What materials make a good winter blanket?
Most turnout blankets have an outer shell of nylon, polyester, or a combination of the two; a few are made of polypropylene. Nylon is typically considered the high-end material, with 100% polyester at the lower end of the scale, says Liz Wilkinson, a horse clothing specialist for blanket manufacturer Weatherbeeta.
“Nylon is very strong and resilient and it doesn’t hold stains, but it’s very expensive,” she says. “Polyester is lightweight, more affordable, and strong, but comparing strength per weight of material, it’s not as strong as nylon.” Often, she notes, using a blend gives you the best of both worlds–strength and durability, lighter weight and less expense.
The strength and durability of a blanket’s outer layer is determined by its denier; the higher the denier number, the stronger the material. However, adds Wilkinson, since higher-denier materials are also heavier, you should go only as high on the scale as your horse needs. Nylon sometimes has an advantage over polyester though, because it takes a 1,200-denier polyester to match the strength of just 840-denier nylon.
For the inner lining
There are a variety of linings; but polycotton, nylon, and fleece-like wicking material are the most common. Although the type of lining is important, the breathability of the blanket is largely determined by a special coating applied to the underside of the fabric.
“And the more breathable the liner, the more breathable the blanket,” Wilkinson states. Still, nylon is probably the most common lining. “It’s also breathable, and it’s slick, so hairs don’t get caught, and it keeps the coat shiny,” notes Wilkinson. Other people prefer less expensive polycotton for a liner. But if polycotton gets wet or sweaty, it dries more slowly than nylon or wicking materials.
When selecting a winter blanket it should be waterproof, for turnout in wet weather, and breathable. For instance, if your blanketed horse works up a sweat romping with his pals on a brisk cold day, a breathable blanket will help him stay at a comfortable temperature–and prevent chills–by allowing the sweat to escape into the air.