It’s hard to imagine how a warm, cozy winter blanket could injure your horse, but it can. Specifically, the straps on blankets can pose an entanglement risk if you aren’t conscientious about a few important points:
• Use the appropriate type of blanket. Blankets intended for turnout are typically lined with slicker fabrics than those intended only for stable use. The slick lining keeps the blankets from shifting as an active horse moves under them, reducing the risk of straps being pulled out of position.
• Attach the belly straps in the arrangement—crossed under the belly or not—as directed by the manufacturer. Deviating from the manufacturer’s recommendations risks leaving dangerous gaps that a hoof can slip through or stressing the fabric, which can lead to tearing. If you are unsure of how to attach the straps, contact the manufacturer to confirm the intended arrangement.
• Make sure the blanket itself fits. A blanket that is too large or too small will be pulled out of position, taking any straps with it. Remember that straps cannot compensate for an ill-fitting blanket.
• Adjust the straps properly. Make sure belly straps hang no more than four inches below the horse and you can slip no more than a single mittened hand between the chest strap and your horse. Larger gaps risk hoof entrapment when the horse lies down. Straps that are too tight will not only be uncomfortable for the horse, but can tear fabric.
• Consider forgoing the hind leg straps. Straps that pass around a horse’s hind legs pose the greatest entanglement risk. If your horse’s blanket stays put without these straps, you may want to remove them entirely.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #472, January 2017.