Most stables are not heated and should be well ventilated. Due to this, a stabled horse, especially one that has been clipped, usually needs to wear a blanket during the winter months to keep it warm. Once you have started to use a blanket at night, do not leave it off, even on nights that aren’t that cool, because the horse can still get chilled. Stable blankets have two layers, the outer lining for protection and the inner lining for warmth. The lining should extend over the whole blanket. Make sure you check this, because sometimes only half is lined in cheap blankets. The outer layer can be made of a variety of materials. There is also a wide range of fastenings, many that claim to hold the blanket in place, even if the horse rolls.
Putting on a Blanket
1) Fold the blanket in half front to back with the straps secured inside. Carry it over your arm, with the front half uppermost and the fold away from you. Approach the left side of the horse, and warn it that you are about to put the blanket on by placing your free hand on its shoulder.
2) Throw the folded blanket over the horse’s withers. Place it so that the front is just a little further forward than its final position. Unfold the blanket and check that it is lying straight over the back of the horse.
3) Go around to the other side of the horse to bring down the straps and check that the blanket is flat. Fasten the belly straps first. If the horse is scared for any reason, it will become more so if the blanket slips off and hangs around its neck.
4) Fasten the breast straps. If the blanket is too far forward, pull it backward slightly. If it is too far back, take it off and start again. Don’t pull a blanket forward; this rubs the hairs of the horse’s coat the wrong way and causes discomfort.
Blankets come in a range of sizes, measured along the length. To fit your horse for a blanket, measure from the center of its breastbone, along its side, to the point of the buttock. A blanket must reach the withers to the top of the tail. You should be able to fit a hand sideways under it at the shoulder and at the breast, without changing its position.
Putting on a Liner and a Surcingle
1) If you need to provide extra warmth for a horse, use a liner under the blanket. Place the liner as far up the horse’s neck as possible, with the rear edge reaching the tail. Fold the front corners up to meet on the horse’s spine.
2) Check that the liner is lying flat and hanging evenly on both sides, and then put the blanket in place. Be careful to position the blanket correctly without disturbing the liner underneath. Fold the exposed triangle of liner from the neck on top of the blanket. This helps to stop the liner from slipping.
3) When using a blanket that has no belly straps, which is becoming increasingly rare, with the wide variety of blankets available nowadays, secure it with a surcingle and breastgirth. Fasten the surcingle around the horse, just behind the withers. Surcingles come in different styles; some may need extra padding over the spine, such as a piece of sponge placed between it and the blanket. Use a breastgirth, especially on a very fit horse or one with a narrow chest, to prevent the surcingle from slipping backward.