Generally constructed of durable textiles and engineered to hold up to rugged weather and exuberant equine activity, horse blankets still require a certain amount of care and maintenance. Although horse blankets were traditionally made exclusively of wool and wool blends, these equine garments may now be found in a plethora of high-technology fabrics and fibers, which require rather specific attention, particularly if these apparel items are worn outdoors in the elements.
How does one care for a horse blanket?
Equine apparel maintenance requires a certain amount of attention, effort, and common sense. Here are a few tips to keep horse blankets in top shape for as long as possible.
1. Remove the horse blanket regularly.
An outdoor turnout blanket should be removed from the horse, when the equine enters the stable for the evening, particularly if the horse is stabled in a heated barn. This is especially important, if the horse blanket has become drenched with rain, snow, or mud.
Horses in unheated barns (or those kept on pasture or rough board) may wear their blankets throughout the cold-weather months. In such cases, horse blankets must be checked regularly (at least once daily) for slippage, tears, unfastened straps, broken buckles, and other potential hazards.
By taking the blanket off the horse frequently, those caring for him also have the opportunity to inspect the horse for possible skin rubs, sores, bite marks, or other irritations.
2. Brush off the horse blanket as needed.
Often, a simple spot-cleaning is sufficient for mid-season touch-ups of equine apparel. A vigorous brushing with a stiff horse brush may remove caked-on mud, dirt, and debris from a horse blanket. Plenty of horse owners use curries or even shedder blade loops for this purpose, but this must be done carefully to avoid ripping or snagging horse blankets.
3. Hang up wet blankets to dry.
Whenever a horse blanket is removed from the horse, it is best to hang it up neatly over a blanket bar, from a stall hook (using the blanket’s own metal rings), or over a fence in a dry spot. A simple towel bar, mounted to a horse stall door, can be a super solution. Lots of equestrians loop holiday wreath holders over the fronts of their stalls for the same purpose.
By hanging up such items, horse owners can keep their blankets in better condition, while having them close at hand. Even a slightly sweaty horse blanket should be allowed to hang to dry before it is folded for storage on a stall door, blanket rack, or stable shelf.
Too many horse owners are dismayed to find their costly horse blankets used as cat or dog beds, simply because they left them heaped on barn aisle floors or atop tack trunks. Others may find stall shavings and aisle dust swept or blown right into their equine apparel for the same reason.
4. Launder horse blankets appropriately.
A horse blanket need not be laundered often. In fact, excessive laundering may damage the waterproofing treatment and fabric integrity of a horse blanket. A single cleaning at the end of the season is usually enough for a well-made horse blanket. Such equine garments may be professionally cleaned or washed in industrial-sized laundry machines.
Most folks opt not to launder equine apparel at home. Standard washing machines may not stand up well to the heavy loads, and it can be tough to remove all of the horse hair, odor, and possible debris from smaller appliances.
Horse blankets should be washed in cold water with a mild soap – or no soap at all – and rinsed thoroughly. Hot water temperatures, bleaches, stain removers, and harsh detergents can wreak havoc on an all-weather horse blanket.
Many choose to tie up, rubber band, or tape dangling straps and buckles before placing horse blanket in washing machines. This step can help to minimize clanging and banging and potential added wear and tear to their laundry appliances.
Some public laundromats actually allow equestrians to wash horse blankets, if they ask. In such case, it is considered common practice and courtesy to run an empty load, perhaps with bleach, after the last horse blanket load has been completed.
5. Air-dry horse blankets after laundering.
Hot automatic laundry drying machines may prove harmful to horse blankets, breaking down waterproofing treatments and perhaps harming any plastic parts these equine garments may contain. The best means of drying equine apparel is to hang the blankets on sturdy clothes lines or over fences to drip dry.
6. Re-coat horse turnout blankets after washing.
For best results, a waterproofing treatment should be reapplied to horse blankets after laundering. Many such products come in aerosol cans for easy spray-on application, which is best done in a well-ventilated spot (away from horses).
This step may be skipped for horse coolers, sweat sheets, stable blankets, show sheets, and other equine garments that need not face outdoor weather.
7. Mend ripped horse apparel promptly.
A torn horse blanket may prove hazardous to an energetic horse at play. Horses do tend to nibble on one another’s blankets, so tears do occur. Small rips can turn into major gaps and shreds, if they are left unfixed too long. In a pinch, hand-sewing or duct taping can be a quick and temporary solution, but these fixes tend not to last long.
Avoid using pins (or even safety pins) to repair horse blankets.
Mend holes and tears in a horse blanket by patching them with sturdy fabric, sewn securely in place. This is a simple task for horse lovers who sew. Otherwise, it pays to hire a professional blanket repair expert.
8. Keep horse blanket hardware in good repair.
Horses seem to possess an uncanny ability to injure themselves on crazy things, like dangling straps and snapped blanket buckles.
For this reason, it’s important to reaffix detached seam bindings, replace broken buckles, and swap out snapped snap clips quickly. Horse blanket leg straps are easy to find in tack stores and online, and these are a world safer than loopy, dangly, no-longer-stretchy too-old ones.
9. Store horse blankets strategically.
Clean and dry horse blankets may be draped on blanket racks, hanging in the barn’s tack room or another clean and dry spot at the stables. Many boarding barns have express guidelines for storing horse blankets in and out of season.
Alternatively, a horse blanket may be folded into a neat square and tied with twine or string to store it in a bin or on a shelf for future use. Horse lovers who care for multiple equines often tie identification tags on horse blankets, including blanket sizes, owner’s names, and horse names.
Freshly laundered horse blankets are best kept in breathable fabric bags, purchased blanket totes, plastic garbage bags, clear dry cleaning bags, or other coverings to keep them clean for future use. This is particularly appropriate during the warmer months, when blankets may otherwise collect dust for much of the year.
By caring well for their equine apparel, horse owners may save money and inconvenience, stretch the useful lifespans of such investments for many years to come.