We support HHCU

Blankets

Horse Blankets - Peek into the history of horse blankets - Part 1

Peek into The History of Horse Blankets

 

This is part one of a series on horse blankets.  There are some really fantastic horse blankets available, stay tuned for more!

A horse blanket is also known as a horse rug in the UK.  It is a type of blanket that just about covers the entire body of a horse.

Cavalli della Madonna, Marstall, Kloster Einsiedeln in Einsiedeln (Switzerland)
'Cavalli della Madonna', Marstall, Kloster Einsiedeln in Einsiedeln (Switzerland)

Horse blankets have been used for riding, shows, ceremonies, and other special occasions for many years. The purpose for these blankets is to be used under a saddle, most often coupled with an added pad. The blanket could cover the pad for a smoother look while riding or showing the horse. Blankets can also be used when riding without a saddle or pad to serve as a barrier between the horse and rider. 

A horse wearing a fly sheet that keeps away insects. Note also a neck cover
A horse wearing a fly sheet that keeps away insects. Note also a neck cover

Native American Indians wove horse blankets and continue to make them today. Horse blankets were traded for other items as well. The Navajo blankets are an extremely popular type of decorative horse blanket. Navajo blankets are most often found with bright colored inks or earthy tones with fringed ends. These blankets were also used as rugs by the Navajo Indians. Although it was not their only design, the Navajo horse blankets can be easily recognized by the diamond patterns woven into the blanket.

Navajo chief's-style blanket, circa 1870-1880
Navajo chief's-style blanket, circa 1870-1880

The most popular horse blankets were the double blankets. Double blankets were used by folding them in half before placing the blanket on the horse. These blankets were woven without any art in the centers since the saddle would obscure the art from being seen and therefore, making it impractical to put in the extra effort.

A Navajo Native American family pose near a timber and earth hogan near Bluff City (Bluff), Utah. A rug, a cloth belt, and horse tack hang from the house while a man sits near a clay water jar.
A Navajo Native American family pose near a timber and earth hogan near Bluff City (Bluff), Utah. A rug, a cloth belt, and horse tack hang from the house while a man sits near a clay water jar.

The horse blanket could be hung on a wall in a log cabin to bring out its natural beauty. Photos, posters, or wall paintings of these horse blankets could be added to the décor to create a western theme. There are numerous books about the Navajo horse blankets, the art of weaving, and the colorful inks made by the Navajo Indians that can be used to cultivate knowledge and respect for the blanket weavers and their beautiful art. The use of the horse blankets in the décor will help your visitors appreciate the art of making these stunning blankets. 

The horse blankets are just as stunning as when they have been used and worn out as they were when they were newly made. The heavy use of these blankets seems to add a spark of character and may remind the riders of interesting stories. Horse blankets stimulate three senses: sight, touch, and smell (depending on the scent, that may be good!).

Woven horse blankets can be washed in cold water with little to no detergent and hung up to dry. In the early western days, the horse blankets were most likely rinsed in a nearby creek or river and stretched over a rock to dry. In modern times, horse blankets are made of other fabrics that are better at resisting stains and hold up to more wear. 

Horse blankets are valuable, especially to anyone that is interested in Western culture.

 


About Horse Saddles and Horse Blankets


Saddles and blankets are two items that people usually associate with horses. If you plan to ride your horse, you will need a saddle and a saddle blanket. You may also want another type of a blanket, such as a sheet, for times when the horse may be in a drafty stall or when the horse is waiting outside in cold weather for a show. 

When you begin to look for a new saddle to buy, consider a trial period in case the saddle does not fit the horse correctly. It would be great if there was a universal fit for all saddles for any horse and rider but it is not that easy. Taking the time to invest in a correctly fitted saddle and blanket is well worth the effort for both you and your horse. Saddles that do not fit the horse, rider, or the discipline will only result in buyer’s regret and soreness for both horse and rider. This can be easily avoided by carefully choosing the right saddle and blanket!

As you search for a new saddle, you will want to consider what type of riding you will do. Saddles that are used for competitive riding such as endurance, show, roping, barrel racing, reining, and more may be more expensive than a saddle for pleasure riding. Saddles are wood or fiberglass frames that are covered with leather. There are some technical advances in saddle making that use synthetic material instead of leather. Regardless of what your saddle is made of, the quality, purpose, and the fit are the three most important factors to keep in mind. If you are going to spend a large amount of money on a saddle, shouldn’t it hold up to being used?

The saddle must fit both the horse and rider. A poorly fitted saddle can cause muscle soreness, blisters, and bruising for both the horse and rider. Saddle fit should be taken into consideration for children as well. For added comfort, some saddles come with softer seats, suede seats, and some even have shock absorber seats. Despite whichever saddle you choose, you need to be sure that it will benefit both you and your horse.
There are numerous brands of all types of saddles for all types of riding. It is all a matter of preference, price, and availability.

