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A horse is a horse, of course, of course, as they say, but a horse blanket is an entirely different creature. There are a number of different styles of horse blanket, designed for an assortment of uses, and it is important to pick the right blanket to ensure that a horse stays healthy and comfortable. Most tack shops carry an array of blankets for people to choose from, and their staffs are usually happy to help people who may be struggling with the selection.
Turnout blankets are designed to be used on a horse when it is turned out in its paddock. These blankets are typically waterproof and breathable so that the horse can sweat freely. They protect the coat of the horse and keep the horse warm in cold weather, and they come in a variety of weights. Stable blankets are worn in the stall or stable, and are designed to keep the horse clean and warm. They should not be worn outdoors, as they are usually heavier and not waterproof.
Fly sheets are horse blankets which keep the flies off. They may be used as turnout or stable blankets in the summer months to keep a horse comfortable in hot weather. Cooling sheets are lightweight blankets worn after exercise to help a horse cool down safely so that the animal does not strain a muscle, while show sheets keep a horse sparkling clean for a horse show, but don't offer much in the way of insulation.
A horse blanket is usually available in light, heavy, or medium weights. Light blankets are good for the spring and summer, while medium blankets are suitable for the fall and winter in temperate climates, and heavy blankets should be used in cold regions. Horse blankets keep a horse from getting too cold while wicking away sweat in all cases, and they also encourage a horse to keep its summer coat of hair. Without a winter blanket, a horse will tend to get shaggy, and the results can be unsightly. Clipped horses also need blankets to stay warm in the winter months.
Once one has determined the type of blanket necessary, it is important to measure the horse to ensure that a blanket will be a good fit. A lengthwise measurement should be taken with a flexible measuring tape to determine the basic fit. Most blankets are also designed for a specific body type, which is when it helps to ask a staffer at a tack store, as he or she will be familiar with the brands and the types of horses they fit. A Norwegian Fjord Horse, for example, will need a very different style of horse blanket than an Arabian.
After fit, there are some additional considerations involved in the selection of a horse blanket. Some people look for hoods and tail pieces, which offer additional protection, and it is possible to find blankets with attachable hoods and tail pieces, so that the blanket can be configured as needed. Leg and tail straps help keep a blanket in place when a horse rolls and plays outdoors, as do wide belly bands instead of belly straps. Finally, owners may want to think about color, if coordinating horse accessories is important to them, and monogramming options, which can be used to identify a blanket which belongs to a particular horse or owner. Monogramming is strongly advised for people who board their horses, so that blanket mixups don't happen.