesn't quite fit into its measurement list, just go with the next size up. For example, if your horse measures 77 inches but a blanket comes in a 76 or a 78, opt for the 78.
If you're worried a blanket won't fit, you can always call the manufacturer and find out what it recommends for an" in-between-sizes" horse. Or you can check out the manufacturer's website for measuring and fitting tips.
Once you know what size blanket your horse needs, you can order one through a catalog or website or buy one at your local tack store. When the blanket arrives or you bring it home, make sure it fits your horse and that you didn't measure incorrectly. Place a large towel or a lightweight stable sheet on your horse's back, underneath the new blanket, so the new blanket stays clean when trying it on. If it doesn't fit and it isn't dirty, you can return it for another size. If it's dirty, the tack shop may not take it back.
When you put the blanket on your horse and adjust the straps and buckles, it should completely cover your horse's back and his tail if there is a tail flap. If there isn't a tail flap, it should end just below his dock. If it hangs over by more than a few inches, your blanket is too big and could shift backwards and rub your horses' shoulders.
The blanket shouldn't be too long height-wise-if it covers his knees, it's too big and your horse won't be able to move well and play in it. You might need a different size-or a maybe even a different brand of blanket.
When the blanket is on your horse, run your hand from the top of his withers down to his chest under the blanket. Can you get your hand in there easily? If not, the blanket is too small and tight and will rub your horse. If you can pull the whole blanket away from his shoulder and see his hooves, it's too big and you need a smaller size. Can you stick your hand up the front of the blanket and feel your horse's shoulder? If the blanket is too tight on the shoulder, it will cause ugly rubs on his coat.
A well-fitting blanket should not shift (move around) or rub your horse, and it should stay in place when he rolls, plays and lies down to sleep.
Before leaving a horse with a blanket on, make sure that the belly straps are adjusted so that you can fit a hand between the strap and his belly. If the strap's too loose, he could get a hoof caught in there when playing and injure himself. Make sure that all leg straps are adjusted properly as well. They should twist over one another and fasten back to the same side of the blanket so they don't rub the inside of his hind legs. They shouldn't be so loose that they hang down to your horse's hocks-he could get tangled up in them.
Remember: your horse's blanket can only help keep out the cold if it is properly fitted, so use these tips to help you find the right fit for your horse!