When you begin to search for a blanket, you need to consider what type of blanket you need. For western riding, you need a thick saddle blanket to keep the saddle from rubbing the horse while riding. For English riding, you may need a quilted saddle blanket. Other types of blankets include foal blankets, anti-sweat sheets, cooling blankets, quarter sheets, and turnout blankets.

 

Are Horse Blankets really necessary?

There are few images in the world that are more beautiful than a horse in motion regardless if they are performing a complex test, galloping down the backstretch of a race, soaring over a jump, or chasing after a calf.

In addition to being designed to steal your breath away, horse hair is designed to withstand the weather. For most horses, there is very little reason to blanket them if they have access to fresh water, quality roughage, and adequate shelter.

Most horses have fairly tough skin and a moderately thick coat. The hairs are designed to stand up on their ends and catch pockets of air. Once the air is caught with the hair, it is then warmed by the horse’s body heat and then trapped to remain against the skin. A healthy horse with a good coat will stay plenty warm enough to withstand the winter elements. However, there are some horses that need to be blanketed.

Horses that are being turned out in rainy weather or if the ground is muddy need blankets because the moisture can flatten the hairs which prevents the coat from keeping the horse warm. Some breeds, such as the Arabian and the Thoroughbred, have naturally thin skin and have trouble staying warm in cooler regions. Older horses may begin to lose internal control of their body temperature and may need a blanket to stay warm. Horses that have had an injury or illness that have caused them to lose hair may also need a blanket to maintain their body temperature.

Another reason that some horse owners may blanket their horse is because in the winter months, the horse’s coat naturally grows thicker. Thick coats can make riding in the winter months difficult because if the horse begins to sweat while riding, the horse has a higher chance of developing a chill with wet hair. Horses that have been body clipped need to be blanketed so that the hair grows back at a slower rate.

Horse owners may also choose to blanket their horse in the summer due to light colored horses being prone to sunburn. A light weight sheet will prevent the horse’s skin from being burned. Other horses may be highly susceptible or allergic to certain bug bites. A turnout fly sheet will prevent insects from biting the horse’s sensitive skin. Show horse owners may use a light sheet to prevent the sun from bleaching their show horse’s coat color as well. Some horse owners may even use a heavyweight turnout blanket to sweat off a few pounds from their horse if the horse is mildly overweight.

 

Hail, Ye Olde Horse Blanket!

The horse blanket has been around for hundreds of years. Even cowboys and Indians used horse blankets. Horse blankets are a welcome addition to any collection of cowboy memorabilia since the blankets can be useful and aesthetically pleasing. These blankets have made numerous appearances in story books about horses, cowboys, and Indians, as well as be collected as works of art for western museums.

There are several outlets, both online and in retail stores, where you can purchase a horse blanket. You may be able to purchase one at your local feed store or you can purchase one through magazines that sell western themed or Indian related décor. Some larger flea markets may also have them for sale. Companies such as American Saddlery, Cottage Craft, Classic Equine, and Horsewear often carry horse blankets.

Horse blankets were used in the old days of gun fighting, in theaters that showcase Western plays, wars, and in farms around the world. Soldiers used horse blankets when they fought wars from the back of a horse. Horse blankets are a common item seen in events such as rodeos across the United States. You can also find them at travel stops and tourist stores.

The fibers in a high quality horse blanket will pull moisture away from the horse’s back. Horse blankets are easy to care for and often gain the cozy, weathered look as they are heavily used. However, after the blanket becomes torn or begins to develop holes in the material, it is time to invest in a new blanket.

The blanket is a necessity for the frequent rider. It can be useful for many purposes: It can be used to stay dry from inclement weather, it can be used as a ground cover if you are spending the night outdoors, it can be used as a picnic blanket, and more!

 

Saddles and Horse Blankets

Western saddles and horse blankets are always two items that go together. However, not all saddles require the use of a blanket since there is padding available that could eliminate the need of a blanket under the saddle.
There are all types, styles, colors, uses, price ranges, and blankets for saddles. The blanket is the barrier between the saddle and the horse’s back. It provides comfort and cushioning between the saddle. Horse owners should want the horse to be as comfortable as possible when being ridden. Happy horses are usually the best performing horses.

A saddle can say a lot about the rider. If you see a rider that has a clean, well-kept saddle, you are more inclined to think that the rider also takes care of their horse. If you see a rider with a dirty saddle with parts missing from it, you may be more likely to think that they care for their horse in the same manner.

