Late summer and early fall tends to get people excited about fashion week and changes to our own wardrobes. Cooler air often makes us reach for our favorite sweaters and jackets and accessories - and sometimes our credit cards, to update all of the above with new styles. Horse people tend to pull out sheets and rugs for our precious animals at a rate much faster than others, because we can’t have baby angels getting a chill! Read on to understand my own philosophy on blanketing and favorite clothing options for my very-loved-and-very-spoiled horses.
As a professional with show horses who live inside a barn at night, my horses are almost all fully body clipped to maintain a “show coat” throughout all seasons. These two major environmental factors (whether the horse lives inside or outside and how much hair they have) dictate that our horses maintain a healthy wardrobe of blanket options for the seasons. Other factors do come into play, such as the horse’s age and body condition, which might mean more or fewer layers than the general rule. I tend to err on the side of having more clothing on hand for each horse whenever possible. Having a reliable weather app on my phone is one of my most-used tools in helping me decide what to use and when.
First of all, my horses each have different blankets for indoor use vs. outdoor use - usually denoted by retailers as a “stable blanket” (to be used inside) or a “turnout blanket” (to be used outside). Because my horses all turn out during some part of the day but spend their nights inside the barn, they have options for both. Indoor sheets or stable blankets generally get pulled out first, around early September for us in the Northeast. I have found my clipped horses stay most comfortable when they wear a light layer whenever the temperature inside the barn falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a few hours overnight. For my personal horses, I love the Kentucky Horsewear Cotton Sheet or the Stable Rug 0g as a first indoor layer (Note that the amount of “g” listed in a blanket’s name denotes how much fill the blanket carries; the higher the number, the heavier the blanket).Kentucky Horsewear quality manufacturing that holds up to being one of the most-used blankets in the horse’s rotation. The materials are breathable and easy to keep clean, making them very versatile for at least three seasons of the year. The cotton sheet is best for fending off the wind while hauling in a trailer on a cool day, a chilly-but-still summer night, or a rainy day where you need something to fend off the damp, cool air. The Stable Rug is my choice for snuggly overnight warmth on those first cool fall nights below 55 degrees or horses with more sensitive skin.
If the weather feels chilly first thing in the morning but wasn’t really cool enough to justify a sheet throughout the entire night (we have early fall nights where the temps don’t drop until the wee hours of the morning), then I might use a Kentucky Horsewear Magnetic Recuptex blanket on the horse for an hour or two in their stall before they go to work. These Kentucky Horsewear therapeutic blankets use magnets in the blanket to recycle the horse’s body heat, creating a warming and therapeutic effect. I think of it as putting on a comfy bathrobe for breakfast on mornings when you wake up and don’t want to leave your warm bed! These sheets can be used in combination with other heavier blankets over time.
From around May through September in the Northeast, my horses will wear fly sheets as their only clothing outside. Kentucky’s Mesh Fly Rug provides excellent protection against insects with great neck and belly coverage. It can also serve as the first defense against light wind and chilly air.
Once the weather stays below 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, my clipped horses will all wear some version of a turnout blanket when they spend time in their paddocks outside. Turnout blankets are more durable, waterproof, or water-resistant and provide better protection against the elements than anything the horse wears inside. I love the Kentucky Horsewear Turnout Rug All Weather Waterproof Classic 0g as a top sheet for all seasons. This one is light enough to be used on cool, rainy days but protective enough over heavier stable blankets in harsher weather. For horses with sensitive skin or those who get cold faster than others, this turnout sheet comes in an option with a luxurious artificial rabbit skin lining.
Many of my horses have heavier turnout blankets in addition to this turnout sheet for snowy winter weather, but I have found that this sheet satisfies the need for protection against elements over top of a variety of heavier stable blankets. This saves precious time in the mornings by allowing grooms to simply add this sheet to whatever the horse was wearing overnight before turnout.
For winter months and when it is necessary for the horses to wear heavier stable blankets throughout the day (when the internal barn temperature stays at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), I’ve found nothing beats the Kentucky Horsewear’s signature Show Rug 160g. It is cozy, durable, and incredibly gorgeous! The faux fur collar protects the horse’s neck from drafts going under the blanket and makes them look (and probably feel) like royalty.
This rug can be used with layers underneath and/or on top to make it the most useful blanket throughout the fall, winter, and spring. And, although at first I doubted it would be easy to keep clean, it is surprisingly resilient. Shavings and hay brush easily off the collar, and the whole blanket goes into the washing machine.
In addition to these main staples, we keep various clothing available for our performance horses to stay comfortable while working throughout the seasons, including winter. A few of my favorite add-on pieces include Kentucky’s Fleece Rugs, the fitted heavy version, the show rug version, and the heavy fleece large square cooler option. We love these rugs for wicking away moisture and helping horses stay warm and dry after exercise.
On the coldest winter days, Kentucky’s Riding Rug 160g helps keep backs and hindquarters muscles warm while exercising. I’ve found a considerable difference in how comfortable the horses are working under saddle with this rug versus without, especially when fully clipped!Kentucky’s Waterproof Walker Rug for the cold months. The cutback design prevents rubs and discomfort that horses can have when walking for long periods in a regular blanket, which is useful for our horses going on the hot-walker or hand-walking while recovering from injury.
I know my horses may be better dressed than myself, but I feel fortunate and grateful to be able to provide them with a level of care that prioritizes their comfort at all times. I hope this tour of my horse’s closet helps guide your next blanketing decision! For any questions or further interest in my program, find me on Instagram @lucyintheskywithsapphires or at www.sapphiresporthorses.com
About the Professional
Lucy Courchaine is a USDF gold, silver, and bronze medalist and the owner/trainer of Sapphire Sporthorses in Brewster, New York. She is currently developing her own New Forest Pony to Grand Prix and training a wide range of horses and humans in the sport of dressage.