Monday, December 21, 2009

Blankets 101

Okay, so a few things happened over the weekend that kept me from getting some things accomplished. One of them being getting pictures of our horses and the blanketing process... But I did manage to get a couple of other projects going instead, so I found some sense of a level of accomplishment.

In light of the fact that many have stated they do not normally blanket, there is still the need to look at blankets in general, as some people do not know much about them other than the go on the horse to help keep them warm. We may not blanket regularly- meaning every horse, every year, but having blankets on hand when needed is a comforting thought considering the opposite- scrambling to find one that fits in an emergency.

What I find in many situations is people buying a blanket and not knowing what they are looking for or at. Buying it, then figuring out it isn't even worth half the money they spent on it. Nothing sends people over the edge faster, than paying for something that just doesn't work.

Just like with horses, the type of blanket you are buying depends on what you are using it for. If the horse is going to be kept in a stall, inside a barn, then it may not necessarily need to be waterproof. If you are planning to turn the horse out while wearing their blanket and you live anywhere on planet earth where rains or snows- waterproof qualities are pretty high on your list of requirements.

A lot of blankets now use Denier to relay the information of the outer lay of material known as the shell. But what does Denier mean? What are those numbers anyways? From the words of wise geek-

"Denier is a measurement that is used to identify the fiber thickness of individual threads or filaments used in the creation of cloth, carpeting drapery material, and similar products. Originally, the concept of denier was applied mainly to natural fibers, such as silk and cotton. Over time, the unit of thickness for synthetic fibers such as rayon and nylon also came to be identified as denier.

Along with being a measure of the thickness of the individual fibers of yarn or thread, denier also acts as a unit of weight. The standard for computing the weight is to weigh nine thousand meters of the material that will be used to create a product. That weight per nine thousand meters is registered in grams. The higher the numbers of grams per nine thousand meters of material, the higher the denier count."

So the short form of this would be- the higher the number (600, 800, 1200...) the more threads or filaments you will find in the designated measurable area of the material. Many times the higher thread count fabrics are stronger, more durable and more weather resistant.

Breathability is another important quality to consider. In speaking with a friend in a colder climate state, they have had horses freeze up, under their blankets because the blanket does not breath, the horse sweats and the sweat turns to ice. Not a good situation for the horse, not good for the owner who thought they were doing the right thing and not good for the blanket company because their customers will soon look for something else.

The amount of fill or insulation in a blanket is another important factor to consider. Warmth trapped in pockets of air between layers can be great insulation. Many of the older style blankets used foam padding as insulation. While it may work in some areas, it doesn't work in all areas. A lot of what is seen in blankets now is a material such as fiberfill or batting, which is commonly used in quilts and other such blankets that you may find on your own bed. Information on horse blankets lists the ounces of insulation material used to describe the thickness and insulating properties. The higher the number, the greater the insulation properties and the more likely the build up of heat if the blanket lacks breathability.

Another consideration is the lining of the blanket. Ripstop nylons and even taffeta are used to prevent hair loss due to rubbing. Some blankets and sheets are lined with fleece and some with a thick wool felt. My issue with fleece is it seems to hold and gather static electricity, in turn zapping either you, your horse or both when it comes time to apply, shift or remove the blanket. There's a real confidence builder for a youngster or an otherwise already skittish horse...

So what the blankets are made up of is pretty important when you are considering spending your hard earned money on one. You want something that will work, that will provide warmth and that will be comfortable for you horse. Fit issues will be the next post. Because it doesn't matter how great the blanket is, the workmanship that goes into it, the materials it is made from or how much it costs if it just doesn't fit right. Just ask you horse.


  1. FIRST!


    Okay, I'll grow up for now.

    Great post, CNJ!

    But if the "denier" is very high, doesn't that decrease the breathability of the blanket?
    That's the only part that confused me, no surprises there, though.
    To me, waterproof = not-breathable?
    Or at least, not VerY breathable?

    I found there were always some horse that enjoyed ripping out whatever the blanket was stuffed with..

  2. My old Stud used to get fairly worked up in a winter storm , running so bad the water would run off him.I had a great Blanket I used to cool him down /dry him off , Kind of a wooly felt liner,heavy cotton(?)shell wicked away the moisture seemed to keep the heat . Sadly it fell victim to another horses teeth and piss poor attitude , never found another like it

  3. yup, i second GoLightly - does the waterproofing ability decreases breathability or not necessarily?

