Seasonal Horse Care Young Rider

How to Blanket a Horse

Standing by horse to prepare for blanketing.
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer.

Knowing how to blanket a horse is an essential skill. Your horse’s fluffy winter coat is naturally designed to do a great job of keeping him warm, but some horses need a little extra help in cold or wet weather. Blanketing offers additional protection for horses that are thin, older, or don’t have much of a coat. A horse that has been body clipped will need to be blanketed more heavily than an unclipped horse with a full winter coat.

Measure to Fit

The first step in how to blanket your horse is to find the right-sized blanket for your horse. For that, you’ll need to measure him. Run a soft cloth measuring tape from the center of his chest to the edge of his tail, including the widest part of his shoulder and hip. This measurement (in inches) is his blanket size.

Make sure the blanket fits your horse well. A blanket that doesn’t fit right can rub your horse’s hair off and cause sore spots on his shoulders and withers. One that’s too big can slip around and cause an unsafe situation if your horse steps on it or gets tangled up in it.

After you ride, your horse’s hair coat needs to be completely dry before you put his blanket back on. If he’s damp and sweaty under his blanket, he’ll feel chilly.

Even if you aren’t riding, you need to check your horse’s blanket daily and make sure that he’s comfortable underneath. It’s important to take the blanket off for regular grooming, as well.


Going through the following steps in order will help keep your horse comfy and safe.

Placing horse blanket over withers.
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

1. Halter your horse so you have control of him while blanketing.

2. Get organized. Fold the blanket in half or thirds so that it’s a more manageable size, with the inside facing out. To fold, bring the back edge of the blanket to the cen-ter, and then fold the front half of the blanket back over that. Or simply fold the tail flap to meet the neck of the blanket.

3. Place the folded blanket over the horse’s withers. Move calmly and be careful not to startle your horse with the blanket—let him see it so that he knows what’s coming.

Fastening front chest straps of horse blanket.
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

4. Fasten the front chest straps. If the chest closure has snaps, make sure the “trigger” part is facing toward the horse so that it doesn’t get caught on anything or come loose.

5. Unfold the rest of the blanket and slide it into position, going with the direction of the hair growth so that the horse’s coat isn’t ruffled the wrong way. The blanket should sit just in front of the withers, not on top or behind.

6. Fasten the belly straps. On many blankets, these are designed to criss-cross. When you are reaching for the straps, be careful not to place yourself underneath the horse. Stand parallel to the horse, facing forward and out of the kick zone, and reach across.

Unfolding horse blanket.
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

7. Blankets will have either leg straps or a tail cord to keep the back of the blanket from flipping up. Looping the leg straps through each other helps keep the blanket securely in place and prevents the straps from rubbing the insides of the horse’s legs.

Straps for horse blanket.
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer.

8. Check that the straps are properly adjusted, with approximately one hand’s-width between the horse and blanket. If the straps are too loose, the blanket can rub against the horse, slip off, or twist out of position. A horse can also get a foot trapped in a dangling strap.

This article about how to blanket a horse appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Elizabeth Moyer

Elizabeth Moyer works in marketing and development for the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. She served as a longtime editor of Horse Illustrated and Young Rider. She is also the author of two Horse Illustrated Simple Solutions books on grooming and horse safety (BowTie Press). Moyer is a lifelong equestrian and horse lover. Prior to becoming part of the equine industry, she worked in advertising and is a graduate of the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She lives in the beautiful bluegrass horse country of Kentucky with a pack of adopted Dachshunds.

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