The blanket can say something about the rider as well. If it is a brand new blanket, the rider may have just recently bought it for the occasion. If it is well-worn and used, it could be the rider’s favorite. Some blankets are extremely ornate and some are plainly colored. It can also determine if the rider cares to match the horse’s tack or not as well as if the rider prefers a particular brand or style of blanket.

If you own a horse in a colder region of the United States, you should also invest in a blanket that covers the horse’s body. These blankets are similar to a jacket for horses. If you can’t stay warm in the barn without a jacket, you should not expect your horse to do the same if he has been body clipped.

Blankets and saddles do not need to be necessarily expensive to be useful. Even though all horse owners want the best quality items for their horse, you can find better deals on equipment and items if you shop around and price-check items before deciding on a purchase. Keep in mind that you often get what you pay for when it comes to tack and equipment. Cheap saddles and blankets may very well be made just as cheap as their price! Ornate saddles and blankets may also not be very practical. Saddles and blankets should meet the horse and rider’s needs. Are you buying the items for the horse’s well-being and comfort? Or are you buying them because they will make you look better? One does not always benefit the other. Good quality used saddles and blankets may be your best option if you are just starting out in the horse business. You can sometimes get better deals on used saddles than new ones.

Whatever the case may be, the saddle and blanket should complement each other for practical use and at times, in overall image for shows.
 

What Is A Blanket?

Some horse owners may use blankets as a means to adorn their horses. However, a blanket was intended to be functional. Horses that live in mild or warm regions may not need a blanket but, a horse that lives in a cold region will need one. A blanket has been a part of many items that a horse needs for several years.

Some people like to collect saddle blankets and use them as decorations around their home, especially if the house is decorated with a western theme. You can usually find homes with western décor in California, Arizona, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Although the western décor is not limited to these areas, the saddle blanket has reached a high popularity with home owners as well as horse owners.

If you have ever been to a rodeo, you have surely seen a saddle blanket. It is all part of the charm of a rodeo. You can be a horse racing fan, rodeo fan, or maybe you own a farm, or maybe you just have a horse as a pet, and maybe you don’t own a horse at all but you can still own a blanket.

Saddle blankets are often sold at tourist attractions across the western United States. From Texas to California, you can find saddle blankets for sale. Almost any farm store will carry them and even some hardware stores may have them too. You can find them at flea markets held on Indian reservations as well. You may also be lucky enough to find one at a garage sale!
Some people like to decorate their home with them and use them as throws to keep them warm. They can be quite attractive thrown over a sofa or a favorite recliner chair. Give an old one to the kids to play with or use them as outdoor picnic blankets.

A blanket can also be carried in the car to use on long trips. These blankets can cover stained seats, keep any valuables hidden, and they can even keep you warm if your heater is broken. Saddle blankets are made of sturdy and durable materials that will last for a long time.


 

What's That Under Your Saddle?

The saddle blanket was created to be placed under the saddle for extra padding as well as to be used when a saddle is not available or not required. When riding without a saddle, or bare back, the blanket can soak up the sweat and dirt from the horse to prevent it from transferring to the rider’s clothing. Over the years, it has also become a popular item to use to decorate homes.

The saddle sits on top of the blanket which also helps protect the saddle lining. The blanket should be visible underneath the saddle. The saddle blanket can provide decoration if you have a blanket with a hanging fringe. It can enhance the horse’s appearance as well as the saddle.

Sometimes the blankets are not elaborate or fringed and are meant more for practical use. These more practical blankets are the type of blankets that cover the body to provide warmth. These blankets have strap attachments that go around the back legs as well as under a circle around the belly to keep the blanket in place.

Saddle blankets may also be called rugs. In the past, saddle rugs were made of something called jute which is a strong fiber that is used for making rope or burlap.

If your horse has a thin coat or has been body clipped, you may want to put a blanket on him to help keep him warm. While you sit in your own warm home, you can be rest assured that your horse has additional protection from the weather.
Some horse owners have both day and night rugs. Waterproof material has been used to be make blankets which helps further protect the blanket from the weather and lengthen the life of the item.

If you are showing your horse, you may want to use a saddle blanket that is custom made in your stable’s colors or that matches the rest of your horse’s tack and equipment. You can also have your saddle blankets monogrammed for advertisement purposes.

Sometimes a pad is used along with the saddle blanket. The blanket goes on top of the horse’s back and the pad goes on top of the blanket. You should always at least use a blanket under a Western saddle. Some horses may need both the blanket and the pad.

Besides being used as additional padding and protection, the blanket can also be used to help your horse become comfortable with having something on his back.

 

Gallery

 

We'll be back with part 2 of the series on horse blankets in a few days, if you want to be updated when we post, leave us your email here:

Sign up for our newsletter and get the rest of the History of Horse Blankets series as an eBook.
 

Copyright © 2017 Equestrian.co.za. All Rights Reserved.