  4. Luckily, it does not snow where I live, so rain generally means warmer temps. He's out 24/7 with a run-in, so I just use a rain sheet when it's raining (no fill), and take it off when it's not going to rain (and is generally expected to be colder).

    A lot of people where I board leave the rain sheets or blankets on, but then their coats can't fluff up and keep them insulated! The coldest we ever get is around 28 degrees F, and that is rare! Mid-thirties to forties is our usual cold weather.

  5. NHM- That sounds about like our weather. And we do the same- rain sheets to keep them dry if they are out, they will stay warm and toasty enough underneath.

    GL & Petra, It is amazing the waterproof qualities yet breathability levels of some fabrics. Generally speaking the tighter the weave of the filaments the lower the amount of breathability of the fabric, since you would have to weave it pretty tightly to get all of those threads together in the measurable area.

    Water resistant or waterproof fabrics can often be treated to prevent water permeating the material. Sometimes it is simply applied or laminated to one side of the fabric, where others it is applied as either a spray or a dip and allowed to penetrate between the threads of the fabric itself. Some fabrics- the threads or filaments are treated or coated before being woven into the fabric. These different treatments to the fabric can certainly reduce the airflow.

    I have always wondered just HOW does the fabric know how much heat or air to escape and how much to hold in? Anyone??? Bueller... Bueller...

    I think the main thing happening though, is the waterproof qualities of the outer shell not only repels the water, but also holds in the warmth. The heat from the horse goes through the liner and into the insulation. From there it is distributed underneath the shell and dissipates in areas where the blanket may not be so snugly fit to the horses body.

    If anyone knows of any links where a heat sensory camera has been used to research this, Please post it. I am curious to know just what is going on under those blankets and which materials work the best for each layer.

    I already have two of the three elements of my own blankets nailed down. Just need more information on the third.

  6. FV- my first horse acquired a blanket similar to the one you describe. When I sold him it went with him. Canvas duck or something along those lines, lining and insulation of the heavy wool felt variety. Spray with the hose or cool water and it retained its waterproof qualities. It was most likely treated with something. I have no idea what though.

  7. OH, I know, I know!!
    (waves hand madly in the air)

    Wax is used for the australian outback coats.

    I Think.

    not a lot, I know.

  8. GL- I like how they use wax but then call it 'oilskin'.

  9. My favorite blanket is one that I sewed from an old moving and storage packing blanket. Moving companies use them to pad expensive furniture...heavy canvas, quilted, light enough to not mat the horse's hair down, and I just add a thin sheet over the top for wet weather. I also sew velcro breakaway points on the straps. Saw a horse that had bowed a tendon fighting a blanket strap. We use breakaway halters don't we?
    I rarely blanket unless a horse is showing signs of distress though. I see horses that get colder standing in a barn because they can't move. Muscles generate enormous amounts of heat, and as long as there is a windbreak even my old guys prefer to be out. More hay...

  10. Great post, CnJ. Can we get another about care and repair of blankets?
    I mean, how the heck do you wash them and properly pack them for storage?

  11. NCCatnip: Believe it or NOT alot of Professional Dry Cleaners can and will clean them!

    For all those waiting for fudge..My in-laws motored thru most of it. I'll make more once they leave. Hang'll get in mid-Jan

    Have a great Christmas everyone! Kestrel..getting quotes on shipping..just sent T & M an excited

  12. NCC- I hadn't even thought about that. I swear my brain works sometimes. Other times I'm not so sure. Not only blanket cleaning but also maybe cleaning sheets, pads, polo's and just about everything else the horses think need a layer of dirt and funk to be properly broken in or christened. Some just can't wear them without slobber, snot or smears of unknown things on them.

    I have conceded (sp?) to ours being covered in mud after rolling. The dirt is insulating... Sometimes a dirty horse is the happiest horse.

  13. If the dirty horse is the happy horse...I've got a field full of ecstatic. lol

    Merry Christmas.

  14. Oh...14th don't ya know.

    The two in town look pretty happy too.

  15. 3day, that's so exciting!!!! Let me know what you find about shipping, I know so very little about rates, etc.

  16. HP, waving wildly, how ya been?

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