Measure twice, cut once. It might be an axiom for carpenters, but it has some merit for horse owners too.
A properly fitted blanket can help keep your horse warm and dry during chilly winter months. A poorly fitting blanket either can cause rubs, restrict your horse’s movement, doesn’t keep your horse warm and dry, or can get your horse tangled up and injured.
Here’s how to measure your horse to get a good fit:
- Have your horse stand up in a squared position.
- Tie or cross tie your horse if you don’t have a friend who can hold him.
- Take a tape measure and start to measure from the center of your horse’s chest. If you are measuring by yourself, you can do the measurement in stages. If you have a friend who can hold the tape at the center of the horse’s chest you might be able to do it in one go. If you don’t have a tape measure you can use baling twine and just measure the length later.
- Bring the tape around his shoulder. Follow along his barrel and continue around the hip. Follow your horse’s skin closely, including the dip into the flanks.
- End a the center of the tail. Follow your horse’s skin closely, including the dip into the flanks.
The total length that you have measured is the size of the blanket that you need. Most blankets come in even sizes (every two inches) although some manufacturers offer sizing every three inches. Always move up to the larger size. Also, keep in mind that some blanket manufacturers size slightly differently (for example, stopping before the tail) so check their measurement instructions before your buy.
How to check blanket fit:
When you first try the blanket on your horse, put a clean sheet on underneath. That will protect the blanket so you can return it if the sizing is wrong.
- Check to make sure the blanket is not too tight around the neck. If it is, the blanket could rub especially when your horse grazes or eats off the ground. Look to see if there are pressure spots over the shoulders, especially when the horse moves. An ill fitting blanket will rub the hair right off.
- There should be a small amount of overlap at the front of the blanket. Many styles use velcro to help keep the front closed. Some people like to criss cross the front buckles to allow more room at the neck. I prefer to find a blanket with the right cut as crossing the buckles doesn’t provide a good closure.
- Make sure the blanket is long enough. It should extend a few inches below the top of the tail and should hang down long enough that your horse’s sides and belly are adequately covered.
- The surcingles should fit with just a hand’s width between the strap and your horse’s belly. If the strap hangs too loose, your horse could catch a foot in it; too tight and it becomes uncomfortable.
- Leg straps should also be adjusted so they are loose enough to allow movement but not long enough to cause problems. There are several ways to fasten leg straps: you can crisscross them underneath the horse, fasten them front to back on the same side, or interwine them and snap them on the same side. The purpose of the leg straps is to stabilize the blanket and prevent it from shifting. I prefer the crisscross method.
The good news is that manufacturers now make blankets in an assortment of shapes to fit different horses. It used to be that if you had a horse with really wide shoulders you had to buy a larger sized blankets; now you can buy one with gussets or buy a Quarter Horse styled blanket.